THE Conservative party have taken control of Redditch Borough Council for the first time in 26 years following a crushing defeat for Labour.

Labour councillors Greg Chance and Pattie Hill lost out to newcomers RJ Farooqui and William Norton for the Conservatives, while Iris Beech retired from her seat in Matchborough leaving it open for a win from Conservative candidate Anita Clayton.

Dot Dudley stood in the Conservative stronghold of Headless Cross, leaving her seat open, and competing against incumbent councillor Peter Anderson.

The move failed to dislodge him from his place on the council, and Mrs Dudley lost her Batchley seat to Conservative councillor Jinny Pearce.

Councillor Bill Hartnett managed to hold onto his seat in Church Hill by a slim majority of 11 votes.

Speaking as the new leader of the council, Conservative group leader Carole Gandy, said: "This obviously for me is a fantastic moment.

"I've been on this council since 1990, for 10 years as the opposition leader, and I honestly did not think I would see the time when I was standing here taking charge of Redditch Borough Council.

"There will be changes for the better and we will insure the image of Redditch is raised to a level where people are proud to say they come from this town."

Labour councillor Andy Fry, who isn't up for re-election until 2010, added: "The results were bad, and the people of Redditch only voted on national issues.

"This is not a reflection of how the council's been managed by the Labour councillors over the years.

"We will carry on fighting for local people, because many of our constituents have been used to us fighting for them.

"We just hope that our vision as a council to make Redditch the safest urban district town in the county by the year 2017 is adhered to by the incoming Conversative council, because even though Carole is committed to Redditch, a lot of her party are not."

Overall Labour lost four seats to the Conservatives, in Batchley, Central, Greenlands and Matchborough, moving control of the council over to the Conservatives.

The Liberal Democrats maintained their one contested seat in Winyates.

In Studley, Liberal Democrat councillor Paul Beaman retained his seat on Stratford District Council in a landslide victory against opponents Jacqueline Abbot for the Labour party, and Conservative Jon Vale.