England & Wales, Northern Ireland Democracy, devolution and governance

Who runs the councils in No Overall Control?


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Following the elections in May 2023,  there are 91 councils across England in “No Overall Control”.  Ingrid Koehler and Greg Stride look at what this means in practice. This post is part of LGIU’s one-stop shop for local elections coverage, analysis and support

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What does NOC mean in practice?

So what does it mean to be a NOC council? As you might expect, it’s a little different in each council area. Some councils have a minority administration often because one party has half or close to half of the seats and they are the largest party. In other places coalitions are formed where the political flavour is a little more evenly distributed. In some councils, the largest political party is unable to form a minority administration because a coalition of smaller parties has banded together. Across these different possibilities we see a range of governance options.

In practice, NOC councils can work really well and help politicians come together around local issues without spending too much time on party political issues. In other NOC councils, there is constant political jostling.

When councils mainly operated under committee systems, some councils had rotating chairs and power was genuinely shared. Most councils now have Cabinet systems and decisions are made by the executive rather than in committees. And this is why councils with a Leader and Cabinet model want clear majorities and there can be a scramble for power when the political balance is fine. Effectively, though, once the leader has been chosen he or she can form a cabinet and get on with running the council, with only occasional need to go to the full council on things like budget setting.

Jonathan Carr-West, Chief Executive of LGIU:

“Councils in No Overall Control is a quirk of local authority governance that can be confusing for citizens. But it doesn’t mean that no one’s making decisions. In most cases one party will be able to form a cabinet, either with support from other parties or because the other parties do not agree on enough to effectively oppose them. That might sound unstable but in reality NOC councils have a pretty good track record of getting business done effectively.”

How is it calculated?

At the LGIU, we define a council as NOC if no single party holds 50%+1 of the seats.

England’s “first past the post” system for individual wards tends to favour bigger parties so it’s often easier for local party machinery to get out candidates in all wards and depending on the flavour of local politics have one party or another in charge. Most of England’s councils are majority run and some councils are or nearly are a one party state, for example Lewisham in London or Manchester which has over 90 Labour councillors and only a few Liberal Democrats.

Where alternative voting systems are used, such as in Scotland or Northern Ireland, multiple parties often win considerable numbers of seats. In Northern Ireland, by design it’s very difficult for any single party to have a majority administration – none of the 11 Northern Ireland districts with elections in 2023 have a single party majority. The single transferrable vote (STV) system encourages multi-party ward representation so to gain an all-out majority means that not only must one party do really well across all wards, other parties must not also do consistently well as a 2nd or 3rd choice.

Councils with No Overall Control in England up for election this year

There were  230 councils in England holding elections this year. Unfortunately, there is no central data source collecting information on all council seats, vacancies or control, so we have made use of the excellent data collected at Open Council Data UK. The numbers here are correct as of 16/03/2023 using our definition of No Overall Control mentioned above.

Of the 230 councils holding elections, 75 of them did not currently have a party with 50%+1 seats. 49 of these are holding all-council elections, meaning that the party composition could change substantially after the election. The other 26 are holding elections in only a third of their seats.

Since the 2023 elections, this number has increased to 91 councils in No Overall Control  – our table below highlights those councils in NOC and which party holds the largest number of seats. In the days following election, and sometimes until the end of May, negotiations take place among elected councillors as which parties will form a ruling coalition. As of writing (9 May 2023), we are not currently collating this information.

histogram of political control of councils


CouncilPre-election control2023 outcomeNOC Largest PartyRegion
ArunCON minNOCCONSouth East
AshfordCON minNOCCONSouth East
BaberghIND/LD/GRNNOCGRNEast of England
Basingstoke and DeaneCON minNOCCONSouth East
BoltonCON minNOCLABNorth West
Bournemouth, Christchurch and PooleCON minNOCLDSouth West
BrentwoodCONNOCLD/CON TieEast of England
BroadlandCONNOCCONEast of England
BromsgroveCONNOCCONWest Midlands
BurnleyLAB/LDNOCLABNorth West
Cannock ChaseCONNOCCONWest Midlands
CanterburyCONNOCLABSouth East
Castle PointCIIP/PIPNOCINDEast of England
Central BedfordshireCONNOCINDEast of England
CharnwoodCONNOCCONEast Midlands
CherwellCONNOCCONSouth East
Cheshire EastLAB/INDNOCCONNorth West
ColchesterLD/LAB/GRNNOCCONEast of England
DarlingtonCON minNOCLABNorth East
DerbyCON minNOCLABEast Midlands
Derbyshire DalesNOCNOCLDEast Midlands
East DevonIND/LD/GRNNOCINDSouth West
East HampshireCONNOCCONSouth East
East HertfordshireCONNOCGRNEast of England
East LindseyCONNOCCONEast Midlands
East Riding of YorkshireCONNOCCONYorkshire and The Humber
East SuffolkCONNOCGRNEast of England
ElmbridgeIND/LDNOCLDSouth East
Folkestone and HytheCON/GRN/LD/INDNOCLDSouth East
Forest of DeanIND/GRNNOCGRNSouth West
Great YarmouthCONNOCCONEast of England
HarboroughCONNOCCONEast Midlands
HartlepoolCON/INDNOCLABNorth East
HerefordshireIND/GRNNOCCONWest Midlands
HertsmereCONNOCCONEast of England
HyndburnLAB minNOCLAB/CONNorth West
Kings Lynn and West NorfolkCONNOCCONEast of England
LancasterGRN/INDNOCLABNorth West
LichfieldCONNOCCONWest Midlands
MaidstoneCONNOCCONSouth East
MaldonCON/IND/LDNOCINDEast of England
Malvern HillsIND/LDNOCINDWest Midlands
MeltonCONNOCCONEast Midlands
Mid SussexCONNOCLDSouth East
Milton KeynesLAB/LDNOCLABSouth East
Newark and SherwoodCONNOCCONEast Midlands
North HertfordshireLAB/LDNOCLABEast of England
North SomersetIND/LD/LAB/GRNNOCCONSouth West
North WarwickshireCONNOCCONWest Midlands
North West LeicestershireCONNOCLABEast Midlands
PendleCONNOCCONNorth West
PeterboroughCON minNOC CONEast of England
PortsmouthLD minNOCLDSouth East
Redcar and ClevelandIND/LDNOCNorth East
Ribble ValleyCONNOCCONNorth West
RochfordNOCNOCCONEast of England
RugbyCONNOCCONWest Midlands
RunnymedeCONNOCCONSouth East
RutlandCON/IND/GRNNOCLDEast Midlands
SheffieldLAB/LD/GRNNOCLABYorkshire and The Humber
SloughLABNOCCONSouth East
South GloucestershireCONNOCCONSouth West
South KestevenCONNOCCONEast Midlands
Southend-on-SeaLAB/IND/LDNOCCONEast of England
SpelthorneCON minNOCCONSouth East
StaffordCON minNOCCONWest Midlands
Staffordshire MoorlandsCONNOCLABWest Midlands
StockportLD minNOCLDNorth West
Stockton-on-TeesLAB minNOCCONNorth East
TamworthCONNOCCONWest Midlands
TandridgeIND minNOCINDSouth East
TendringCON/INDNOCCONEast of England
TewkesburyCONNOCLDSouth West
Tonbridge and MallingCONNOCCONSouth East
TorridgeINDNOCINDSouth West
Tunbridge WellsLD/IND/LABNOCLDSouth East
WarwickCON/INDNOCGRNWest Midlands
WealdenCONNOCLDSouth East
Welwyn HatfieldCONNOCCONEast of England
West DevonCONNOCCONSouth West
West LindseyCON minNOCLDEast Midlands
West OxfordshireLD/LAB/GRNNOCLDSouth East
West SuffolkCONNOCCONEast of England
WirralLAB minNOCLABNorth West
WokinghamLD/LAB/INDNOCLDSouth East
WorcesterCON minNOCLABWest Midlands

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