VOTES could not translate into seats for UKIP in the Wychavon divisions of the Worcestershire County Council local elections.

The party’s candidates secured more than 5,000 votes in the 12 areas up for eleciton, but they were forced to settle for runner-up spots as local political stalwarts held firm in the Conservative stronghold.

Just 69 votes separated John Smith, Conservative councillor in the Evesham North West division, and UKIP candidate Ellis Tustin. Coun Smith previously held a majority of 370.

He said: “It’s been a hard slog all the way through. I think there was a serious threat from UKIP and that was proved nationally.

“It’s a protest vote that has been played on the national scene. We’ll continue to put money into roads, and helping the elderly, and everything that we can in these very difficult circumstances.

“We’re working all the time with people and take on board their concerns and problems.”

Fellow Conservative councillor, Maurice Broomfield, saw his majority slashed from 1,735 to 398 in the Ombersley division, with UKIP’s Doug Ingram securing 894 votes.

Meanwhile, the Liberal Democrats lost control of the Littletons division to the Conservative party, with Alastair Adams winning with a 222 vote majority over Lib Dem candidate Keith Wright.

However, Liz Tucker retained her seat in Pershore for the Liberal Democrats with a majority of 991. Her nearest rival was Conservative candidate George Mackison with 686 votes, followed by UKIP’s Mark Starr in third.

Coun Tucker, who has served as a councillor in the area for 32 years, said the party needed to do more to engage with voters on local issues.

She said: “We knew it was going to be a really hard election. It’s been very unusual because there were so many candidates and because the national sweep of UKIP, which has not related to local council work.

“It’s a message to all of us that however hard we have tried, we have not made sufficient engagement with people to help them understand the choices that have to be made at a time of national difficulty.

“It’s a bit disappointment to me that with every election that comes around, people are talking about national matters and not what’s happening in the local area.

“But I’m very lucky to represent Pershore. it’s a lovely town and people work hard here to make it good for everyone.”