JUBILANT Conservatives retained control of Eastbourne Borough Council on Thursday in a hard-fought election campaign — and increased their majority.

The hotly-contested Old Town ward proved to be the centre of the action, with veteran LibDem councillor Maurice Skilton losing his seat after more than 40 years.

He was defeated by Conservative newcomer Anne Angel, who scooped 1,843 votes compared to Mr Skilton's 1,590.

Eastbourne Borough Council leader Ian Lucas said, "It has been a fantastic day for Old Town and Eastbourne.

"Very many congratulations to Anne Angel — she has done a superb job. It just shows what hard work and real local campaigning does.

"It's the end of an era though — Maurice Skilton has been a stalwart for 40-plus years and he's a fine man. I am glad we beat him, but he is a great man.

"It is a good day for our party. This time yesterday we had a majority of one seat and now we have a majority of three. We love this town and we are not going to stop."

Anne Angel, who won her seat in Old Town by a majority of 253, said she was 'absolutely thrilled'.

Beaming with delight, Mrs Angel thanked her campaign team and said she was looking forward to tackling local issues in the council chamber.

And she also paid tribute to Maurice Skilton.

She said, "I could not have had a nicer opponent.

"Maurice has been a brilliant councillor for many, many years and he will be a very hard act to follow."

"As for me, I want to put something back into Old Town. I have lived there for 30 years and I am looking forward to working for the people of Old Town."

The other two new faces on the council are LibDem Troy Tester, who stood for the Langney seat after Chris Berry decided to stand down, and LibDem Steven Wallis, who takes on Beryl Healy's Devonshire ward.

Cllr Wallis, who polled nearly 1,500 votes, said on Thursday evening, "The real work starts tomorrow and I am really looking forward to representing the people of the Devonshire ward.

"It has been hard work but I am pleased with the 742 vote majority."

Troy Tester scooped Langney ward with a 400 vote majority win over the Conservatives.

Cllr Tester said Thursday had been a 'busy but incredible day'.

"Everyone has been absolutely fantastic and I am grateful for their support," he added.

"I really feel the issue of parking and the Lib Dems' stand against it has helped us tonight."

Eastbourne's LibDem leader David Tutt, who retained his St Anthony's seat with a majority of more than 950 votes, said, "It wasn't a bad result for us. It was disappointing to lose one seat which was held by Maurice Skilton, a very old friend of mine. But he will continue to represent the people of Old Town at East Sussex County Council.

"It's only for a year. The swing has been in our favour. Next time the whole council will be up for election and we will gain control of Eastbourne for four years. We are a force for the future, so watch out."

Tory Colin Belsey, who looks set to become the town's next mayor after winning on Thursday night with a 1,056 majority in Ratton, said he too was delighted to be representing the people for a further term.

"I really do owe it all to my great team," said Cllr Belsey. "Having been deputy mayor for the last year, I haven't always had the time to be out campaigning so I am very grateful to all those who worked so hard on my behalf."

Tory Patrick Bowker also retained his seat in Sovereign Ward with a 683 majority over his Lib Dem opponent, Margaret Salsbury.

Cllr Bowker, who chaired the council's planning committee, said, "I am delighted with the result.

"I have lived in the area a long time and a lot of people know me and I am grateful for their support and votes."

The luck of the Irish shone for Hampden Park Lib Dem stalwart Mary Pooley, who was re-elected for a further term. She secured a win with a comfortable 618 majority over her nearest rival.

"It's absolutely fantastic," said Cllr Pooley. "And it is all down to team work and those who took the time and trouble to come out and vote for me. I am looking forward to continuing to represent the people of Hampden Park."

In Meads, Conservative David Stevens romped home to victory with the biggest majority win of the evening.

Cllr Stevens, who polled 2,440 votes to retain his seat, said, "I am delighted to see I am so well supported in my ward, where I have lived all my life."

Fellow Conservative and Eastbourne's mayor, Graham Marsden, also retained his seat in Upperton with a 650 vote majority.

"I very pleased," said Cllr Marsden. "It marks the end of hard work by a lot of people. The Conservatives have had a very positive attitude to this election and I feel this has paid off."

Green candidate Clive Gross said he was pleased with his party's results and that the council was no longer the property of what he called 'our friends in orange and blue'.

He said, "We will keep coming back each year and pushing the Green agenda. Things need to change in this town."

Labour's David Brinson said he was bitterly disappointed with his party's results on the night and blamed it on the events of the last fortnight at national level.

But he told Labour candidates, "It is clearly a disappointing night for Labour in Eastbourne, but you have nothing to be ashamed of in this local campaign."