Whilst the national media has been focussing on THAT by-election in Hartlepool, local authorities across the country have begun tallying votes across 5,000 council seats across 145 English councils. And whilst only a few started counting votes overnight a clear picture of Conservative gains is emerging in nearly every corner of England.
Whether it is the vaccine bounce, the Boris effect or Labour’s seeming continual disconnect with communities it used to take for granted, the picture across England is one of Conservative consolidation.
What’s happening across the South?
Harlow Council was a major target for the Conservatives despite the Labour group dominating in Harlow for the last 9 years. So the result today will be widely celebrated in Essex, where the Conservatives continue to make gains throughout the day. Harlow Council managed to adopt its Local Plan in February this year, so it will be a Conservative administration who will now be looking to deliver against that plan.
The Conservatives also strengthened their positions in Rochford, Thurrock and Brentwood, boosting their healthy majorities. The two outliers in the East are Colchester, which remains under No Overall Control, led by Liberal Democrat, Labour and Independent groups, and Southend–on–Sea, which continues to be led by a Conservative minority administration with No Overall Control.
Whilst Basildon’s result has yet to be formally announced, the previous Labour Leader Gavin Callaghan confirmed this morning that he will be not be continuing as Leader of the Council; a possible sign of things to come.
Results from the wider Kent, Surrey, Herts and Bucks area will be announced later today and there are some key areas to look out for, given the results so far. Maidstone is one of the key Kent seats the Conservatives will be hoping to capture from the Liberal Democrats today, whilst Crawley will be the West Sussex seat to keep an eye out for.
Residents Associations do not seem to have been getting the kind of local traction they received in the previous election, so Elmbridge’s coalition of Residents’ Association and Liberal Democrats will be battling to hold onto the Council.
Early results from the London by-elections show that the Labour vote is holding up, with seats being held in Bromley, Brent and Islington.
What’s left of the Red Wall?
Across the Midlands and the North of England a similar picture is emerging of large Tory gains in local authorities where the Conservative party has been making inroads at national elections since 2017. The much-referenced Red Wall now has significant holes in it across the region which are likely to take some years to be filled.
Rural England isn’t usually associated with a strong Labour vote but in the days of Ed Miliband we should remember Labour were gaining County Council seats and control of several Councils, including district planning authorities. Today the picture is very different across the East and West Midlands.
In Nuneaton & Bedworth, the last remaining Labour district in Warwickshire, Labour returned just one Councillor, leaving the Tories with 24 of 34 seats. A stark turnaround from 2012 when Labour came close to wiping the Tories off the map in the district council elections.
In the former mining communities of Nottinghamshire, the Conservatives are on course to take control of Nottinghamshire County Council and increase their majorities in Derbyshire and Leicestershire. In Warwickshire, Labour has already lost all but one of their Councillors in the divisions declared so far with neighbouring Staffordshire likely to see a similar result when their count gets underway tomorrow.
In places like Redditch, where Labour was in control of the district council just a few years ago, the party didn’t return a single Councillor. Worcestershire and the remaining West Midlands county of Shropshire look set to see increased Conservative majorities.
In the North East, the result in Hartlepool has been reflected in the Conservatives taking control of Northumberland County Council for the first time since it was created in 2008 and Labour suffering loses in previously unassailable authorities such as Newcastle, Sunderland and Gateshead.
In Yorkshire, a rare success for Labour so far has been the re-election of Doncaster Mayor Ros Jones who retained her position on a 10,000 majority.
In the North West, only a handful of councils have declared so far, with the Liberal Democrats becoming the largest group on Stockport Council. Stand by for some horse-trading so see who holds the reigns of power here over the coming days.
But with many votes still to be counted and the Metro Mayor election counts not likely to declare until some time on Saturday, the complete picture of how well Boris Johnson’s Conservatives have performed is still some way off being painted.
And the complete picture is likely to be dotted green in places like South Tyneside, Wirral and Stockport, adding a new dynamic to the debate around investment into the built environment.
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