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Local Government By-Election Report – January 2017

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There were no local government by-elections in the week following the Christmas and New Year holidays (with only four throughout January). Of those only the first two were interesting with both coming on 12th January and the Lib Dems taking both, one from Labour in Sunderland and one from the Conservatives in Three Rivers in Hertfordshire.

In the Sandhill ward of Sunderland, the Lib Dems increased their share of the vote (following the disqualification of the previous Labour councillor) by 41.5% and Labour dropped 29.9%. The result though, does not make much of a dent on Labour’s control of the Council given that it is only the second Lib Dem councillor in the city and they still have 66 of the 75 council seats, but it does provide more evidence for the Lib Dem revival in fortunes across the country.

In Three Rivers, the Lib Dem win in Gade Valley ward was more significant given that the ward is in Watford Parliamentary constituency. Watford has elected a Conservative MP since 2010 (and before that Labour) but the Lib Dems were competitive in the 2005 and 2010 General Elections (making Watford a three way marginal) and the Executive Mayor of Watford has been a Lib Dem since its formation in 2002. Councillor-wise, this result was also significant in that it gave the Lib Dems a majority (to go with the Executive Mayor) with 20 councillors out of 39 versus 16 for the Conservatives and three for Labour.

In the pending lists for coming by-elections the Conservatives are defending a seat in North Norfolk with the Lib Dems as the main challengers. Should the Conservatives lose they will still hold a healthy majority on the District Council but with Norfolk County Council a hung Council that was run by a grand coalition of Labour, Lib Dem, UKIP, Green and Independents from 2013-16, a resurgent Lib Dems could make an impact on the County elections in May and the Conservative hopes of retaking their previous majority.

In Dudley, Labour are defending a seat that should be safely held, but as they have minority control of the Council with 34 out of the 72 seats they are under pressure to hold the seat and remain as large a group as possible.

In Uttlesford in Essex the Lib Dems are defending two seats in the same ward following a double resignation. With the Conservatives having a seven seat majority they have nothing to lose and all to gain in trying to prise the seats away from the Lib Dems and increase their control of the Council.

Redcar and Cleveland also have two by-elections pending but both are opposition held (Conservative and Lib Dem). Labour are a minority administration with 28 of 59 seats and although the Conservatives should have a safe seat, the Lib Dems are vulnerable. Should Labour manage to win both by-elections they would take majority control of the Council.

In Forest of Dean, UKIP are defending a seat in a ward split between themselves, Labour and an Independent (with Greens and Conservatives also close behind). The Conservatives run a minority administration with 21 of the 48 Councillors, so a win would inch them closer to overall control.

In Derby, Labour currently have control by one seat but UKIP are defending a seat following the death of one of their Councillors. This was a close four way marginal in 2014 with the Conservatives and Lib Dems added in so could go any way but it does present Labour with a good chance to get more of a workable majority.

In Harrow, Labour a defending a seat in Roxbourne ward that they should be able to hold having held in consistently in recent borough elections (1,060 ahead of Conservatives in 2014) but Harrow will be one of the target boroughs in the 2018 London elections with the Conservatives keen to retake control of the Council.

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