NERVOUS tension filled the room as votes revealed two candidates were neck and neck - after seven re-counts.

Defending his Runcorn Halton Brook seat, Stef Nelson, paced the floor as his Lib Dem rival, Louise Whitley looked on anxiously.

Councillors of all parties, agents and officials watched as two new teams of counters were drafted in to painstakingly count the ballot papers again.

At 1.05am, returning officer David Parr declared: "We have two candidates with identical votes.

"The plan now is to draw lots.

"Two blank ballot papers will be filled in, one for each candidate and I'm going to draw one out.

"It's not ideal, but that's the procedure."

You could have heard a pin drop as Mr Parr walked away to the far end of the sports hall at the Stobart Stadium, whilst the straw poll was organised.

No-one can remember this ever happening before.

He returned, lifted a brown envelope into the air and put his hands inside.

Silence erupted into jubilant cheers and rapturous applause as Cllr Nelson was declared the victor.

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He said afterwards: "I'm absolutely delighted.

"Every vote does count, this proves it.

"I'm so proud to represent the people of the ward I live in. It's my life. I love the people of Halton."

Cllr Nelson thanked his wife, Brenda and all his Labour colleagues for their support. He has been a councillor for 12 years and board member for two.

Lib Dem candidate Louise Whitley, said she was disappointed to lose but vowed to fight again.

She said: "I'm absolutely delighted to have received so many votes, it's a good result as it is the first time I have stood.

"I will be back.

"I'm gutted I didn't win but really pleased I pushed him (Cllr Nelson) so close."

The results were Stefan Nelson (Lab) 552, Patricia Parkinson (Con) 153, Louise Whitley (Lib Dem) 551.

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