Historic scenes saw the Conservatives lose control of Arun District Council for the first time.
The unprecedented results left the previously dominant party on 21 seats, just half of its previous number, and one behind the Liberal Democrats on 22.
It was at 6pm at last Friday’s election count at the Arun Leisure Centre in Felpham that the decisive result was announced to end the one-party local authority which had existed since it was formed in 1974.
The final line-up of 54 councillors also saw eight Independents, compared to four previously, the first two Green members and a same-again Labour sole councillor.
this means a coalition of groups, probably the Lib Dems and Independents, will take control of Arun.
There were gasps and cheers as the scale of the Tories’ collapse became apparent.
Lib Dem then group leader Cllr Daniel Purchese said: “The Conservatives have not just lost their actual majority. They have lost their moral majority and their right to govern.
“They have made so many bad decisions – the local plan and wasting taxpayers’ money among them – and people are really fed up with the way Arun has been run by the Conservatives.”
The rout of the Conservartives was so severe only two of their seven senior cabinet members were re-elected. Four were defeated and one did not seek re-election.
Those who lost included long-standing council leader, Gillian Brown, and former housing cabinet member, Trevor Bence.
Both were pushed aside in Aldwick East ward by Independent Cllrs Hugh Coster and Tony Dixon.
One of the winning pair, Cllr Tony Dixon, said: “As we know, Arun has been under the control of the Conservatives for 45 years.
“In recent years, we have seen the council become complacent and self-serving. It is time to change.
“We need a council that respects people, serves people and gets back to basics. We will serve people, listen to people and deliver what they want.”
The same situation occurred in Pagham. The two Independent candidates were swept to victory on the day’s highest turnout of 45 per cent.
Cllrs David Huntley and June Hamilton dominated the polling with almost three times the number of votes for the sitting Conservatives in a ward seething at large planned housing schemes.
Cllr Hamilton said: “Hopefully, this is the start of a new era in local government and local democracy.
“We will do everything we can not to let the voters down.”
The results were also notable for seeing the first disabled councillors elected to Arun. Two were from the Bognor Regis area – Cllrs Claire Needs (Aldwick W) and Amanda Worne (Yapton). Both are Lib Dems.
Cllr Worne said her life had been completely transformed after a serious accident on her bike on Bury Hill.
“I am absolutely made up. Four years ago, I was lying in a bush with a lot of broken bones. I did not think I was going to live.
“Now, I am sitting here as a councillor. It shows it is all about what you make of life. You can give up or you can take on the challenges,” she said.
“I want to give the people of Yapton peace of mind that the community feeling and village spirit everyone likes so much can survive despite the amount of housing we are getting.””
Cllr Needs, who has cerebral palsy, said: “I am absolutely amazed by the result. It is going to give me the chance to show the town what a disabled person can do.
“This brings diversity into the council and it shows that disability does not have to be a barrier. I will give the council different ways of looking at things.”
Fellow Yapton Lib Dem Joshua Jones, usually known as Henry, was the youngest councillor elected at 20.
One of few leading Conservatives left, Cllr Michael Clayden, said: “This is all about national politics. This is a great shame it has influenced a local election.
“We have lost some very good, experienced members and they will be sorely missed. I now hope members of the Lib Dems will turn up at committee meetings so we can get policies on a more cross-party basis.”