By Marlies Koutstaal, Director – Southampton
The dust has settled in the South after local elections that saw the Conservatives making gains throughout the region. From Police & Crime Commissioners through to county councils, districts, boroughs, unitaries, towns and parishes, it was a good night for the Conservatives. Overall, bolstering the Prime Minister at a time when usually voters are using local elections to have a go at the Government – remember 2019?
No such discontent with national policy this time around, therefore a good showing for the Tories. The big upset in terms of local results by far turned out to be Southampton. After 9 years of red rule, and a steady year-on-year increase in Labour councillors, the Conservatives managed to take seven seats in one sweep and turn a 30-18 divide into a narrow Tory majority: 25-23. The new Leader, Cllr Dan Fitzhenry, has already announced the manifesto pledges that his team will push through from the get-go: freezing council tax, ending evening car parking charges in the city centre and tackling fly-tipping.
Portsmouth remained under no overall control (NOC). The Liberal Democrats, who lead the Council in a minority administration backed up by the Labour group, lost two seats overall, down to 15. The Conservatives gained one seat and became the biggest party with 16 seats. In a shock result, Deputy Leader, Steve Pitt, lost his Central Southsea ward to Labour so he will not be taking over from Leader Gerald Vernon-Jackson post-election which many had anticipated. Former Conservative Council Leader Donna Jones has left the Council and has been elected Hampshire’s new Police & Crime Commissioner. Her successor as Conservative group leader on the Council is Cllr Matt Atkins (Cosham).
In Winchester, the Liberal Democrats held their majority and gained one seat overall, resulting in 27 seats. The Conservatives also managed to increase their numbers by one and now have 16 seats on the Council, having won the Alresford & Itchen Valley ward by-election.
Basingstoke & Deane had all-out elections due to boundary changes which saw the number of wards reduce from 29 to 18 and the total number of seats from 60 to 54. All wards are now represented by 3 councillors. In the run up to the elections, the Council had been under no overall control. At the expense of Labour, the Lib Dems and in particular, the Basingstoke & Deane Independent group, the voters handed the Conservatives a convincing victory. Gaining 5 seats overall, they are now back to having a majority on the Council, controlling 33 seats. Labour is the main opposition group with 10 seats.
As was widely expected, Fareham, Gosport, Havant, Rushmoor and Hampshire County Council remain Conservative-led. Eastleigh continues to be the Liberal Democrat stronghold in the south, with Hart still under no overall control, led by the Liberal Democrats and Community Campaign Hart. Dorset, Bournemouth Christchurch & Poole, New Forest, Test Valley, East Hampshire, Chichester and Arun did not have borough/district elections in 2021.
If you would like to go into more detail or would like to hear about any other council, please get in touch with Marlies and Louise of our Southampton team.