THE rise of the UK Independence Party has been credited with changing the balance of power in Oxfordshire County Council.

Despite not winning a single seat in Thursday’s elections, the anti-European Union party ran close to both Labour and Tory candidates in a number of seats.

It finished second in 21 places and third in another 21.

When a county council election was last held in 2009 UKIP only managed to have one candidate finish in second place.

In some seats, such as Banbury Hardwick, the party took a significant number of the 2,009 votes – 561, or 28 per cent.

Labour beat the Conservatives into second place there with a 114 majority and county councillor Rodney Rose, deputy leader of the council, said his party was hampered by UKIP’s success.

He said: “It is a great shame because it did alter the voting pattern and it most definitely stopped us from getting overall control of the council.

“The results speak for themselves.

“It was a national protest vote against David Cameron and it had nothing to do with the county council.”

Conservative Stewart Lilly, who won Hendreds and Harwell with UKIP’s Jason Kent in third place, said: “I am delighted to have retained my seat.

“It has been challenging this time around.

“Obviously UKIP are sending us a message and I certainly hope the Government listens, because it is us at the coalface who take the kicking.”

UKIP put forward a total of 52 candidates in 50 of the 63 seats up for election, compared with the 15 they fielded four years ago.

In Witney South and Central party candidate James Robertshaw beat the Conservatives into third place by 49 votes, coming second to Labour’s Laura Price, who gained just 10 more.

Mr Robertshaw, who won 746 votes, said he was “disappointed” not to win the seat.

He added: “UKIP is standing up for good policies on immigration and supporting people’s jobs.

“This sends out a message to Labour and to the Conservatives that people are prepared to vote for their country, for proper policies.

“That’s what we need.”

Chris Parkes, who finished third in Sutton Courtenay and Marcham, said: “Only a month ago we were fruit cakes and loonies, but now we are a party to be taken seriously.”

But he warned against attributing the party’s success to protest votes.

He said: “If political parties want to be in local politics they have to put up with the rough and the smooth.”