North-West Elections, Thursday 5th May 2022
1. The election involves 24 NW councils and nearly 500 council seats. Liverpool is the most notable absentee, elections not held until next year as the council is restructured. Of the 24 contested councils. Labour defends 16, whilst the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats have one each to defend. The key battles will be mainly in the 6 councils under No Overall Control (NOC) of which 5 are run by Labour minority administrations (Burnley, Rossendale, Stockport, West Lancashire and Wirral) and the other, Bolton, under minority Conservative rule. Labour-held Bury will also attract much interest given recent events.
2. The direct comparisons for most local authorities in terms of seats gains and losses are with 2018, based on the four-year cycle: 3 years of elections plus one fallow year, i.e. it was in 2018 that most of the councillors defending seats were elected. 2018 was a poor year for the Conservatives, then led by Theresa May, only coming level with a Jeremy Corbyn-led Labour Party on 35% of the vote nationally. Given current polling, Labour can expect to make some gains but only modest ones.
3. At the most recent NW council elections in May 2021, the Conservatives performed well, gaining 36 seats whilst Labour lost 30. The Lib Dems gained 12 seats. The Greens maintained their modest progress, also gaining 12 seats. Overall though, Labour still dominates much of our region and holds nearly two-thirds of the seats on the councils being contested this year.
COUNCILS TO LOOK OUT FOR:
BOLTON: (NO OVERALL CONTROL (NOC) Labour lost overall control here in 2019, losing a total of 12 seats at the 2018-19 elections. Since then, the Conservatives have run a minority administration. There are numerous ‘District First’ councillors and NOC seems probable again. The Conservatives defend 9 seats, Labour 8, the Lib Dems 2 and Farnworth & Kearsley First one.
BURNLEY: (NO OVERALL CONTROL) Labour lost overall control in 2019 but have continued to run the council as a minority administration and only need one gain to win overall control back. Labour target for overall control but need 5 gains of the 7 possible (Lib Dems defend 3, Conservatives 2, Others 3) whilst having to defend 7 seats themselves.
BURY: (LABOUR) There is an all-out election here with every seat contested and much interest given that both seats were marginally won by the Conservatives last time – and since then Christian Wakeford MP has dramatically defected to Labour. The Labour Party has been in charge for a decade but the situation remains fairly tight. Big gains for Labour here will give Keir Starmer hopes of making No.10. The Conservatives have been prominent in the constituency promoting their levelling up agenda. Boris Johnson and Michael Grove visited Bury FC’s Gigg Lane highlighting the award of finance of its purchase by supporters as an example.
PENDLE: (CONSERVATIVE) The Conservatives regained overall control in 2018 by 1 seat, then lost overall control in 2019, with Labour and the Lib Dems running the council, even though the Conservatives remained the largest party. The Conservatives regained overall control in 2021 but face a tough fight to retain. They have 6 seats to defend. Labour is defending 7 and the Lib Dems 3.
ROSSENDALE: (NO OVERALL CONTROL) A top Labour target. Labour lost overall control last year and need 3 seat gains for it to be restored. They have 6 Conservative-held seats to target and 1 Independent seat, whilst defending 5 themselves.
STOCKPORT: (NO OVERALL CONTROL) NOC for a decade. Labour runs the council as a minority administration, but the Lib Dems hold one more seat and believe they can consolidate that lead. Continuing NOC seems certain. The uncertainty is over which party might lead a minority administration. Labour and the Lib Dems defend the same number of seats, at 8 each, whilst the Conservatives defend 3.
WEST LANCASHIRE: (NO OVERALL CONTROL) Labour lost overall control in 2021 and the growth of the ‘Our West Lancashire’ (OWL) group (now at 7 seats) has been a concern for the party. Labour needs four gains to regain overall control but this will not be easy. Labour has most seats to defend (10) with the Conservatives defending 7. The OWLs only have to defend one seat.
WIRRAL: (NO OVERALL CONTROL) Labour’s loss of 4 seats to shed overall control in 2019 was a surprise. The party has continued to run the council as a minority administration but fell back further in 2021 and would now need 7 gains to resume overall control.
Please see the below document for further information.
Professor Jon Tonge, Department of Politics, University of Liverpool
0151 794 2899