March opened with a win for the Greens in the Haddenham and Stone ward of Aylesbury Vale where they took the seat off of the Conservatives by going from a distant fifth place in 2015 (behind UKIP, Lib Dems and an Independent) to a comfortable 430 vote victory. With the Lib Dem vote static and Labour only receiving a 2.5% vote share, the lack of UKIP and Independent candidates gave the Greens a 36.7% boost in their vote share and gained them their first seat on the Council. The Conservatives retain 39 of the 59 seats and will control the council up to its abolition in 2020 in favour of a Buckinghamshire-wide unitary council.
On 14th March there was an interesting by-election in Southampton with Labour taking the Coxford ward from an Independent. Their vote share actually dropped slightly but with more candidates than last May the vote was spread further. The result increased Labour’s majority on the Council from two to four with 26 of the 48 seats ahead of May’s local elections.
In London, mid-month, Labour comfortably held seats in the Delgarno ward of Kensington and Chelsea and Norbury and Pollards Hill ward of Croydon, but in Newcastle-Under-Lyme, an Independent took the seat in the Holditch and Chesterton ward that had been safe Labour just last May. Newcastle-Under-Lyme is minority Conservative controlled even though Labour remain a larger minority grouping with 19 out of 44 seats. The Conservatives have 17 with one more pending by-election on 2nd May that is Conservative defended.
In Wingate in County Durham there was the unusual situation of one of the two main parties not standing a candidate. The division is safe Labour but it’s unusual for the Conservatives not to at least take part. They did manage to find a candidate in the Esh and Witton Gilbert division a week later though but were a distant fourth behind a local Independent as the Lib Dems held their seat. County Durham remains in comfortable Labour control with 74 of the 126 seats.
In Basildon, Labour just held the Vange ward from Conservatives after UKIP failed to stand a candidate and their previous 39.7% of the vote went mostly blue with just enough to Labour to keep the seat red. The Council remains Conservative controlled with a majority of six.
Also in Essex, the Aveley and Uplands ward of Thurrock had a poll on 21st March following the resignation of former UKIP MEP Tim Aker, who now represents the Thurrock Independents in the European Parliament. The Conservatives took the seat with Labour in third to increase their councillor numbers to 23 (out of 49) ahead of the local elections in May. The new councillor is David Van Day, best known as one half of the 1980s pop duo Dollar!
Finally for March, the Lib Dems held a seat in Wallington North in Sutton, one of their strongest wards in the London Borough. Their majority was eroded from the comfortable 600 last May but they held on with a 330 vote majority over the Conservatives.
In the pending lists, several seats that would normally have come up in by-elections are included in the 2nd May local elections and others that might have happened sooner have been pushed back to the same day as other local elections already taking place on that day in the same district. April though still has by-elections for Norfolk County Council and in the Thornton ward of Lambeth to replace the former Leader who is now working for the GLA at City Hall.
On 11th April the Merthyr Tydfil ward of Cyfarthfa has a by-election to replace a Merthyr Independent. The Independent Group (separate from Merthyr Independents) took control from Labour in 2017 but it remains on a knife edge with 14 Independent Group councillors, 14 Labour and four more other Independents. A win for either Labour or the Independent group could be significant in who controls the Council.
To conclude, April also has a by-election for a Labour held seat in Edinburgh where the Scottish PR system allows for multiple Parties to be represented in each ward. In Leith Walk the political make up in 2017 was two SNP, one Labour and one Green and the Council is controlled by a minority SNP/ Labour administration with Conservatives as the largest single group.