BOTH sides of Southampton’s council chamber were left in shock yesterday after their leaders were ousted in a dramatic election result.

City council boss Simon Letts, who has been in office since 2006, was beaten to the Bitterne seat by Conservative Terry Streets, while Tory opposition leader Jeremy Moulton, first elected as a councillor in 2002, was beaten to the Freemantle seat by Labour’s Stephen Leggett.

The pair were praised by councillors from both parties for their dedication, while Itchen MP Royston Smith described their departures as a “loss” to the city.

But talk has already turned to who will replace them at the respective helms.

Deputy Labour leader Warwick Payne is rumoured to be one of the front runners to replace Simon Letts as the leader of Southampton City Council.

The Woolston councillor refused to drawn on whether he would put his name forward for the position.

Instead, councillor Payne said he would spend the bank holiday weekend to “reflect” on his stance.

He said: “I’m surprised Simon is now not the leader because I believe he is the best person for the job.

Business carries on at the council and we will continue running the city in a forward looking and kind manner.

“It is too early to say (who will challenge for the role) because we are still in shock with not having Simon as our leader.”

Councillor Payne added the party would make a decision at its annual general meeting on Friday.

His potential chances have been boosted by the news that fellow deputy leader and interim chief, councillor Jacqui Rayment, announced she “didn’t want” the role.

Councillor Satvir Kaur has also ruled herself out, adding there were "no obvious candidates" who had come forward at this point.

Meanwhile, Conservative backbencher Daniel Fitzhenry could make a leap forward onto the front bench, to become the new opposition leader.

The Harefield councillor, first elected in 2008, was formerly a deputy leader of the party from 2015-17, before stepping onto the back benches for personal reasons in June.

Councillor Fitzhenry has confirmed he will put his name forward for the leadership, which is expected to be discussed by Conservatives at a meeting next Monday.

In the meantime, councillor John Hannides will take interim charge of the party.

The Bassett councillor said the leader role was not one he would “covet”.

However, speaking about councillor Fitzhenry, he added: “He’s extremely capable and has very good experience and would make an excellent leader.”

Councillor Hannides also praised outgoing Conservative chief, Jeremy Moulton, as well as Labour leader Simon Letts.

Speaking about Mr Letts, he said: “I think he worked very hard fort the city and wish him the very best.”

On Mr Moulton he added: “Jeremy was an excellent councillor and he served both his ward and the city successfully over many years.

“If he wants to continue in politics I would be the first to welcome him with open arms.”

Conservative Itchen MP Royston Smith, added: “Jeremy is a great talent. He should be an MP and he should most definitely be leader of the council.

“Him losing his seat is a great loss to the city and politics in general.”

On Mr Letts, he said: “I have huge respect for Simon and got on really well with him.

“He has been a public servant for a long time. It’s a loss to the city.”