England & Wales

Local elections 2011 – 50 councils to watch today


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I’ve profiled 50 councils that could change control or where the results are likely to be seen as having particular political significance. When I did this last year I got some flak, with people disputing my forecasts.  It’s worth saying that these are based on a review of media reporting on the elections, combined with discussions with sources in the different parties, both at a local and national level, about their targets and expectations.   It has to be remembered that Labour performed particularly badly last time these council seats were up for election in 2007, and given their current lead in the opinion polls, they are predicted to make big gains tomorrow. The big unknown is quite what will happen in the many contests between Conservatives and Lib Dems.  I’ve erred, based on the opinion polls, towards the Conservatives making some gains from the Lib Dems.  There is a big caveat here though, the polls will not translate uniformly to what happens locally, where local issues, campaigns and council performance, will be a big factor in the results.    If you think I’ve got it all wrong, please feel free to get in touch or via twitter @andysawford.

  1. Birmingham, the biggest local authority inEngland, is currently run by a Conservative and Lib Dem coalition.   Labour will hope to make gains, but the council is likely to remain in no overall control
  2. Bolton was hotly contested last time around when Labour lost overall control.  They remain the largest party and will hope to regain control.
  3. Bradford – after many years out of power Labour now run a minority administration.  They would need a net gain of six seats to win overall control.
  4. Bury is split Con 23, Labour 20 and Lib Dems 8.   The arithmetic of the 16 seats up for grabs means only the Conservatives could take overall control, but Labour will be hoping to emerge as the largest party.
  5. Calderdale is a rare Lib Dem and Labour administration.  The council make up is intriguing, with 21 Conservatives, 17 Lib Dems and 10 Labour.  Could the Conservatives snatch control?
  6. Dudley – the Conservatives have a good majority and are likely to hold on to control.  With only a third of seats up for election Labour would need to make spectacular gains in order to snatch control.  If that happens, it will be one of the stories of the night.
  7. Kirklees council is about as hung as it gets, with 19 Conservatives, 24 Labour, 20 Lib Dems and 6 others.  Currently in Labour minority control, they will hope to make gains.  This is always an interesting council to watch.
  8. Leeds switched from a Conservative and Lib Dem coalition to a Labour administration, backed by the Greens last year.  Labour will expect to take outright control tomorrow.
  9. Liverpool switched from Lib Dem to Labour control last year.   The Lib Dem Leader stepped down last week unexpectedly.   Another nationally prominent Liverpool Lib Dem, Cllr Richard Kemp, has fired many warning shots across the bows of the coalition government.   If the Lib Dems lose big inLiverpool at these elections it could fuel grassroots unrest.
  10. Newcastle is the big fight of the night, with Labour hoping to gain enough seats to win control from the Lib Dems for the first time in many years.  The Lib Dems are defending 16 seats, Labour are defending 9.  Labour would need to make a net gain of 6 seats to win.  This is a nail biter for Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband.
  11. Oldham – after Labour’s strong showing in the recent parliamentary by-election they will be optimistic about their chances of snatching control from the current Lib Dem and Conservative administration.
  12. Rochdale has been in minority Lib Dem and Conservative control but recent defections, and possibly some Labour gains, make the outcome of this election unpredictable.  Rochdale’s most famous elector, Gillian Duffy, is said to be voting Labour this time.
  13. Sheffields current balance is 42 Lib dems, 39 Labour and two others.  Labour is widely expected to make gains here.
  14. Solihull is an interesting Conservative and Lib Dem battle, where the Conservatives will be hoping to win overall control.
  15. Trafford is Conservative controlled with a comfortable majority but it has been a bell weather council in the past and Labour will be hoping to make inroads.
  16. Wirral is currently in no overall control with a Conservative and Lib Dem administration.  The Conservatives will hope to remain in the driving seat after these elections but Labour could become the largest party.
  17. Wolverhampton is finely balanced. Labour has a wafer thin majority which they will hope to consolidate this time.
  18. Bath and N.E Somerset is a prospect for a Conservative gain from NOC.
  19. Blackburn with Darwen – Labour will hope to win a handful of seats to gain control
  20. Blackpool looks to be comfortably Conservative – they hold 27 seats to Labour’s 12 and the Lib Dems 3.   A change of control here is unlikely but not out of the question and Labour have high hopes.
  21. Brighton and Hove always produces interesting and sometimes surprising results.  It is now a four way contest, with the Greens featuring strongly.  With every seat up for grabs tomorrow, anything could happen.  The Greens are widely expected to do well.
  22. Bristol is one of the Lib Dems prize councils.   They currently have 38 of the 70 seats.  With a third of the council seats up this time, of which 12 are Lib Dem, any one of the three main parties could emerge as the largest party.
  23. Derby is a very interesting three way contest.  The results here could have telling implications for how each party is performing in theEast Midlands.
  24. Hull is another big Lib Dem run city that Labour are seeking to win.  Lots of eyes will be on this result.
  25. Milton Keynes is currently a Lib Dem minority administration.  For the Conservatives, who did well here in the last General Election, this is one of their best hopes for a council gain.
  26. Plymouth is likely to remain Conservative but this is one of Labour’s few strong areas in the South West and they will hope to make some gains.
  27. Poole is Conservative led.  Will they strengthen their majority or could their Lib Dem challengers make gains?
  28. Portsmouth is Lib Dem led and home to marginal parliamentary seats, so Lib Dems will be hoping to hold off a Conservative challenge.
  29. Reading is always lively at election time.  Labour is currently the largest party but would have to do very well in the elections to snatch control from the Conservative and Lib Dem coalition administration.
  30. South Gloucestershire has a minority Conservative administration.  With all out elections tomorrow they will be hoping to take overall control.
  31. Southampton is home to two Labour MPs but a Conservative council.   Whatever happens on election day, with only a third of the seats up, and the Conservatives having 28 of the 48 seats overall, they look likely to remain in the driving seat.
  32. Stockton has an unusual Labour and Conservative administration.  Independents have done very well here in recent elections and it will be interesting to see if that continues.
  33. Telford and Wrekin is a minority Conservative administration and they will be hoping to win majority control.
  34. Thurrock is keenly contested between Labour and the Conservatives.  There is currently a minority Labour administration.  The results here will be an indication of whether Labour is recovering ground in the South.
  35. Windsor and Maidenhead is Eric Pickles favourite council.  The Conservative’s have a comfortable majority already but will nevertheless be hoping to make gains from the Lib Dems.
  36. York is a keenly fought contest between the Lib Dems, who are currently in minority control, and Labour who will hope to make gains.
  37. Ashfield is hung, with the Lib Dems as the largest party. It could be a Labour gain
  38. Broxtowe – possible Conservative gain
  39. Chelmsford – a keenly fought contest between the Conservatives and Lib Dems
  40. Chesterfield – Labour won the parliamentary seat here from the Lib Dems last year.  The Lib Dems currently have a big majority on the council, so should hold on, but Labour might be hoping to pull of a surprise here
  41. Eastleigh is home to Lib Dem Cabinet Minister Chris Huhne.  The Lib Dems are defending 12 council seats here while the Conservatives are defending none, so have everything to gain and nothing to lose.
  42. Gravesham was Labour controlled until 2007 when the Conservatives won.  It will be hotly contested this time.
  43. Guildford is a traditional Lib Dem and Conservative battleground and it will be interesting to see what happens here.  The Conservatives currently have a small majority.
  44. Hinckley and Bosworth is a Lib Dem administration that the Conservatives are targetting for gains.
  45. Lincoln is a Labour and Conservative toss up on the council.  This is a key parliamentary marginal so the local elections results will be seen as having added significance.
  46. North Norfolk – home to Lib Dem MP Norman Lamb – is a Conservative target to gain from the Lib Dems.
  47. Northampton was a Lib Dem gain at the last election, in one of the big stories of the 2007 elections where Labour was reduced to only 5 seats.   If the pendulum swings back the Lib Dems could lose control of the council. 
  48. North Warwickshire is a Conservative and Labour marginal.  Labour would need to gain only a few seats to snatch control from the Conservatives.
  49. Taunton Deane is currently in no overall control and both the Conservatives and Lib Dems will be trying to gain a majority.
  50. Teignbridge is a Conservative and Lib Dem toss up currently in no overall control.