THERE is relief among Maldon District Council's ruling Tories today after they narrowly hung on to power amid an Independent surge in the local elections.

The Conservatives ended the night with 17 seats on the council - down from 26.

They won 15 of the 29 seats up for grabs, with Independents taking 14.

But Tory-held Mayland was uncontested, giving the Conservatives two more seats and a slender majority of just three in the council chamber.

Tory council leader Adrian Fluker retained his Southminster seat with 410 votes

He trailed Independent group leader Brian Beale, who took the ward's other seat, by 166 votes.

Mr Fluker said: "It was a tough night for local Conservatives but it was not the annihilation that Independents were predicting.

"Due to our sensible policies on council tax, full council transformation, maintaining front line services and making the council sustainable, I am pleased to confirm that residents have returned a Conservative-led administration for the next four years.

"Voting was clearly effected by national issues including Brexit and I have sent a clear message to the Prime Minister through our MP to either get Brexit sorted in accordance with the wishes of the majority of local residents or stand down.

"I would like to thank residents for supporting their local Conservatives and for allowing us to run Maldon District Council for the next four years.

"We will continue to deliver best value and service for the benefit of everyone and from now on and for the next four years it will be business as usual."

Fellow Tory Richard Dewick said he was proud to retain his Tillingham seat.

Mr Dewick had been unsure he would hold on to his place on the council, but said voters had "kept the faith".

He said: "It is always a relief. You always go into it feeling completely uncertain how you'll do so it is a relief to have the result, and I'm pleased to have done it.

"I'm pleased to have to have had the support of Tillingham ward, and they have kept the faith again."

The Independent group said it will continue to chase the Conservatives after making huge gains.

Maldon West councillors Flo Shaughnessy and Mark Heard retained their seats.

Mr Beale, who has sat on the council for an incredible 32-years, said: “It was certainly an unexpected result.

“There was a lot of good competition but the vote has gone in a manner in which we had hoped.

“We feel this is a great victory for the general public.”

Burnham mayor, Wendy Stamp, Nick Skeens, Kevin Lagan and a number of other Independents also confirmed themselves as new additions to the council.

New Maldon South councillor Mr Lagan said his victory was down to him not being aligned with a party such as the Conservatives or Labour.

He is serving on the district council for the first time.

He said: "It feels incredible – I'm humbled and it is a great honour."

Mr Lagan added: "I believe that if you put out an honest manifesto on local issues and keep away from politics, then the numbers will speak for themselves.

"I think people are so fed up with Brexit and the politics that has happened they have got fatigued.

"They want to concentrate on local issues."