After the voting, comes the wrangling

Much has been written about the local elections held on the 3rd of May, which saw the worst Conservative result at a local election in many years, the failure of Labour and UKIP to capitalise on this collapse in the vote, and a resurgence of Liberal Democrat, Green and Independent candidates across the country.

However, the coverage on the BBC and national press stopped once the results had been announced and went back to talking about what Westminster political journalists are most comfortable talking about – national politics.

Even coverage of the local elections themselves were looked at singularly through the eyes of national issues. Whilst Westminster politics undoubtedly played a significant impact on the results across the county, with intense frustration over Brexit (and politics in general), being delivered in force to Labour and  the Conservatives there were many local issues such as parking, financial mismanagement and of course planning, that played their part in the results.

The significant swings on a national level did mean that several councils did change overall control from one party to the other, with the Liberal Democrats being the main beneficiary of this change.  They gained ten councils, including Winchester, Chelmsford, Bath & North East Somerset and Cotswolds.

However, a much more common trend was the number of councils that went into No Overall Control.

47 councils across the country went from being controlled by one group to no political party having a majority.

Councils that are in NOC are controlled by either a formal coalition between groups, or by a minority administration with the support of another party to vote for the Council Leader and Budget.  And the next two weeks is when these deals are finalised and ratified, at a Council’s Annual Council meeting.

Leaders are elected, Cabinet members are chosen, Committee memberships are doled out, and in most cases, this will have been agreed in a series of negotiations starting in the early hours of the Friday morning after the election.

There are some surprises at the time of the Full Council, but most of these deals will have been done in advance and the meetings are just a rubber-stamping exercise.

We’re currently working with clients in a dozen councils that have been NOC for some time, or recently have lost their political majority, such as St Albans and Welwyn Hatfield.

If you’re interested in how a council that’s recently had elections is likely to be run, or any other questions about how local politics could affect one of your projects, then don’t hesitate to drop us a line.

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Steve Jolly

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