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Local Election 2024 – Where may the changes come?

29.02.24 | Written by Matt Spencer

With the local election season just over the horizon once again and the potential for political change looming large it is worth taking a closer look at some of the local authorities most susceptible to a change in control at the elections to be held on 2 May.

Although an autumn General Election is still the most likely outcome at this stage, it cannot yet be ruled out that voters up and down the country will head to the polls for General and local elections on the same day. This would, of course, have a significant impact on the results of the local elections with an increased turnout that would likely help the Conservatives to retain some council seats in Parliamentary seats where they remain strong. It is unlikely that Sunak will choose to roll the dice on this one.

One local authority where a change of control is possible is Cherwell. The local elections in May 2023 saw the Conservatives lose their majority following the loss of five seats.  Since May 2023, Cherwell has been run by a Conservative minority administration under the leadership of experienced councillor Barry Wood.

Owing to the fact that the Conservatives will be defending 11 of their remaining 20 seats against the backdrop of dire national opinion polling (which is likely to continue), there is a possibility that Labour will become the largest party and form a new minority administration which is unofficially propped up by the remaining Conservative members.

Whilst Labour and the Conservatives working cooperatively during a General Election year may seem unexpected – the two groups have relatively similar views regarding housing and development which is somewhat positive news for the built environment industry given the rather more development sceptic position of the Progressive Oxfordshire (Cherwell’s official opposition comprising Green, Liberal Democrat and Independent members).

Next door to Cherwell, Labour will be looking to claw back its majority on Oxford City Council following a tumultuous end to 2023 which saw the resignation of ten councillors in opposition to the stance of the national party on the ongoing conflict in Gaza, depriving the Party of its majority for the first time since 2010 and leaving them with just 22 sitting councillors.

Whilst Labour will likely reclaim its majority on the Council in May, the situation caused significant political discomfort for the Council leadership, with the resignations occurring as the authority seeks to progress its new Local Plan and with many of those former Labour councillors having called for an increase in the affordable housing included in the Plan.

Moving further South and one particular local authority which hangs on a knife-edge is that of Reigate and Banstead – the only Council with a Conservative majority in Surrey with the exception of Surrey County Council. Despite losing three seats in 2023 (two to the Greens and one to Labour), the Conservatives currently control the Council with 23 out of 45 seats however, this does leave the administration in a precarious position whereby a net loss of just one seat would yield majority control of the Council.

The Conservative majority on the Council has slowly declined in recent election cycles and it is likely that following the local elections in May it will end up being run by a Green and Liberal Democrat administration. 

A key battleground to watch out for will come in the southern end of the borough where the Liberal Democrats are likely to focus their efforts. Historically, these wards have chopped and changed between the Conservatives and the Greens or Labour however, the Liberal Democrats will be looking to build capacity to support their campaign in Horley.

National politics has been a contributing factor in the dwindling Conservative majority in Reigate & Banstead however, planning and housing very much remain key issues with the development of the Green Belt a highly-charged issue as across most of Surrey.

Cratus Group will continue to look ahead to the local elections over the coming weeks and if you would like to discuss any of these authorities, or the local elections more generally, please contact Julian Seymour or Duncan Flynn.

Local Election 2024 – Where may the changes come?