This year’s local elections are over and the results are in; it’s time to have a look at what has happened in the North West. On 5 May 2022 there were elections in all of Cumbria, and in eight of fourteen councils in Lancashire as well as in all metropolitan boroughs of Greater Manchester and of Liverpool City Region with the exception of Liverpool City Council. Here, this year’s elections were suspended because the Council was put into special measures by the government in Westminster following last year’s corruption scandal. After a massive restructuring Liverpool City Council will face an all-up election in 2023.
This year’s elections did not lead to massive changes in most North West councils, but some of the results are worth having a closer look at.
The most interesting elections in the region were most certainly in Cumbria. Cumbrians were voting for the two unitary councils that Cumbria County Council will be split into.
Voters were electing councillors for the two newly created unitary councils: Cumberland Council in the North and Westmorland and Furness Council in the South. Their predecessor, Cumbria County Council, has long been a point of conflict between the Conservatives and Labour, although neither party has been able to gain overall control.
The decision of the Conservative government in 2021 to create two new unitary councils along the chosen boundaries did not translate – possibly against all expectations – into an overall Tory majority in at least one of them.
Labour gained overall control in Cumberland and Westmorland, and Furness will be governed by an equally substantial Liberal Democrat majority. Whether the results represent opposition to the government’s decision to split Cumbria County Council, or whether it’s because of the current loss of popularity of the Westminster government due to the ‘partygate’ affair, remains to be seen.
There were elections in all Greater Manchester boroughs with an all-out election in Bury and Rochdale. Labour is traditionally in overall control of many boroughs in Greater Manchester, where they mostly enjoy large majorities. Nevertheless, a closer look at election results often indicates national sentiments and even small changes might be a tell-tale sign of how the electorate will vote in the next national elections. Looking at the whole of Greater Manchester, Labour lost a total of six seats while the Conservatives suffered the greater loss of seven seats.
The winners were the small parties; the Greens and the Lib Dems each gained three seats, while independent candidates were elected in seven. This latter gain for a new independent grouping is more likely a sign that the elections were decided by local issues rather than by voters showing their dismay toward the current Westminster Government.
Not much changed in Bolton, with no overall control for any of the parties. The Conservatives gained one seat, which was taken from a sitting independent. Conservatives have the largest representation in Bolton Council with 23 seats. Labour comes second with 19, the Liberal Democrats five, and independent candidates have 13.
In Bury, where all council seats were up for election, Labour maintained its overall control and further gained one seat. The biggest winners were independent candidates, who gained six seats and now represent a total of nine seats on council. The losers were the Conservatives, who lost four seats and went down to twelve, and the Liberal Democrats who lost three and are now down to one seat.
With independents and small independent groupings being only involved in local politics, some of the changes in Bury might very well be caused by local issues, thus having no predictive value for a general election result in this area. Bury South is where MP Christian Wakeford crossed the floor from Conservative to Labour in January. Interestingly, if we look at south Bury only, the people seem to have agreed that Labour was the better option. Results: Labour fifteen, Independents eight, Conservatives three, Lib Dems one.
Manchester City still has a Labour majority in the council. Labour lost only one seat, which went to the Green Party who now have two seats on the council to match the Liberal Democrats’ two. The Green Party and Liberal Democrats thus form a tiny opposition to Labour’s 92 seats, and may not be able to provide the scrutiny necessary for healthy governance.
In Oldham, Labour lost five seats but remained in control with 35 seats. An important win for the Conservatives comes at the cost of the Labour leader who lost her seat to them. The Liberal Democrats also gained a seat to share parity with the Conservatives where each now has nine seats on council. Independents, where the Failsworth Independent Party represents the largest bloc, now have seven seats on the council.
In Rochdale all council seats were up for election. Labour lost two seats, but remains in overall control with 42 seats. The Conservatives lost 3 seats and are down to 10 on council, and there was no change for the Liberal Democrats who continue to maintain 3 seats. The big winner in Rochdale is the new Middleton Independents Party, which now has five seats on council, and the Labour and Co-operative Party which has three.
Labour still has a majority despite going down from 52 to 49 seats. The Conservatives have eight, up from five. No change for the Lib Dems who have two seats, and independents who have one. Another Greater Manchester Council with some small Labour losses, this time with the Conservatives gaining where Labour lost
In Stockport, traditionally a Labour – Lib Dem battleground, no party could gain overall control; the Liberal Democrats have now 28 seats, which is an increase of two, the Labour party has 25, and the Conservatives lost three seats and now have five seats. Three seats were taken by independents and the Greens now have two (an increase of one).
Although Labour lost two seats, they still hold a majority with 48 seats. Conservatives gained two and now have eight. The Greens have one seat.
In Trafford, Labour gained one seat, meaning they now have 41 – they remain in control with an overall majority. The Conservatives lost four (now 13), Lib Dems have five (gained two) and Greens four (gained one).
Labour gained three seats and keeps its overall majority at 61; the Conservatives lost one and now have seven, independents lost two and now have seven.
There were elections in 8 out of 14 local councils in Lancashire.
Blackburn with Darwen
Labour still has control, no party lost or gained (Labour 36, Conservatives 13, Lib Dem one, independent one).
No party could gain overall control of the council in Burnley. The Greens were up one seat, UKIP lost one and disappeared from the council. (Labour has 18, the Conservatives and Lib Dems each have eight, Greens have six, and the Independents have one).
Labour gained three seats to enlarge their overall majority to 32. These seats were previously held by Conservatives, reducing their representation on council to 10 seats. The Green Party had candidates in nearly all wards up for election, but only managed to place second in one. The Liberal Democrats contested two wards and the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition one, neither had electoral success.
The Conservatives gained two seats from Labour, meaning Labour lost overall control of the council. This could have been due to an internal struggle within the local Labour Party and the fact that several councillors, including the leader, recently quit.
Pendle is the only North West council where the Conservatives have a majority. They lost two seats but retained 17, enough to keep overall control of the council. Labour remained at 11 seats, Lib Dems gained two and are now at five.
No change in Preston. Labour has a majority with 30 seats, the Conservatives have 11, Lib Dems seven.
Rossendale now has a Labour majority; they gained two extra seats and are now at 19. The Conservatives lost two and now have 11. Independents have five, Greens one.
West Lancashire does not have a majority party, and there were no changes in the numbers. (Labour has 25, Conservatives have 20 and independents have nine).
Liverpool City Region
As another important Labour stronghold, this year’s local election results in Liverpool City Region were eagerly awaited as they could serve as an indicator on how Labour would do in the next general election.
Apart from Liverpool City Council, there were elections in all other metropolitan boroughs with an all-out election in St Helens. In most instances, Labour easily held its strong overall majority with mostly minor losses; in Sefton it was up one seat and in Halton it retained its seats.
Labour lost two seats in Knowsley, and continued the downward trend on the Wirral with another loss of three. In St. Helens Labour suffered a loss of a total of seven seats. Apart from the Wirral, Labour’s strong overall majority in the Liverpool City Region is not really in danger and the smaller and greater losses here may have been due to local issues.
Labour keeps their overall majority in Halton with 48 of 54 seats. Conservatives are one up and now have three, Lib Dems have three, the Greens lost their seat. One ward, Daresbury Moore and Sandymoor, was a draw between Labour and the Conservatives, and the win went to the Conservative after an envelope tie-break.
Labour held onto a majority in Knowsley but lost two seats (now 32). The Greens gained a seat and now have five, there is one more independent and the Liberal Democrats still have three seats.
Labour gained a seat and now has 48, Conservatives lost a seat and now stand at seven. Lib Dems have eight, independents remain at three.
St. Helens had an all-out election. Labour suffered heavy losses but they managed to retain their overall majority. They lost four seats to the independents and three to the Greens. The Conservatives did not gain or lose any seats. One ward voted in the three standing Green party candidates , leaving three Labour and one Conservative candidates on the list behind. All in all, the outcome of the elections in St. Helens looks more like being solely based on local issues rather than finding its cause in recent national events.
Labour could not regain the overall control of Wirral Council they lost in the previous years; they were down three more seats but remain the strongest party with 26 seats overall. The Conservatives are one up and now have 24 seats. The Greens gained two more seats and are now at nine. But even if the Greens build a coalition with the Labour Party, this will not lead to an overall majority to gain control of the council. Lib Dems remain at six, independents at one. Overall, the downward trend of the Labour Party over the last years could neither be stopped nor turned around.
Looking at the 2022 projected national share for the political parties in the UK calculated by Professor Sir John Curtice, the results in the North West are unsurprising. The election results for the UK as a whole showed that the Conservatives lost support, the small parties gained support, and Labour maintained its support. Thus, the Labour Heartlands of the North West continued their steady support for Labour, with perhaps some smaller losses that was always to the advantage of the smaller national parties and independents. Where the Conservatives have a presence in North West councils, the nationally projected downward trend was equally noticeable. Importantly, the large number of independents that were elected in many areas of the North West shows that residents mainly took local issues into account when deciding on whom to give their vote.
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