CONSERVATIVES made significant gains across England after sweeping to power in more than a dozen councils early today.
They seized control in town halls such as Chester - which they had not held since 1986 - and saw a net gain across the country of more than 290 councillors.
But many councils - including Kirklees and Calderdale - only started counting the votes today and the picture could change dramatically.
Tens of thousands of people voted in 194 polling stations throughout Huddersfield and Dewsbury up until 10pm last night, with a third of the 69 Kirklees seats up for grabs.
And 44,000 postal ballot forms had been sent out earlier.
Counting of those started at 10am today in Huddersfield and Dewsbury sports centres.
The results are expected later today.
Labour, who saw a net loss of about 150 councillors, breathed a sigh of relief they did not suffer any major defeats and held their own in many councils.
The Liberal Democrats delivered a blow to Labour when they gained full control of Hull Council for the first time - on Deputy PM John Prescott's home turf.
The Lib-Dems gained six seats and now have 30 of the total of 59, 10 ahead of Labour, which lost five seats. The council had been under no overall control.
The Liberal Democrats also hailed victories in Rochdale and Eastbourne. But overall they were left reeling, with a net loss of around 100 seats.
The Tories took heart after seizing power in councils including East Yorkshire, Plymouth, North Warwickshire, Gravesham and Dover in Kent and Woking and Waverley in Surrey.
They also took North West Leicestershire, South Ribble in Lancashire and Malvern Hills in Worcestershire.
Other results included victories in Windsor and Maidenhead Royal Council, East Yorkshire, Torbay, Oswestry, Lincoln, Bournemouth, North Somerset, Charnwood in Leicestershire and East Cambridge- shire.
They also became the largest party in Birmingham for the first time in 24 years, holding on to power as part of a coalition with the Lib-Dems.
Conservative leader David Cameron said today that his party had enjoyed a great set of results.
The Tories claimed their successes had been stunning.
Mr Cameron said they were now "the one national party speaking up for Britain".
But Labour Party chairman Hazel Blears said the Tories were not making the progress they had expected in the key battlegrounds of northern England.
The deputy leadership candidate said: "I think you have to look across the country. Look at Bolton, Bury, Barrow and Crewe.
"Just a couple of days ago David Cameron was saying they had to make gains in Bolton and Bury, otherwise they won't be breaking through in the North."
Labour lost overall control in Oldham and Blackburn.