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Local elections Sunday, 7 May, 2000, 21:34 GMT 22:34 UK
Labour lose as Watford vote slumps
William Hague
Tories gained one seat in Watford to remove Labour's majority
Hopes that experimental weekend polling in Watford would increase turnout in its local council election have been dashed as just over a quarter of voters make it to the booths.

Labour lost Watford to no overall control on Sunday in the final result to be declared in this year's English council elections.

Voters went to the polls two days later than the rest of the country in the experimental poll, which saw booths set up in shops in a bid to attract more voters.

But turnout in the Hertfordshire constituency slumped from 36% last year to 27%, despite people in the borough being allowed to cast their votes from 8am until 6pm on Saturday and Sunday, when many would not be at work.

The experiment was launched by the council with the aim of encouraging greater involvement in local democracy.

Several pilot schemes were tried by councils this year in a bid to increase voter enthusiasm but the only clear successes were achieved by trials involving extensions of postal vote arrangements.

The result is the final indignity for Labour which - in its worst losses for 20 years - lost control of 16 councils and witnessed a revival by the Conservatives who picked up nearly 600 seats.

Labour now controls 58 English councils, the Tories 33 and Liberal Democrats 11 with 50 having no overall control.

The Tories picked up one seat from Labour in Watford to remove the party's overall majority.

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