THE big three parties were this morning relieved after pretenders Ukip narrowly failed to take a seat on Colchester Council.

The anti European Union party stood in 14 of the 20 seats up for grabs in yesterday's local elections and came second in most of them.

But although the party picked up nearly 100 council seats up and down the country, the closest they came in Colchester was an 85 vote loss to Conservative John Elliott in Tiptree.

Elsewhere, the only change was Labour's gain of Berechurch from the Lib Dems.

In an echo of recent elections, the other 19 seats were held by the incumbent party, meaning the Lib Dem, Labour and independent coalition which has ruled the authority since 2008 is likely to continue for at least 12 more months.

The big three parties all declared themselves satisfied with the results. Labour councillors were pleased to add new Berechurch councillor Chris Pearson to their ranks, while the Conservatives insisted they were pleased to see their vote share increase.

The collapse of Lib Dem support in other councils such as Portsmouth was not replicated in Colchester, as they successfully defended nine out of ten seats.

Focus centred on Castle ward, which required a recount to separate incumbent Lib Dem Bill Frame and Tory challenger Darius Laws. Eventually, Mr Frame was declared the winner by just 46 votes.

Returning councillor Justin Knight also struggled to overcome a Labour challenge for Old Heath ward, but eventually won by 69 votes.

Ron Levy, secretary of Colchester Ukip, said work would start next week to make a breakthrough at the 2015 general election.

Votes cast in the European Union election will be counted on Sunday.