All-out elections will be contested at Broadland District Council on 4 May. The last all-out election took place in 2019 and saw the Conservative majority reduced as they lost 10 seats to the Liberal Democrats and Labour.
We expect this trend to continue with the Conservatives expected to lose seats especially in some of the wards which border Norwich. The Labour by-election victory in Thorpe St Andrew North West ward in October 2022, when the Conservatives were at their lowest ebb following the short lived Liz Truss premiership, was an indication that this area is moving towards Labour. They will be looking to make further inroads at these elections and will be hoping that the Conservative vote hasn’t recovered too much under Rishi Sunak. In order to hold onto their majority, the Conservatives will be hoping their vote holds up more strongly in the more rural areas of the district. Labour, unlike the Greens and Liberal Democrats, are fielding a full slate of candidates. However, in the absence of much evidence of electoral pacts, the ruling Conservative administration may benefit from a split in the opposition vote.
One ward to keep a close eye on will be Plumstead, currently represented by the Leader of the Council, Shaun Vincent. The Conservatives won the ward, in which their only competition was the Greens, by an extremely narrow margin of 22 votes in 2019. However, Labour has put forward a candidate in Plumstead this year meaning that the Conservatives can hold the seat with a lower share of the vote than they achieved in 2019. We expect it to be a very closely contested election that could result in the Leader of the Council being unseated. If Cllr Vincent does lose his seat, and the Conservatives continue to hold onto the Council, current Cabinet Member for Planning, Fran Whymark is tipped to take over.
Labour will also be hoping to make gains in Great Witchingham ward, where they were narrowly defeated last time around. The Liberal Democrats will be targeting gains in wards that are currently represented by the Conservatives including Drayton North, Eynesford and Hellesdon South East.
To add to the potential changes in Broadland, there will also be new leadership over the border in Norwich City Council after veteran Labour Council Leader Alan Waters announced his decision to not seek re-election.
Looking beyond the local elections, the issue of nutrient neutrality has put a halt to consent being granted for thousands of homes in Norwich, Broadland and neighbouring South Norfolk. A key challenge of any new administration in Broadland will be working to clear the backlog of delayed consents to boost the economy, increase the housing supply and help younger people onto the property ladder.
While the Conservatives will be relatively confident of retaining control of the council, the electoral picture in a number of wards in Broadland is finely poised and will certainly make for interesting viewing come election night.