TWO seats on South Lakeland District Council changed hands in local elections but no party gained overall control.

When the results were announced at 11.45pm last night (Thursday, June 10) Conservatives had gained two seats - one from Labour and one from the Liberal Democrats.

The biggest surprise was the loss of the Ulverston Central ward from Labour's long-standing councillor and former town mayor, Dave Miller, to Conservative candidate Norman Bishop-Rowe.

Mr Bishop-Rowe polled 263 votes to Mr Miller's 226. Lib Dem candidate Peter Metcalfe polled 152 votes.

The only other seat to change hands was Grange-over-Sands - the largest ward contested in the June 10 elections.

There, this year's town mayor, Lib Dem Robert Leach, lost out to last year's mayor, Conservative Bill Wearing, who is also a Cumbria county councillor. Mr Leach polled 1,054 to Mr Wearing's 1,129.

In Milnthorpe, where the seat was left vacant by the retirement of the Lib Dem's Malcolm Alston, Tim Farron, the Lib Dem candidate for the parliamentary seat of Westmorland and Lonsdale, returned a healthy majority with 723 votes to Conservative Andrew Coates's 274.

Mr Farron said his victory boded well for the Lib Dem's chances of ousting Westmorland and Lonsdale's sitting Conservative MP Tim Collin's in the next General Election, likely to be held in 2005.

Elsewhere, SLDC leader Colin Hodgson, Conservative, held on to his Ulverston North seat with 434 votes, but was run surprisingly close by Green Party candidate Karen Stack with 316 votes.

Voter turn-out in the all-postal election was variable across the 18 contested seats with well over 50 per cent turn-out in some wards such as Arnside and Beetham and Milnthorpe, and little over 30 per cent in others such as Ulverston East.

Labour group leader, coun Phil Lister, said: "It has been a pretty bad night for us, but it could have been a lot worse."

Mr Lister said his party had suffered from the same mid-term slump that had afflicted the last Tory Government and blamed "unremittingly hostile" publicity about the Labour Government over national and international issues including tuition fees, foundation hospitals and the war in Iraq.

Leading Liberal Democrat, coun Stan Collins, said there had been "no real surprises" and added: "we could have done better if we had deployed our resources better."

Roger Bingham, councillor for Burton and Holme and chairman of Westmorland and Lonsdale Conservative Association, said it had been a strong performance from his party. "It seems a very solid night for us," he said.

Although no party gained overall control of the council, the results could change the balance of power in SLDC's nine-seat cabinet. Officers have yet to make the final calculations, but the Conservative gains could mean that Labour loses one of its two cabinet seats leaving the Lib Dems and the Conservative with four apiece.

RESULTS Arnside and Beetham: Brian Clark, Cons, 1,051; Ian Stewart, Lib Dem, 1,133.

Burton and Holme: Roger Bingham, Cons, 923; Antony Jolley, Lib Dem, 308.

Coniston: Anne Hall, Cons, 557; John Hemingway, Lib Dem, 375.

Grange-over-Sands: Anthony Coles, Ind, 152; Robert Leach, Lib Dem, 1,054; Bill Wearing, Cons, 1,129.

Hawkshead: Gordon Jenkinson, Lib Dem, 404; Richard Lancaster, Cons, 366.

Levens: Melvin Mackie, Cons, 290; Brenda Woof, Lib Dem, 684.

Low Furness and Swarthmoor: Ellen Bell, Cons, 491; David Foot, Ind, 863; Lawson Short, Lib Dem, 365.

Lyth Valley: Robin Brown, Cons, 605; Mary Smith, Lib Dem, 322.

Milnthorpe: Andrew Coates, Cons, 274; Tim Farron, Lib Dem, 723; David Ryder, Lab, 89.

Natland: Brenda Gray, Lib Dem, 605; Enid Robinson, Cons, 465.

Staveley-in-Cartmel: Michael Bentley, Cons, 425; Ron Mein, Lib Dem, 365; Edward Walsh, Ind, 88.

Staveley-in-Westmorland: Stan Collins, Lib Dem, 679; George Richardson, Cons, 275.

Ulverston Central: Norman Bishop-Rowe, Cons, 263; Peter Metcalfe, Lib Dem, 152; Dave Miller, Lab, 226.

Ulverston East: Peter Hornby, Cons, 195; Phil Lister, Lab, 281.

Ulverston North: Colin Hodgson, Cons, 434; Karen Stack, Green, 316. Ulverston South: Alf Jarvis, Cons, 437; Bhareth Rajan, Lab, 222.

Ulverston Town: Alan Beach, UKIP, 134; George Bell, Cons, 200; Graham Donning, 301.

Ulverston West: Janette Jenkinson, Cons, 641; Fay Plant, Lab, 221.