IT was a weekend of frantic group meetings, cross party talks, discreet conversations, phone calls and texts and desperate lobbying as rival politicians tried to put together a workable plan to run the new £700million Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole council.

After a dramatic election count on Friday the flagship unitary authority was left under no overall control.

The Conservatives have 36 out of the 76 seats, leaving them three short of a majority.

The other key players in the mix are now the resurgent Liberal Democrats with 15, the newly formed Christchurch Independents who took eight seats in the borough – virtually wiping out the Conservatives – and the Poole People’s Party with seven seats.

The other groups are made up of three Labour councillors, two Greens, three other independents, one Alliance for Local Living and one UKIP.

If all these groups and parties worked together (excluding UKIP) they could muster enough of a coalition to take control with 39 seats.

The Conservatives are to hold a group meeting on Tuesday to elect a leader and deputy leader.

It is understood that if Cllr John Beesley becomes group leader, he is determined to run a minority administration if he cannot find any other partners.

And it seems extremely unlikely that anyone other than UKIP would be prepared to prop up the Tories.

Cllr Beesley told the chief executive Graham Farrant at the count on Friday that, as the Tories were the biggest party, they should run BCP.

But the Echo understands Cllr Beesley is set to face a leadership challenge in the group meeting because many of the 36 councillors believe a fresh start is needed.

Meanwhile, leading Liberal Democrat Vikki Slade of Poole also told Mr Farrant she intended to put together a plan in coalition with others.

Cllr Slade, who polled over 2,800 votes in Broadstone, told the Echo: “We will need to reach out on this to other groups and parties. There as a lot of anger on the doorstep and a massive backlash against the merger. This was a Conservative plot to create a city by the sea and people showed they didn’t want it.”

But she said it was up to everyone to make the new council work in the best interests of all residents.

Cllr Beesley and his closest lieutenants, including Cllr Mike Greene and Cllr Anne Filer, attempted to lobby members of the Christchurch Independents over the weekend but were rebuffed. Cllr Greene told one: “We can form a minority ruling administration on our own but we would prefer something more stable.”

He added: “We don’t want the officers running this council.”

But the new Christchurch group has categorically ruled out any form of co-operation with Bournemouth Conservatives, whom they regard as ‘toxic’.

Cllr David Flagg, the former leader of the old Christchurch council, who led the fight against the merger, said: “It was the Tories, including people like John Beesley and Mike Greene, who pushed and supported the merger against the wishes and interests of the residents of Christchurch who voted by 84 per cent in a referendum to oppose it.

“Why on earth would we be prepared to help prop up a Tory administration that sold our borough down the river? Our election campaign was based on the fact that you can’t trust the Tories to protect Christchurch. That was true at the time, it was true on polling day and it remains true. We are not prepared to see Christchurch sold out for a second time.”

In a statement on Saturday issued after a 3pm meeting, the Bournemouth Conservative group said: “After a long campaign in unprecedented national circumstances, we are disappointed to be a whisker short of an overall majority; however we are pleased to welcome some new faces, as well as many returning councillors, and thank the many residents who have supported our bold and ambitious plan for the future of our area. The Conservative group meets on Tuesday to consider options for the administration and it would be premature to speculate prior to that.”

Bournemouth Labour Party secretary Patrick Canavan said: “We are delighted to have been successful in gaining three seats. These results have been a devastating blow to the Conservatives who have had things their own way for far too long. This ends now. We will take very opportunity to put this council back in the hands of the people rather than an invisible elite.”