JUST a few weeks ago, the Conservatives had control of all three principal local councils in the conurbation, two of them with huge majorities. But at the end of March, Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole councils were abolished and the new BCP created.

Yesterday, as the smoke cleared, the Tories were left with a number of high profile casualties and a disastrous performance outside Bournemouth. Two former council leaders, Janet Walton of Poole and Ray Nottage of Christchurch, were deposed.

The party lost seats across the conurbation as the Liberal Democrats, newly formed Christchurch Independents who almost completely wiped out the Tories, Poole People’s Party and the Greens all made advances. The council is now hung with 36 seats for the Tories, 15 Lib Dems, 8 Christchurch Independents, 7 Poole People, 3 Labour, 2 Greens, 3 other independents, 1 Alliance for Local Living and 1 Ukip.

It appeared to open up a fault line in the conurbation with a Tory stronghold in Bournemouth and other parties in Christchurch and Poole. The Conservatives are the biggest party but without a majority. There is now a strong possibility that a rainbow alliance could take charge of the £700m local authority.

Liberal Democrats have 15 seats and will now look to put an administration together with other non-Tory groups. Cllr Vikki Slade has already told chief executive Graham Farrant that this is the intention. “We will be looking for a way forward in the next 48 hours,” she said. But Tory spokesman John Beesley said his was the biggest party and “that puts us in a very strong position.”

As the ballot papers were tipped out at the BIC it was clear immediately there would be some seismic shifts. Candidates said they expected the overnight trend of Conservative losses and Liberal Democrat gains to continue into Dorset today. Lib Dem candidate for Bearwood and Merley David Brown said: “It’s been extremely good nationally and it’s looking good locally in BCP as well,” he said.

Meanwhile, Newtown and Heatherlands Conservative candidate Malcolm Farrell said he feared the Liberal Democrats could “wipe the floor” in Poole.

Mark Howell, Poole People’s Party, said he would look to work cross party. “It is important that people who are in this for the right reasons are elected and are not subject to a whip. They must be free to make their own decisions.” Average turnout was 33.13%.