DUDLEY'S Conservative leader has warned councillors they shouldn't take anything for granted after UKIP mania swept through the local elections across the borough.
Councillor Patrick Harley said he'd hung onto Kingswinford South by treating it as if it were a marginal seat in the face of an anticipated onslaught from the UK Independence Party - which is now in possession of nine seats on Dudley Council after success across Stourbridge, Brierley Hill, Dudley and Halesowen.
At the Brierley Hill count, held at the civic hall in Bank Street last night (Thursday) and into Friday, UKIP's big success story was Paul Brothwood who ousted sitting Conservative councillor John Tandy Jones, with Labour hopeful Su Lowe just one vote behind the Tories.
Mr Jones said: "It's one of those things; it was very close."
Labour managed to hang onto Brierley Hill with Zafar Islam, Brockmoor and Pensnett with Judy Foster and Netherton, Woodside and St Andrews with Elaine Taylor; while political stalwart cllr Harley retained Kingswinford South and ambitious new Conservative candidate Natalie Neale won back Kingswinford North and Wall Heath from Labour - ousting popular councillor Lynn Boleyn.
Each, however, endured a rather jittery night of waiting to see if they had done enough to beat hungry UKIP candidates who went onto to take second position in every ward counted at Brierley Hill (apart from Wordsley which they won).
The party's victory prompted a stark warning from cllr Harley who said during his acceptance speech: "After tonight there shouldn't be a Conservative or Labour councillor thinking they're safe. It shows you have to really work and graft all year round not just at election time."
Despite missing out on the hotly-contested Netherton seat, Labour member turned UKIP candidate Steve Daniels was delighted with the success of UKIP which he dubbed "the people's party". He said: "I got over 1,000 votes - to run this close is a tremendous achievement for our party; it just shows UKIP is on the up."
The strength of the UKIP vote, however, appeared to take all of the other parties by surprise. Cllr Islam said: "At a local level they don't seem to have campaigned at all; they've gone off the national picture."
While long-time Labour party member Bill Cody, a former councillor and Mayor of Dudey, said: "I haven't seen the emergence of a third party like this for a long time."
Cllr Harley continued: "It just goes to show perhaps we need to sit down and think out what we're doing. It's a wake up call to senior politicians to stop faffing about and tell it like it is."
Ousted Kingswinford North and Wall Heath councillor Lynn Boleyn said she was "disappointed" to lose the seat she won after defecting from the Lib Dems to Labour but she said: "No doubt I'll come back." And she promised to carry on working for the community in her role with Kewford Eagles football club.
Councillor Dave Tyler, ward colleague, said the evening had proved a "sad night for community councillors" such as Lynn who turned to politics after fighting to save Maidensbridge Primary School from closure.
However - new Conservative councillor Natalie Neale, a dress shop owner and NHS worker, said she'd worked hard to win the Kingswinford and Wall Heath seat and promised to do her best for the ward, adding: "I didn't take anything for granted."
Meanwhile it was a somewhat disappointing night for the Greens who came last in every ward in the Brierley Hill area, except Netherton - where they had to settle for third place despite earlier hopes that they might win, following the 2012 victory enjoyed by Will Duckworth - the Green Party's deputy leader and aspiring Euro MP for the West Midlands.
For results from all wards across the Dudley borough check out our elections module.