THE empire struck back in Southend as Tory gains in the local elections left Southend Council on a knife-edge.

To continue the national trend, the Tories won three seats and emerged victorious in the seats they defended.

However, their success still left them four seats short of a majority needed to take back control, after heavy losses last year saw them bomb out of power after 14 years.

The ruling Independent, Lib Dem, and Labour coalition has 24 seats, but is down on the 27 seats it had before the state of play.

It means that the coalition will have to possibly do a deal with suspended Ukip councillors James Moyies, Tino Callaghan, and Laurence Davies.

Discussions will take place this weekend, it is thought.

If no agreement can be reached, the joint administration could govern as a minority on a vote-by-vote basis, like Basildon Council has done.

The Tories have ruled out a pact with Ukip.

The anti-EU party retained one seat in St. Laurence, after Lee Burling resigned earlier this year.

Current leader of the administration Ron Woodley retained his Thorpe seat with a landslide and delivered a teaful, emotional, speech.

Full results, click here: