LABOUR lost their grip in South Ribble last night as three of their seats were snatched away -- leaving the Tories the largest party on the council.

It is not clear whether the result will mean Labour councillor Howard Gore will be ousted from his position as leader of the council although talks between Mr Gore and leader of the Conservative group, Councillor Jim Breakell, were understood to be taking place on Friday morning.

But it was not the sweeping landslide some Conservatives may have hoped for with the party gaining just two seats.

Labour lost three seats, the Liberal Democrats gained two, while Councillor Tom Sharratt's Idle Toad party went from three to four seats.

Boundary changes meant there were 55 seats up for grabs, an addition of one on the last local borough elections.

It means South Ribble Borough Council now has 19 Conservatives, 17 Labour, 15 Liberal Democrats, and four Idle Toad.

Gina Lewis, Labour councillor for Golden Hill and leader of the council for two years until 1991, said: "Although I was very pleased with the results in my ward for both myself and Councillor Matthew Tomlinson, it was a disappointing result for the Labour group overall, but we were fighting new boundaries.

"I don't think the war was as big a problem as the rises in Council Tax. But people don't appreciate the services in South Ribble if they don't have to use them.

"The work done by the Citizen's Advice Bureau and the Women's Refuge for instance.

"But I'm also saddened that some people have not gone out and voted and we have a lot of work to do as a council."

The numbes of people turning out to vote represented 31 per cent of the electorate, which is fairly close ot the national picture.

Speaking on behalf of the Liberal Democrat party, St Mary's Councillor Jeff Knowles, who will be installed as mayor of the borough on May 21, said: "It was going to be a difficult one but I think we did very well to win the seats, making not a lot of seats between the three key parties."

Speaking on behalf of the Conservative Group in South Ribble, Councillor Jonathan Hesketh, representative for Longton and Hutton West, said: "I'm very pleased with the result.

"We are definately making in roads. Hopefully this result will mean that our leader will now become leader of the council."