Nick Clegg became leader in December
Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg says his party "confounded expectations" in England and Wales' local elections.
Although their projected share of the vote was down 4% on when these seats were fought in 2004, and 1% down on 2007, they gained 30 more councillors.
And the 25% projected share of the national vote was enough to push Labour, on 24%, into third place.
Mr Clegg said his party had proved it was "regaining momentum" and he was "delighted" with the result.
He said: "We were 13% a few months ago, we're now 25%. We've overtaken Labour, we've taken seats off the Conservatives, we've taken seats off Labour.
LIB DEM RESULTS
Lib Dems gain 30 seats
Key Liberal Democrats win - Burnley, Kingston-Upon-Hull, Sheffield, St Albans
Key Liberal Democrats losses - Liverpool, Pendle
"Every time I opened a newspaper in the last month I was being told it would even be a good night if we lost a number of seats; we've won seats.
"If you call that a disappointment then we inhabit different planets. I am actually delighted, we are regaining momentum."
A BBC projection based on the votes in councils in England and Wales put Labour's national vote share at just 24%, 20 points behind David Cameron's Conservatives on 44% and beaten into third place by the Liberal Democrats on 25%.