Local Elections 2023
East Anglia Insight
Amid attempted Conservative spin, the result in East Anglia is clear: the Tories took a pasting and lost control of councils across Essex, Norfolk and Suffolk, with the Lib Dems and Greens taking the lion’s share of the gains.
Even Labour made moderate gains in this difficult patch for them, though Independent and Residents’ Association Groups didn’t enjoy the success that some thought they would do.
What does this mean for the Greater Norwich Local Plan? How could this implicate decision-making around the mass of energy and infrastructure coming forward in Suffolk? We can only let new administrations settle in, but spatial approaches and decision-making dynamics will change across the board.
Maldon District Council has been described as “absolutely disgraceful” by the former Leader Cllr Wendy Stamp (Ind), due to the inability of the Council to form a working administration with a stalemate has ensued. The rise of the Liberal Democrats there means there is a four-way split between the Conservatives, Independents and the Liberal Democrats and Maldon Independents, with bad blood spilling over at the AGM once again meaning that Maldon currently have no political leadership and the Chief Executive is having to run the council. On 8th June the council will meet again to decide who will be in charge.
Cllr Caroline Topping was confirmed as the new Leader of East Suffolk as she heads up an administration formed of the Green Party, Liberal Democrats and one Independent. The Liberal Democrats have secured the Deputy Leader role for David Beavan. The new Cabinet Member for Energy and Climate Change, as well as the Chair of the Planning Committee for the north of the borough are Green Party members, meanwhile the Chairman of the south Planning Committee is a Lib Dem. Given the new role for “Cabinet Member for Planning and Coastal Management” we can expect to see greater scrutiny of offshore energy projects, in line with the campaign issues that emerged throughout April.
The first meeting of Broadland’s new rainbow coalition got off to a seriously testy start, with leading groups already attacking the Conservative opposition. The meeting became divided after the Conservative opposition, who are also the largest group on the Council, put forward Cllr Fran Whymark to be Leader whilst a series of other disagreements occurred over who should oversee other key Council roles. Whilst the rainbow coalition was placed under stress, it continued to vote unanimously together throughout the meeting.
The Greens have entered a coalition with Liberal Democrat and Independent councillors to keep the Conservatives out.
The “West Suffolk Working Partnership” has been formed to take control of the authority, containing Labour, Liberal Democrat, Green and Independent members.
Power-sharing between Labour and the Liberal Democrats in Colchester, which has lasted for 15 years, has ended after Labour’s NEC ruled that the local party should not stay in the coalition unless they get the leadership post, which the Lib Dems refused to give up. Lib Dem Group Leader, Cllr Martin Goss, said that their preference was to keep the coalition with Labour but would press ahead with a minority Lib Dem administration. Close attention to Colchester City Council will be needed to see how long a ruling minority party of 15 out of 51 seats will last and the deals that they will need to make made to keep the Council functioning.
A coalition deal between the Liberal Democrats and Labour in Brentwood is looking likely after Cllr Barry Aspinall, the Lib Dem Group Leader has said that both parties had come to a deal. This has been echoed by Brentwood Labour who confirmed “it looks likely” a pact would be agreed, but it had to be approved by the party centrally.
Despite a bad night for the Conservatives across the country, in Harlow the Conservatives were able to increase their overall majority. However, Russell Perrin, the Conservative Leader of Harlow District Council has announced he will resign as Leader due to it being hard to balance the responsibilities as Leader, head teacher and father. A new Leader will be selected at their Full Council meeting this week.
“Gerrymandering” in Norfolk
With the introduction of voter ID this year, 667 people were turned away from polling stations across Norfolk because they did not have ID, with almost a third not returning.
The Green Party surged to win 24 seats. The Green Leader, Adrian Ramsay said the victory in Mid Suffolk would “pave the way for electing the first Green MP in the area.” Anti-Conservative feelings on the doorstep contributed to the Conservative loss, but over-development has been cited as a single biggest reason for the vote, with the business park being built on the outskirts of Stowmarket coming up against opposition.
The Conservatives have lost control of Brentwood for the first time in eight years. They did manage to retain control of debt-ridden Thurrock even though Mark Coxshall, the Conservative Leader and Shane Hebb, the Cabinet Member for Finance lost both of their seats. This could be a reaction to residents’ dissatisfaction with how the Council’s finances were mismanaged along with a new MD commissioner being appointed by the Government.
The Conservatives faced significant losses with the Lib Dems, Labour and the Greens all making gains. In Broadland, the Conservatives lost their overall majority with leader, Shaun Vincent (Con) losing his seat, whilst the party also lost overall control in King’s Lynn and West Norfolk. In Great Yarmouth, the Conservatives fell one seat short of a majority.
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