LABOUR strengthened its hold on Oxford City Council as Liberal Democrat candidates paid the price for their party's role in the national coalition.

The ruling Labour administration picked up three seats to take a 10-seat majority on the 48-seat council. It now has 29 seats.

The Lib Dems slumped from 16 to 13 seats as the party lost elections in Carfax and North wards to Labour and Holywell to the Green Party.

Labour picked up seats in St Clement's from the Greens, where sitting councillor Nuala Young stood down for this year's poll, and Northfield Brook, where the Independent Working Class Association's Stuart Craft stood down.

Yet Labour had a shock as independent Mick Haines took Marston from the party with 877 votes to Louise Upton's 636.

And former Green group leader Craig Simmons returns to the council after stepping down two years ago, replacing the party's Matt Morton in St Mary's.

The party retains five seats on the council.

Lib Dem leader Stephen Brown said his party only lost seats where the candidate, including himself in Carfax, was stepping down.

This meant the coalition Government played a greater role in voters' choices in these seats, he said.

Mr Brown said: "I am very disappointed but I think the Lib Dems are in a very difficult situation because of the national situation."

Labour leader Bob Price said: "We are very satisfied with the outcome.

"I think the national picture went against the Lib Dems.

"They are propping up a very right wing Government, that has played very badly with the Oxford electorate."

Mr Simmons said: "It is good to be back on the council. It was a hard fought battle."

Mr Haines, the council's only independent, said: "I feel over the moon.

"It has been a long battle and I stuck to independent all the way along the line - that is the best party to go with.”

UK Independence Party candidate Dr Julia Gasper, who caused outrage in the final days of the election campaign with comments about homosexuality, came last in Quarry and Risinghurst with 69 votes.

The voter turn-out was 29.4 per cent, council spokesman Louisa Dean said.