25.04.2019 | Poll positions: 2019 local election guide
Amid the remarkable goings on in Westminster, it may have escaped your attention that on Thursday May 2nd, local politics will elbow its way onto the centre stage of British politics once again – if only for one day.
Across the North West, voters will turn out, polling stations will take over schools and people share photos of their #dogsatpollingstations as they exercise their hounds and their democratic rights.
For the property and development sector, these can be uncertain times as a changing of the guard can bring new challenges, new ideas and new personalities. But, that’s democracy for you.
Whether people vote on local issues or on the national picture is a discussion for another time but here is our snapshot of who’s up, where and what might happen.
All ten local authorities of Greater Manchester hold elections this year and, conveniently, all of them are electing on thirds.
In Bolton, 20 councillors will be elected, one from each of its 20 three-councillor seats. The current Labour administration will be looking to maintain its fine majority while independent parties will be trying to build on their current three councillors to hold the balance of power. One to watch.
Bury will undoubtedly remain a Labour-led administration. 17 seats are up, again, one in each three-councillor ward.
In Manchester, the overwhelming strength of the Labour group – which currently represents 96 of the city’s 99 seats – will face sterner tests than that posed this year. Can the Liberal Democrats add to their two-councillor count? Can any other party find a chink in the Labour defences? Don’t bet on it. It is interesting to note that the Conservative Party is standing candidates in each ward. However, the willingness to stand is not expected to translate into seats.
Oldham and Rochdale are both Labour strongholds with both having 47 of 60 councillors sitting in the red corner. It’s unlikely the balance of power will shift considerably here.
The City of Salford, 50 of the sitting 60 councillors are Labour while in Tameside the numbers are 51 of 57 and Wigan its 60 of 75 seats. Labour will remain in power in these local authorities. Stake your house on it.
To find political uncertainty you need to travel south to Trafford. Labour (30) is currently supported by the Liberal Democrats (2) against the Conservatives (29) – with two Green candidates completing the current 63-seat line up. Has Labour done enough to maintain or build on its governance over the last 12 months, or can it win enough seats to take full control? Or will the Conservatives make the gains it needs to resume control? With the Conservatives defending 13 seats and Labour 8, Trafford will once again be a fascinating watch as the results come in. Can either group reach the magic number of 32 seats?
Stockport’s 21 wards have regularly returned more Liberal Democrat councillors than any other Greater Manchester local authority area. But their current 21 councillors is trumped by Labour’s 25. Labour’s minority administration will come under pressure but will seats change hands in the required numbers to force a change? It’s possible rather than probable.
Liverpool City Region
At the western end of the East Lancashire Road, we have a similar story. Six local authorities, all currently Labour-led and all electing 1/3 of their councillors.
The Labour group is so dominant here, that it is more a case of what won’t change than what might.
In Halton, 52 of the 56 seats are held by Labour while Knowsley is not quite the ‘one-party state’ it once was with 40 of the 45 councillors being Labour.
In Liverpool City Council, Labour has 75 of 90 councillors. In Sefton, there is slightly more balance with Labour holding 43 of 66 seats. In St Helens 41 of 48 councillors wear red and Wirral completes the set with 35 of 66 seats held by Labour.
With Wirral Council leader, Phil Davies, stepping down this year there is the possibility that the borough could become the country’s first led by the hard-left Momentum Group. Particularly if the conservatives fail to gain any seats – something they have not done since 2013.
In Liverpool, the spate of resignations within the Labour group in 2018 have been stemmed. It’s expected that the uneasy calm will remain during this election only to ratchet up once again as the 2020 city mayoral election approaches. Will Joe get the opportunity to stand for a third term? Will he want to? Fascinating questions and it will be interesting to watch things unfold.
While the numbers will undoubtedly remain in Labour’s favour here, the council will have a new shape following the de-selection of a number of the ‘old guard’ and their replacement with momentum-leaning candidates.
Cheshire West & Chester and Cheshire East
Outside of the region’s large urban centres, the two unitary authorities of Cheshire mark their tenth year of existence with ‘all up’ elections.
Cheshire East’s 82 seats and Cheshire West & Chester’s 75 seats are all contested to deliver a four-year term to the new council composition.
All up elections make the unadvisable practice of making predictions, even more challenging. Particularly when we only have two previous elections to draw on as we do in these cases. That said, it would take a brave punter to put money on Cheshire East not returning a Conservative majority and for Cheshire West & Chester not to return a Labour one.
But, this is democracy and anything could happen.
Finally, we should not forget that there are a number of district-level elections across Lancashire and Cumbria. While the outcomes are not likely to make the Today Programme, as the lowest level of local government they remain a key part of the local decision-making function – especially in planning terms.
Once the votes have been counted and the new council leaders take their seats, we’ll be analysing what that means for you and your development plans. Request the report now and we’ll send you a copy as soon as it’s published.