EXETER City Council’s leader admits he has “mixed emotions” after his Labour group won and lost a seat on election night.

Thirteen of the council’s 39 seats were contested on Thursday, with Labour winning seven to retain control comfortably.

For the second year running, the party gained a seat in the former Tory stronghold of Topsham but lost a seat in St Thomas to former Lib Dem council leader Adrian Fullam.

Labour still holds 25 seats, the same as before the election, while the Greens and Lib Dems both added one to take their tallies up to six and three respectively. The Conservatives now have four councillors after defeat in Topsham.

Reacting to the results, Councillor Phil Bialyk (Labour, Exwick) said that while it was “disappointing” to lose St Thomas, it was “still an achievement” to win just over half the seats contested.

“We will still be running the city council next week,” he said. “Exeter citizens have put faith in us, overall, to run their city for them, and I think in the main we try our best.”

Cllr Bialyk, who has been council leader since 2019, believes the result reflects the national picture: “The Conservative vote has collapsed. I think people have looked to want to put their votes in other places. Some came to us and a lot went to the other parties.”

He added: “Mixed emotions. I would have liked to have seen us retain St Thomas. We didn’t but we ran a fair fight and the Lib Dems won the seat and that’s all fair in love, war, and politics. That’s how it goes.”

The Green Party is now the outright largest opposition party on the council, increasing its tally to six after gaining Newtown and St Leonard’s. It also successfully defended its seats in Heavitree and St David’s.

Cllr Diana Moore (Green, St David’s), co-leader of the opposition Progressive Group with the Lib Dems, said is delighted with the results, claiming that people in Exeter are “increasingly putting their trust in the Green Party.”

“They see we bring balance and scrutiny to the Labour-dominated council and that we do politics differently. We are willing to work cooperatively with others when this is in the interests of the local people we are elected to represent and the environment.”

Cllr Bialyk added: “What I try to do is to listen to what the other parties have to say and where they make sense, I’ll take that on board.

“But we are a democracy and the Labour group is the largest group. We have a manifesto. It’s been voted in, and we now have a duty to carry that manifesto out.”

Elsewhere in Devon, Labour took control of Plymouth City Council. It was a key target for the party nationally, following a period of turmoil for the Conservatives in the city.