Sweet revenge!

STEPHEN Pearson won the battle to stem the advance of the British National Party in Mixenden by snatching the seat for the Liberal Democrats.

But the BNP will be happy with Richard Mullhall's victory in neighbouring Illingworth and with having captured 12 per cent of the overall votes cast in last night's election.

He and Coun Adrian Marsden (BNP, Mixenden) can now form an official group on Calderdale Council with their own office in Halifax Town Hall.

Mr Pearson, a former Mayor of Calderdale, said the authority was about to become one of the most closely scrutinised in the country.

"But it shows the BNP can be beaten," he said.

The election results produced little change in the overall make-up of the authority which continues to have no single party in control.

The Conservatives remain the largest group with 25 seats, having gained Brighouse and the vacant Sowerby Bridge seat. The Liberal Democrats have 16 with their victory in Mixenden and Labour has 10.

For the Conservatives locally, there was no sign of a major breakthrough in advance of the General Election or next summer's European elections.

But group leader Coun John Ford was upbeat, his members having attracted the biggest overall share of the votes cast - 30.7 per cent.

"The BNP got a lot of support by campaigning on the issue of asylum seekers - they played on people's fears time and again, and that had a major influence on how they voted," he said.

All the seats on the council will be up for election next summer but Coun Ford (Skircoat) said he doubted the BNP would make the same impact then.

For the Labour group, last night was a watershed with its numbers down to their lowest for 20 years.

As recently as 1997, Labour held 37 of the 54 seats on the council.

It was also a body blow for the group when leader Bob Metcalfe lost the seat in Mixenden which he had held for 24 years.

Independent councillor Helen Anderson lost in Brighouse and former Mayor, Coun Chris O'Connor failed in his challenge to be elected as an Independent in Hipperholme and Lightcliffe.

The turnout in yesterday's election was slightly up at 34.4 per cent compared to 32.6 per cent last year.

l There are now three husband and wife teams on the council: John and Janet Hardy (Warley), Tim and Megan Swift (Town) and Patrick Phillips and his wife, Liz Ingleton (Greetland-Stainland).