Local Government by-election report – June 2018

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After the excitement of the local elections in May there were relatively few by-elections coming through in June – mostly in the areas that didn’t have their regular elections on 3rd May. There were, however, also two countermanded London elections being held in Brent and Southwark following the deaths of candidates during the later stages of the campaign.

In Brent, the Willesden Green election was held on 21st June as a sitting Labour councillor died the Saturday before the election. The by-election was easily won by Labour who retained all three seats with a new replacement candidate coming on to the Council. Brent is even more Labour dominated than it was in 2014 with Labour on 60 seats and the Conservatives down to three.

In Southwark, the other countermanded poll was in the new London Bridge and West Bermondsey ward (after boundary changes) and due to the death of a Conservative candidate who had no chance of winning. When the poll eventually happened on 14th June the Lib Dems managed to sneak all three seats ahead of Labour with the third winning by only 31 votes. Whilst the result made no difference to the running of Southwark, it gave the Lib Dems a healthier sized group of 14 versus 49 Labour (the Conservatives only had two seats previously and were wiped out).
Looking at the regular by-elections in June, the Conservatives easily held seats in East Staffordshire and Mid Devon at the start of the month keeping tight control over both councils. Mid Devon though is notable as being one of those few areas to still have a Councillor from the Liberal Party (the original Liberals not the Lib Dems).

In South Oxfordshire, Benson and Crowmarsh was won by the Lib Dems who took the seat from the Conservatives with a 31.5% increase in their vote share since 2015. The Lib Dems still only have two councillors on the Council, versus the Conservatives 32, but such a swing in a previously safe ward could be an indicator of residents’ unhappiness over the running of the Council (which has recently seen the Leader replaced when he lost the confidence of his Group).
On the same day as the Southwark election, there was one other by-election taking place. This was in the Town ward of Doncaster and was won comfortably by Labour with 47% of the vote. The interesting part wasn’t in who won but by the Yorkshire Party coming a strong second with almost as many votes as the Conservative, Lib Dem and Greens combined.

Alongside the Brent election, there was a double by-election in Basildon where Labour held a seat and took another in Pitsea from UKIP in a ward that is now split with the Conservatives, who probably though they would benefit from the collapse of UKIP, losing by eight votes. The Conservatives control the Council but with only a four seat majority.

In Basingstoke, the Kempshott ward had its third election (second by-election and a regular election) in three months following the disqualification of one of the previous ward councillors for not attending a meeting for six months. Despite this, the Conservatives still chose the same person to stand in the subsequent by-election and they still won by 400 votes over Labour, keeping their six seat majority on the Council.

The Bicester West ward of Cherwell Council in Oxfordshire was taken by an Independent candidate from the Conservatives on 21st June in another countermanded poll following the death of the Conservative candidate. The ward is now split with two Independents to one Conservative. On the same day in South Northants, the Conservatives held one seat at by-election, but the Lib Dems took another seat from the Conservatives following the disqualification of a sitting councillor due to non-attendance.

Also on 21st June, the new Mayor of Watford saw his old Council seat safely retained by the Lib Dems with 55% of the vote. The result saw them keep their majority control of the Council, where the Conservatives, despite having the local MP, have no sitting councillors.

On the same day again, the Lib Dems took a seat from an ex-UKIP Independent in a ward split with the Conservatives, proving that the UKIP vote wasn’t necessarily about being anti-EU but also about being the party of opposition whilst the Lib Dems were in the coalition Government.

Finally, at the end of the month, North Kesteven in Lincolnshire held two by-elections. One was won from an unaligned Independent by the Lincolnshire Independents (Skellingthorpe), who form the official opposition on the Council with 10 Councillors, and the other (North Hykeham Mill) was held by the Conservatives. These elections were on the back of another seat taken from the Conservatives by Lincolnshire Independents in May and a defection the same way, but off set by a second defection in the opposite direction. All told, the Conservatives hold Council control with 28 of the 43 seats.
In the list of pending by-elections, Peterborough has one due in Orton Longueville ward that could prove interesting as the ward is marginal, having been split two Conservative and one UKIP in 2016. Labour were not far behind and it is one of the Conservatives that has resigned their seat. If Labour could take more of the UKIP vote and take the seat it would wipe out the Conservatives’ two seat majority and leave the Council hung. No date has yet been set.
In Rutland on 12th July the Conservatives defend a seat in a split ward held one each with an Independent. In North East Lincolnshire, Labour defend a seat in a ward split 2-1 on 26th July with Labour knowing they need to hold the seat to remain the largest Party. If the Conservatives win then both Parties will have 19 councillors. Also on 26th July, Thanet has a by-election after an ex-UKIP councillor gone Thanet Independent died. The Council was UKIP’s only one in the country until the group split in two in February 2018 and the Conservatives took over with a minority administration.

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