2 weeks until polling day…
This week's highlights
Local elections in England are well under way, with major parties launching their campaigns. While Labour and the Liberal Democrats are still focusing on the crisis with the cost of living, the Conservative party are facing challenges after Johnson denied misleading the Commons over his knowledge of illegal gatherings in No10 on Tuesday. The Conservatives have also held discussions with partners concerning further sanctions against Russia, which are likely to hold influence over the election. Boris Johnson also faces a potentially challenging by-election in Wakefield after the former Tory MP for the constituency resigned after his conviction for sexually assaulting a boy.
Across London, almost a third of councillors are standing down ahead of the local elections (in Camden, Lambeth, Lewisham, Newham, Southwark, Tower Hamlets, Wandsworth, and Westminster). Figures show 546 councillors are heading for the exit, out of a total of 1,769.
The Local Government Boundary Commission for Wales has carried out a review of each of the electoral wards and made some amendments which will take effect from May 2022. These include the number of wards in Carmarthenshire which will change from 58 to 51, meaning addresses may end up in different wards from previous elections and the name of the ward may change as well. The total number of county councillors will increase from 74 to 75.
In Scotland, the leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, Alex-Cole Hamilton has expressed reservations about his party forming coalitions on councils with either the Scottish Conservatives or the Scottish National Party after May 5th, saying that they are too focused on the debate around the constitution and Scottish Independence. Meanwhile, Alba leader Alex Salmond launched his party’s manifesto including the promises of; freezing council tax, expanding free school meals to all pupils, increasing the Scottish Child Payment to £40 a week and giving low-income households an annual payment of £500.
The Scottish National Party have also been rocked by negative press this week after Police Scotland spoke to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon after she was filmed breaching the mask rules set in Scotland by her government. They reminded her of the importance of wearing a mask indoors but deemed any further action unnecessary. A full overview of the party manifesto’s in Scotland has been done by the LGIU and is available here.
|State of the Locals election experts panel
New Ipsos polling data on UK attitudes to local elections
If you missed our virtual panel focused on the predictions and ones to watch ahead of the 2022 local elections…a recording of the discussion is now available here.
Access to the polling data from Ipsos on UK attitudes to local elections, the work of councillors and role of local government can be found here.
LGIU’s press statement on the back of this data is available here.
Roads and housing the top issues for local elections
An Ipsos survey ahead of the local elections has found that 50% of people believe the condition of roads and pavements should be the top priority for councils – followed by the provision of affordable housing, a top priority for 39%. Head of political research Gideon Skinner said against the backdrop of the cost-of-living crisis, Ukraine and Partygate, “when it comes to the upcoming council elections more local factors will also have a role to play”. The poll also found that 34% of people are satisfied with their council, compared to 31% who are not satisfied, while almost four in 10 believe councils provide poor value for money. Local Government Information Unit chief executive Jonathan Carr-West said it was “disappointing that people feel their councils provide poor value for money, when after more than a decade of funding cuts, councils across the country are continuing to care for the elderly, safeguard vulnerable children, invest in housing and drive local growth”. You can read LGIU’s guide to the local elections here.
England elections: Why a third of London's councillors are quitting
Almost a third of London’s councillors are standing down ahead of the local elections (in Camden, Lambeth, Lewisham, Newham, Southwark, Tower Hamlets, Wandsworth and Westminster), according to data obtained by the BBC. Figures show 546 councillors are heading for the exit, out of a total of 1,769. It’s thought to be one of the highest turnovers of elected representatives since councils were created in 1964. The strain of austerity in local government is seen as one reason for the departures. Another factor is the impact of Covid-19, with councillors fatigued from the pressures of helping people during the pandemic or reassessing their own personal priorities.
Top of the capital’s council exodus is Kingston-upon-Thames where 23 of the 47 councillors are calling it a day. In Croydon, too, 29 out of 70 councillors are heading for the exit, and in Wandsworth, 15 Conservative councillors are standing down.
Leap in voter registrations ahead of local elections
Ahead of today’s deadline, applications to vote in next month’s elections have jumped. A total of 28,273 applications were made on Tuesday, Government figures show. This is double the daily average for the year so far and the highest for a single day since last autumn.
Muslim woman bids to become first Tory to wear Niqab
A number of newspapers have profiled Fajila Patel, who has been selected by the Conservatives to contest the Bastwell and Daisyfield ward for Blackburn with Darwen BC. If elected she would be the first Tory politician to wear a niqab. Ms Patel said she wants to challenge the “great misconception” about women who wear full veils and drive a change in attitude towards them. “The main reason is: I want to break down barriers. I wanted to help inspire other women to come forward and be confident enough to stand as a councillor”, she added. You can read the LGIU’s guide to the 2022 local elections here.
Daily Telegraph | Daily Mail | The Sun
Labour election candidate suspended over tweet about Volodymr Zelensky
A Labour candidate has been suspended after calling the president of Ukraine a “Zionist.” Ziad Alsayed who is standing in Baruc ward in Barry, Vale of Glamorgan, tweeted this back in February and Labour have said they are no longer endorsing him after it was found. The Board of Deputies of British Jews have also condemned the tweet as offensive “on a number of levels”. Ziad Alsayed was also found to have tweeted a response to Sadiq Khan’s public support for Ukraine saying “if you mean the Ukrainian people that’s ok, but not the fascist president.” However, he will still remain on the ballot for the upcoming elections as a Labour candidate because nominations have closed.
By-election set to be triggered as MP Imran Ahmad Khan resigns after conviction
Boris Johnson faces a potentially challenging by-election in Wakefield after the former Tory MP for the constituency resigned after his conviction for sexually assaulting a boy. Imran Ahmad Khan had been resisting calls to stand down despite the Conservatives expelling him when he was found guilty this week. However, on Thursday the politician said he would resign, saying it is “intolerable” for voters in the West Yorkshire constituency to have muted representation while he appeals the conviction. Labour had previously held the seat since the 1930s until Khan’s victory in the 2019 general election whereby Khan won Wakefield by 3,358 over Labour former frontbencher Mary Creagh. The resignation sets up a trick battle for the Tories to retain the seat.
Birmingham Labour campaigners met with violence
A video has appeared online showing a fight breaking out when Labour campaigners were leafletting in Small Heath, Birmingham. Labour activists and council candidates Mohammed Idrees and Saqib Khan were near the incident. Cllr Idrees said: “A man was hurling abuse and inciting violence at Labour Party door knockers – he was bringing brothers and sisters into it. I was saying that we need to move on and avoid getting involved but then the punching started while others were trying to restrain him”. A spokesperson for Birmingham Labour said an investigation is underway and Birmingham City Council leader Ian Ward has written to all Labour candidates to ensure they are “doing everything that they can to remain safe whilst out campaigning”. The LGIU has created a guide on personal safety for councillors which can be read here.
Daily Star | Express.co.uk | Metro
Tory plotters eye local elections as next chance to oust Boris Johnson
Tory MPs are considering the aftermath of dire local election results as their next chance to oust Boris Johnson, with the prime minister preparing to apologise for his ‘partygate’ penalty. Johnson faced a challenging day on Tuesday (19th April), when he was forced to deny misleading the Commons over his knowledge of illegal gatherings in No 10 by clarifying his previous insistence that no Covid rules were broken. Before his statement, Johnson attended a call chaired by the US president, Joe Biden, with the leaders of France, Germany, Japan, the EU and Nato, in which they discussed defensive weapon supplies to Ukraine and options for further sanctions against Russia. Opposition parties are pushing for the Speaker, Lindsay Hoyle, to grant MPs a vote on whether Johnson should be found in contempt of parliament or face an investigation by the privileges committee. Those considering submitting a letter of no confidence said they wanted to wait for the right moment.
Lib Dems aim to gain ‘footholds' in local elections
The Liberal Democrats are are using the local elections to gain and build on “footholds” where the party is strong in nearby areas, says one of its senior electoral strategists. Party leader Sir Ed Davey said: “It will be tough for us because we won a lot of councils four years ago – Kingston, Richmond and South Cambs. So we are fighting from a high base. There’s a few we can win, but it’s difficult.
Poll suggests Tories will lose 800 council seats
Pollsters Electoral Calculus and Find Out Now have forecast that the Conservatives will lose more than 800 council seats in next month’s local elections. The prediction would see a 5% swing from the Tories to Labour. The findings are based on a poll of voting intentions of more than 12,000 people in 201 district and unitary councils between April 4 and April 8. The sample was then weighted by gender, age, social class and past voting pattern.
Greens aim for Burnley success
A Guardian feature follows the Green Party’s election campaign in Burnley, Lancashire, where they are hopeful of success. The Greens could go from having had their first Burnley councillor in 2018, to five now and up to eight next month, potentially making them the second biggest party behind Labour. The Guardian says “the battle in Burnley demonstrates how their appeal has expanded, in terms of geography and in the range of potential voters, a factor in traditional party loyalties breaking down”. Nationally, more than half the Greens’ target seats this year are held by Conservatives, officials say.
Wales Council elections: Young voters call for politics lessons
According to young people aged 16-17, children should be taught politics in schools. Around 300 pupils from three schools in Blaenau Gwent, have been learning about democracy through an event run by a group of young people at Coleg Gwent’s Ebbw Vale campus. The organisation is holding pop-ups around Cardiff and Newport in the lead up to the elections on May 5 in an attempt to reach out to more young voters between 16-17 who had the lowest turnout in last year’s Senedd election.
Abuse seen as key to lack of women standing in South Ayrshire Council election
Just 14 of the 60 candidates standing at the upcoming South Ayrshire Council elections are women. Parties agree that at least one of the underlying problems faced by female candidates is persistent abuse and misogyny. Local Conservatives leader Martin Dowey said: “We tried hard to find female candidates, but it has been very difficult to get them to stand due to the toxic abuse candidates of all parties sometimes receive.” SNP leader Peter Henderson commented: “I know that the SNP have made strenuous efforts to encourage female candidates as well as disabled and minority candidates in this election. Including support and innovations. Unfortunately feedback indicates that the lengthy working hours, poor salary, and issues regarding childcare along with abuse etc have dissuaded many worthy candidates from standing. The party and COSLA are seeking to address these matters.”
The Daily Record
26 council wards have only men standing for election
Analysis by the National shows there are 26 council wards across Scotland where voters will only be able to elect a male councillor, and none with all-female lists. Almost half (15) of Scotland’s councils have at least one ward which is standing all-male candidates. Overall, the analysis of 2,547 candidates shows only five councils overall have more than 40% of candidates standing being female. Frances Scott, founder of 50:50 Parliament, which encourages and supports women to stand at all levels of government, said the figures were “marginally better” by going above the 32% benchmark set in 2017. The council area with the highest percentage of female candidates – West Lothian – reached 42.47% (56.16% male, 1.37% non-binary).
Housing crisis and ferries ‘nightmare’ in focus in North Ayrshire elections
North Ayrshire has been run since 2017 by a minority Labour administration. The election will be a contest between Sturgeon’s heavy focus at national level on anti-poverty measures and health service investment, and Labour’s local record. While Labour may well hold North Ayrshire, it is unlikely to unseat the SNP minority administration in Glasgow or take Edinburgh, where the SNP shares power with Labour. Sarwar’s aides argue the major test for Labour is increasing its vote share, which fell by 11 points to 20% in 2017, and its overall number of councillors, from the 262 won in 2017.
FM defends council funding as SNP elections manifesto launched
Nicola Sturgeon has launched the SNP’s local elections manifesto in Dundee. A tour bus is due to stop in nine council areas over the bank holiday weekend. She said: “The top priority of every SNP councillor elected will be to help ease the cost-of-living squeeze – supporting those on the lowest incomes and tackling fuel poverty”. The First Minister rejected suggestions her administration had underfunded councils. Local government funding reduced by 4.2% in real terms between 2013/14 and 2020/21, once Covid cash is excluded, according to the Accounts Commission. Ms Sturgeon said: “I think if you look at the total local government financial settlement, we have, within the budgets we have got, prioritised local services to the best of our ability.”
Herald Scotland | The Daily Record | The Press and Journal | The Scotsman
Tories pledge to freeze council tax
The Scottish Conservatives will today publish their manifesto for next month’s elections, which will include a vow to freeze council tax in all local authorities which they lead. They say the move will happen “when budgets allow”, and it is dependent on money made available to local authorities not being cut by the Scottish Government. The party also proposes that the single person’s discount rise to 35%. You can read the LGIU’s guide to the 2022 local elections here
Daily Mail (Scot)
Lib Dems promise more powers for councils
The Scottish Lib Dems have pledged to channel extra powers to local authorities as part of the party’s campaign for May’s elections. Launching the party’s local elections manifesto, leader Alex Cole-Hamilton said the Lib Dems want to give councillors more control over funding, transport, planning, energy and housing. Manifesto commitments also include a replacement for the council tax. The party said it would work with COSLA to develop a “new vision for local councils with a suite of new powers”, covering economic strategy, transport, town planning and funding for affordable housing. And it said planning decisions should be made locally instead of being “overruled nationally” by Scottish ministers.
Salmond launches Alba Party election manifesto
Former first minister Alex Salmond has launched the local council election manifesto of his independence-backing Alba Party. The manifesto launch in Dundee included plans to tackle the cost of living crisis and how to “make life better for all households”. The party was formed ahead of last year’s Scottish Parliament election in which it did not win any seats but more than 100 Alba candidates will stand for election on 5 May.
Scottish Lib Dem leader's anxiety over council coalitions
Alex Cole-Hamilton has said he has “significant anxieties” over his party entering local council coalitions with the SNP or Tories. The Scottish Liberal Democrat leader said the SNP and Conservatives were too focused on Scottish independence. However, he said it would be up to local party leaders to decide whether to make formal alliances with them.
Greens want more budget powers for councils
Councils should be given more power over their budgets with a new local tax system in place, Scottish Green co-leader Patrick Harvie has said. He called for a fundamental review of council financing, “rather than this annual haggling over how much the budget would be from central government”. Four out of five parties at Holyrood support scrapping and replacing the council tax – including the SNP, which has pledged to end the tax at each election since 2007. In its local elections manifesto Scottish Labour pledged to “abolish the unfair council tax and replace it with a fairer alternative based on property values and the ability to pay”, while the Scottish Lib Dems also support its “long-overdue replacement”.
Of the English councils holding elections, most are electing a third or half of their councillors. These seats were last up for election in 2018. The remainder are electing all their councillors.
There are four newly created councils in England holding elections this year. In Cumbria, the county and districts are being replaced by two new unitary councils, Cumberland and Westmorland and Furness.The newly elected councils will act as shadow councillors for 12 months before beginning a four-year term when the new councils formally begin in 2023. In North Yorkshire, the districts and county are being replaced by a single unitary authority. Councillors elected in the county elections in 2022 will become councillors for the unitary authority in 2023. Finally, in Somerset, the county and districts are being replaced by a single unitary Somerset Council. These councillors will take on county council responsibilities for a year, before taking over for district councillors in 2023.
Mayors up for election include Watford as well as 5 London boroughs. All are currently held by Labour except for Watford, which has a Liberal Democrat mayor. South Yorkshire is also electing a combined authority mayor.
This part of the country has few key battlegrounds: Labour, which holds majority control of every council up for election bar one, should have little to worry about. The exception is Hartlepool. The council is currently run by a Conservative- Independent coalition. Many of the independent councillors formerly belonged to UKIP and, briefly, the Brexit Party. The 2021 local elections here were run concurrently with the parliamentary by-election which delivered a historic victory for the Conservatives: the local party also had a good night, gaining 10 seats. In fact, every candidate the Conservatives put forward won a seat. This year? Labour, under their first female group leader, will be fighting hard and recent general election polling has been more favourable for the party. The 2021 council elections were far from disastrous, leaving them up 5 councillors. A strong tradition of independent and minor party councillors in Hartlepool means the final make-up of the administration is anyone’s guess, but a good night for Labour could leave them well placed to take over.
And finally… Hartlepool’s train station is set to re-open its second platform as the council point out it is the busiest single platform station in the UK.
Trafford was taken from the Conservatives by Labour in 2018, first as a minority administration and then as a majority after the 2019 local elections. Last year only increased their majority. Otherwise, this region has a large number of Labour councils where little change is expected. One of the exceptions is Pendle – all out elections last year due to boundary changes saw the Conservatives take control. The Lib Dems were reduced to 5 councillors Watch out too for Wirral, Burnley, Rossendale, Bolton and West Lancashire, all of which have lost Labour majorities in the past few years. For many of these minority administrations, it would take a handful of gains – sometimes just one seat – to form a majority again. Naturally, budget discussions at some of these councils have been particularly fraught in the run-up to these local elections.
And finally… In Hyndburn, Samina Mahmood is aiming to become the borough’s first Asian woman to win a seat on the council.
For further analysis check out LGIU’s One to Watch guide to the 2022 local elections.
All 32 local authorities in Scotland are holding elections. Scottish local elections use the Single Transferable Vote (STV) system to elect multi-member wards. Elections were last held in 2017.
The three island authorities – and three authorities which include large islands – have had their boundaries reviewed as a result of the 2018 Islands Act, resulting in new boundaries for Orkney, Shetland, Na h-Eileanan Siar and North Ayrshire.
In Scotland 2017, Conservatives performed well, gaining 164 new councillors and Labour lost 133. Scottish Labour also lost majority control of three councils, leaving every council in Scotland in no overall control. There is little to suggest that May 2022 will change much: 2021 Holyrood elections resulted in minimal shifts to representation, other than the creation of a formal coalition agreement between SNP and Greens in Scottish Parliament. For the first time the convenor of the Local Government committee is from the Scottish Greens.
For further analysis check out LGIU’s One to Watch guide to the 2022 local elections.
All 22 Welsh local authorities are holding elections under new boundaries. For the first time, all legal residents of Wales over the age of 16 will be able to vote. All councils will be using First Past the Post to elect councillors, although councils now have the right to switch to Single Transferable Vote for future elections.
Blaenau Gwent, Bridgend, Caerphilly and Torfaen will be offering ‘flexible voting’, with many voters able to cast their vote at a central polling station ahead of election day.
Labour also struggled in Wales at the 2017 local elections, losing over 100 seats and control of three councils. Less than a year later, Carwyn Jones – party leader and First Minister – resigned, and Mark Drakeford took over in December 2018. Careful leadership and a decent Senedd election last year could augur well for Labour at this year’s Welsh local elections.
For further analysis check out LGIU’s One to Watch guide to the 2022 local elections.
This week the DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson has said the forthcoming election is a battle for Northern Ireland itself in his easter message, stating that a Sinn Féin victory would help the party deliver its objective for a referendum on Irish Unity. Ulster Unionists accused the DUP of deploying scare tactics in the run up to the election, while Sinn Féin have largely avoided the topic of the protocol and said its focus in the election is on health and economic issues. They did, however, say at the party’s election launch event that May the 5th is ‘the most important election in a generation’.
Elsewhere the leader of Sinn Féin has sought partnership with unionists during an Easter commemoration to mark 106 years since the 1916 Rising. Addressing a large crowd that assembled in Milltown Cemetery in Belfast on Sunday, Mary Lou McDonald urged unionists to ‘walk this journey with us’, adding ‘a future of progress and change belongs to you’. They also referenced the future in their election campaign video. The TUV also published their election campaign this week, ahead of a formal launch this Friday. The party made opposing Brexit’s Northern Ireland Protocol the number one priority, alongside prioritising the health service and reforming Stormont. Jim Allister’s party also proposes setting up a Nursing Reserve Service and a new trade body to boost business links within the UK’s internal market. Earlier this month former DUP Health Minister Jim Wells announced his resignation from the DUP and said he is lending his support to the TUV candidate instead.
Campaigners have welcomed the increase in the number of women standing for this year’s election, with 17 more than the last election five years ago. The chief executive of 50:50 NI, Aoife Clements, added there was much room for improvement and that there were still many barriers to women standing for election.
|Aberdeen City||SNP-LD coalition|
|Argyll and Bute||LD-Con-ind. coalition|
|Comhairle nan Eilean Siar||Independent majority|
|Dumfries and Galloway||SNP-Lab-LD-Ind coalition|
|East Ayrshire||SNP minority|
|East Dunbartonshire||SNP minority|
|East Lothian||Lab minority|
|East Renfrewshire||Lab-ind. minority|
|North Ayrshire||SNP minority|
|North Lanarkshire||SNP minority|
|Orkney Islands||Ind-Grn coalition|
|Perth and Kinross||SNP minority|
|Scottish Borders||Con-ind. coalition|
|Shetland Islands||Independent Majority|
|South Ayrshire||Con minority|
|South Lanarkshire||Lab-LD-ind. minority|
|West Dunbartonshire||Lab majority|
|West Lothian||Lab minority|
Make sure you check out...
One-stop shop for local elections analysis
The most pertinent local elections resources for you and your teams are now available here. Our analysis and coverage explores key election themes including: public trust, covid safety, transparency, personal safety and diversity.
Resources for new councillors
Our extensive resources for new councillors are now live with all the resources, tools and support for new or recently elected members to hit the ground running and take a deep dive on the issues as well as the training and skills to take their skills to the next level.
This also includes our *new for 2022* guide for new councillors.
LGIU's full post-election training programme
We are running a number of dedicated online training sessions to support newly or recently elected councillors after the local elections. Both our pre and post-training is delivered online and range in length from a couple of hours to a full day. We can also develop a catered in-house training programme for your council, please just get in touch. Check out our full post-election training programme here.
Communications guide for councils
Local elections matter and how we talk about them matters. Our communications guide focuses on some easy steps that councils can take during the election period. Read the full communication guide here.
Personal safety for councillors
This short safety guide will help you assess risk and adopt strategies and behaviours that will minimise any potential hazards that might be identified as part of a councillor’s role. It has been updated to include information on canvassing and Covid-19. Read our safety guide here.
Diversity in political representation in the UK
This publication examines diversity in political representation, including the most recent data on ethnicity and disability in relation to councillors, barriers faced by black, ethnic minority and disabled candidates and councillors and what can be done to increase diversity. Read our diversity report here.
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