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Conservatives strengthen hold on local government

The Conservatives have strengthened their hold on England’s councils following last Thursday’s elections, making significant gains in local authorities that were previously under ‘no overall control’ – in many cases winning overall majorities. 

Councils including the Borough of Poole, High Peak, Scarborough and Worcester – previously no overall control – have all swung to the Conservatives. 

The Tories managed re-take control of Amber Valley Borough Council from Labour. The party won all but one seat at the borough council elections, with the make-up of the local authority now 24 seats for the Conservatives and 21 for Labour. 

According to figures from the Local Government Information Unit (LGiU), a local democracy think-tank, in the 279 councils that held elections last week, the Conservatives won control of 28 while Labour lost three and the Lib Dems four. The Tories gained almost 500 councillors, Labour lost 179 and the Lib Dems 365. 

The Greens lost Brighton to no overall control, with Labour now to run the council as the largest party. 

And while Ukip didn’t make the gains as seen in recent local government elections it did take control of Thanet Council – the area where the party's former leader, Nigel Farage, failed to become an MP. 

UKIP won 33 seats, Conservatives 18, Labour four, and independents one – 29 seats were needed for a majority. 

Jonathan Carr-West, chief executive of the LGiU said: “The general election result will have been a lot less surprising to anyone who’s been following local government elections over the last couple of years. Conservative vote holding up, Labour failing to break through with Middle England (though a late gain in Cheshire West and Chester will be some consolation) and the Liberal Democrats facing oblivion. Looking at how people have actually voted in the local elections rather than how they tell pollsters they are going to vote would have given us a much more accurate sense of what to expect. 

“UKIP, after failing to replicate their seat gains of previous years, had a late boost when they took control of Thanet: the first time they have ever controlled a local authority. All eyes will now be on whether they can get to grips with running a council or crumble under the pressure. Can they now turn themselves from a party of protest into a party of local government? The jury’s out.” 

Looking at the local government political picture after the election, the Conservatives now control 192 councils, including 31 unitaries, 16 counties and 145 non-metropolitan districts. 

Labour controls 101 councils, including 68 unitaries, two counties and 31 non-metropolitan boroughs. However, in a late bright spot for Labour, the party snatched Cheshire West and Chester from the Tories, an authority that is largely adjacent to George Osborne’s Tatton constituency. 

The Lib Dems have control of seven councils – one unitary and six non-metropolitan– but there are still 47 councils with no overall control. 

During the election there were six mayoral elections held around England. In three of the contests the incumbent mayors were re-elected: Bedford (Dave Hodgson, Liberal Democrat); Leicester (Sir Peter Soulsby, Labour); and Torbay (Gordon Oliver, Conservative). 

Sir Peter said: “Undoubtedly we will see from the incoming government a continuation of cuts and the inevitable impact that will have on services we provide to the people of Leicester in general and in particular the most vulnerable in our society. 

“I pledge myself to continuing to work to protect the most vulnerable from the savagery of what we can expect.” 

Labour’s Dave Budd was elected the new mayor in Middlesbrough after winning by just 256 votes. But Copeland and Mansfield both chose independent candidates: Mike Starkie and Kate Allsopp respectively.

 (Image: c. LGiU)

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Cllr Rodney L Bass CC   11/05/2015 at 15:30

Do the Conservatives regain control of the LGA?

PSE   11/05/2015 at 16:00

We think so, Rodney, but will confirm soon.

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