RISHI Sunak's Conservative Party faces bruising local council results in England, as a leading elections expert has said the Tories could lose up to 500 seats.

Out of the 107 councils where votes were held on Thursday, just 35 counted overnight – but the results make grim reading for the Prime Minister.

The Tories lost control of three authorities and 96 councillors lost their seats, whilst Labour gained three authorities and 58 councillors.

Elections expert Professor Sir John Curtice (below) said the Tories could be on course to lose 500 councillors in “one of the worst, if not the worst” performances by the party in 40 years.

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“So far they are basically losing a half of the seats they are trying to defend. If that continues, they may end up losing 500 or so seats, which is the thing they were meant to avoid,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

Most of the council seats up for re-election in England were last contested in 2021, at the peak of Boris Johnson’s popularity as the Covid-19 vaccine was rolled out.

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Voters across England and Wales also had the chance to choose their police and crime commissioners.

Key results include:

  • Labour won Rushmoor in Hampshire for the first time and claimed the council in General Election bellwether Redditch.
  • Labour won Hartlepool council, regaining ground in an area where the party suffered a Westminster by-election disaster in 2021.
  • Labour won Thurrock, one of its top targets and an area of the country that will be a key battleground with the Tories at the next general election.
  • The Tories clung on by a single seat in Harlow, a council targeted by Labour leader Keir Starmer on the eve of polling day.
  • Labour lost control in Oldham, with gains made by independents possibly due to Starmer’s stance on the war in Gaza.
  • The Greens put on 12 councillors and the Liberal Democrats also gained 12, while there were also increases for independents and residents’ groups.
  • Labour gained police and crime commissioners from the Conservatives in Cumbria and Avon and Somerset.

The strong showing by Reform UK will add to Tory unease about Sunak’s ability to lead the party to a Westminster election victory.

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Reform UK’s leader Richard Tice (above, centre) said his party had “rapidly become the real opposition to Labour, whether it’s in the North, the Midlands, we know it’s the case in Wales”.

In Sunderland, one of the few councils where Reform fought every seat, it beat the Conservatives into third place in 16 of the 25 seats up for grabs while Labour made a net gain of six to increase its comfortable majority.

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A total of 11 mayoral contests are also taking place, including for the London mayoralty between frontrunners Labour incumbent Sadiq Khan and Tory challenger Susan Hall.

Conservative mayors Andy Street in the West Midlands and Lord Ben Houchen in Tees Valley are also facing re-election battles.

Victory for either would be a welcome boost for Sunak, although Labour point to the mayors distancing themselves from the current Tory leadership.

The Liberal Democrats said they expected to put further holes in the “blue wall” of Tory battleground seats in southern England.

The Greens hope to make further progress in key targets including Bristol, Worcester, Stroud and Hastings.

Green co-leader Adrian Ramsay said: “North and south, east and west, Greens are winning the trust of voters fed up with the chaos of the Conservatives and the U-turns of Labour.”