Labour secured a major victory at last night's Halton Council elections, with the party making its first electoral gain in eight years.

But concerns were raised by local leaders about the impact of photo ID, with this year's voter turnout being lower than even during the pandemic.

With Halton usually among the first councils in England to declare, all eyes were on the action in the hotly-contested ward of Daresbury, Moore and Sandymoor to see if it would give an indication of how the national picture might play out.

A long-standing Conservative enclave in Halton's Labour-dominated political landscape,  it has also had a Green councillor in recent years and was a priority target for Labour, which has been trying to win there for close to 20 years.

In an election which had seen the Conservatives expected to lose seats up and down the country, the Halton result was a sign of things to come as the dominoes began to fall, with Labour's Mike Ryan taking the seat and the Conservative incumbent Marjorie Bradshaw - who had represented the area since 2008 - being pushed into third place behind the Greens.

Mr Ryan, an engineer by trade who has lived in Sandymoor for 22 years, said: "We've been working on that seat now since late February, early March, and we've been having conversations with people and talking to them about what they want to see and the things that they'd like to do in the town and across the ward."

He added: "The work starts now to start those conversations in preparation for a general election next year."

Runcorn and Widnes World: All eyes were on the Daresbury, Moore and Sandymoor count at the DCBL Stadium in WidnesAll eyes were on the Daresbury, Moore and Sandymoor count at the DCBL Stadium in Widnes (Image: LDRS)

Elsewhere there was a comeback for Labour stalwart Chris Loftus. He had been a local councillor since the mid-80s with two separate stints in local politics. He had lost out to the Liberal Democrats in 2021 after his seat was merged with another due to boundary changes to form Beechwood and Heath. But last night he was elected in Halton Castle in place of Labour's Ellen Cargill, who was not running this time around.

He said: "I'm very pleased because of all the work we've done. Now it's about making sure that I do all the work that needs to be done within the ward and I'm looking forward to it."

Mike Wharton, Labour council leader, felt his party's victory was a reflection of national mood, but also of local issues.

He said: "The Conservative government are in disarray, and that would have helped us tonight, but I like to think it's about local issues here that people would have voted on."

But he also raised concerns about the impact of photo ID requirements claiming it had suppressed some of the local vote, fears earlier echoed by Mr Loftus who had branded the turnout 'terrible'.

This year was the first local election where voters have been required to show photo ID at polling stations or be turned away.  Turnout this year was just over 22.5 per cent, down from 24 per cent last year, and 25 per cent in 2021 - when voting was still taking place under social distancing rules.

He said: "I think the voter ID has suppressed the number of people coming out to be quite honest, because I think they've been a bit concerned and not everybody has an ID.

"I think next year, when there's a full Parliamentary election, it could be more difficult because more and more people go out to vote, so it will take a lot of effort from people at the polling stations to make sure that all those people who can vote - get through to vote.

"I think voter ID really is not a great thing for this country."

The political makeup of Halton Borough Council is now: Labour (49), Liberal Democrat (three), Conservative (two).