Local elections England: update 11 April 2024

Three weeks until election day!

Image: Mr_Twister via istock

Events this month

State of the locals 2024 – 23 April

This online panel discussion, hosted with Ipsos, will bring political and local government experts together to look at what the local elections mean this year and discuss exclusive new LGIU/Ipsos polling that looks at attitudes to local democracy. There is no charge for this event. Book a place.

Global Local Executive Panel: Strategies for tackling misinformation in local government – Next Thursday, 18th April

Local government is not immune to the misinformation phenomenon – particularly at election time – and must find ways to tackle it proactively and reactively. This panel discussion will explore the challenges and focus on practical insights and ideas to counteract disinformation. This is a free event for LGIU members (there is a small charge for others). Book a place.

Highlights this week

There are three weeks to go until a mix of elections – council, combined authority, PCC and London – will see voters heading to the polls in every part of England and Wales. This week we published Local Elections 101 where we answer some of the most frequent questions that crop up about elections, particularly the local variety. We hope you find it useful to share with colleagues and residents in your local area.

Local elections one-stop-shop

Our page of local election resources to support our members and the wider sector, is a one-stop-shop of commentary, guidance and analysis, including a short personal safety guide for councillors on the election trail and a members-only briefing on Elections issues for English local authorities.

Ones to watch - Combined Authority elections

This excerpt is taken from Ones to Watch, LGIU’s guide to the best of the action on 2 May.

Aside from the local authority elections, there is another very important level of government having elections this year – the Combined Authority mayoral elections. This will include household names like Andy Burnham in Greater Manchester.

As we can see from the graph below, not everywhere is in a combined authority area, and a few of them don’t have elections this year.

What is a combined authority? As the IFG has noted, including London (which we have separated as a special case) more than half the people in the UK now live in combined authority areas. A combined authority is what it sounds like, a group of councils coming together to make decisions on policy areas that affect them all, such as transport between local authorities, or regional business policies. The more powerful combined authorities have a mayor, who is directly elected to lead the combined authority.

Map of combined authority elections 2024

Map of political control of combined authorities.

These combined authorities are worth watching during the election, particularly the Conservative defences in the West Midlands and the Tees Valley – Andy Street and Ben Houchen.

Nearly every constituent council in the Tees Valley combined authority are Labour-run (whether in majority, minority, or coalition control), so this one would be worth watching to see if the Mayoral position also flips. However, Ben Houchen’s convincing win in 2021, suggests Labour have a long way to go to take the mayoral seat.

The West Midlands was a closer contest at the last set of elections and is definitely one to watch this time. Andy Street is a recognisable public figure, and polling suggests a greater proportion of the electorate will vote in that contest than any other outside London. It is clearly a contest that matters to the residents of the West Midlands. Council control in the West Midlands is quite evenly split between the Conservatives and Labour, so a victory here will likely be seen as a symbolic victory in the region for the party that wins.

There are new combined authorities across the North East, York and North Yorkshire and the East Midlands. These are promising to be interesting contests – Rishi Sunak launched the Conservatives’ local election campaign in the East Midlands, indicating that the national party is interested in the region, and their candidate – MP for Mansfield and leader of Nottinghamshire County Council – Ben Bradley, is a known quantity in the region.

The North East Mayoral Combined Authority is partially made up of the existing North of Tyne combined authority, the mayor of which, Jamie Driscoll, is standing as an independent candidate following an internal Labour party controversy on the selection process. As a result, this competition will definitely be worth watching as the normal inter-party dynamics are likely to be further complicated.

This is the first time these mayoral elections will be held using First Past the Post, following the passing of the Elections Act (2022). It’s hard to say what effect this is likely to have on the results. Mechanically, it means that a candidate can now get a plural majority of the voters and win, much like with parliamentary elections, where before they needed to get at least 50%+1 of the first or second-preference votes. IFG commentary has argued that this change favours major parties, but the Constitution Unit wrote back in 2021: “The choice between SV and FPTP does not actually affect the result very often.” We will be in a better place to know if the change has affected any electoral dynamics after the election.

Check out the council elections by region that are worth keeping an eye on:

East Midlands | East of England | North East | North West | South East | South West | West Midlands | Yorkshire and Humber

In the news

A summary of this week’s election news. All stories are curated from the LGIU’s member-only Daily News.

If you don’t receive Daily News every morning, then update your mailing preferences in your website account – it’s an important part of your LGIU membership.

Image: Thinglass via istock

Millions missing from electoral register ahead of local elections

Millions of people are still missing from the electoral register with just a week to go before the local elections deadline, according to the Electoral Commission. As many as 7m voters are incorrectly registered or missing entirely. The commission has urged people to register by April 16 and reminded them that they will need to show photo ID at the ballot box. Last year, 14,000 people were turned away from voting due to the new ID rules.

Tories retain Desborough seat in North Northamptonshire by-election

The Conservative leader of North Northamptonshire Council, Jason Smithers, has hailed his party’s victory in a Desborough by-election. Tory candidate Bill McElhinney polled 1,485 votes, beating Labour candidate Rikki Tod into second place – who received 1,054. According to Britain Elects, the Tories gained 47.3% of the vote, a 7.5 percentage point rise, against Labour’s 33.6% (a 6% increase). The Greens won 11.7% and the Liberal Democrats 7.4%. The by-election saw a 29.9% turnout. It was held following the death of Conservative Cllr Mike Tebbutt.
Northamptonshire Telegraph  | Express.co.uk

Mayoral elections the 'big battlegrounds' in May

The Guardian looks ahead to the local elections, speaking to a number of polling experts about their predictions and key races to follow. Colin Rallings and Michael Thrasher have predicted the Conservative Party could lose around 500 seats in the elections, while Millie Mitchell from the Institute for Government points to the 10 metro mayor elections as “big battlegrounds”, with both the Conservatives and Labour seeing mayors “as part of this puzzle for delivering local growth and for helping to solve regional inequality, therefore it’s really important what the results of these elections are”. The paper singles out a number of key council races, including in EssexRedditchDudleyOldhamHyndburnBristolTunbridge Wells, and Milton Keynes.
The Guardian

Green Party hoping for record local election performance

Green Party co-leader Carla Denyer has said the party is hoping to come through the local elections with a record number of councillors, saying she is “seeing substantial Green growth well outside what you may think of as the typical heartlands”. The party is hoping to win control of a number of councils where it has previously performed strongly, including BristolStroudWorcester and Hastings, and hopes to make gains in less traditional areas such as Newcastle and Welwyn Hatfield. Ms Denyer herself is planning to stand in Bristol Central at the general election, with other targets including Brighton Pavilion, North Herefordshire, and Waveney Valley.
The Guardian