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Local Elections 2023

South and South West Insight


While the South and South West may not have seen the same extent of drama as other regions, there was still plenty of excitement and the councils we had identified as ones to watch didn’t disappoint.

The saga continues as we now eagerly await the various council AGMs later this month.  What we can say for sure is that this rural region has seen the continued growth of small, local parties and independents – many on an explicitly development-sceptic manifesto – alongside the resurgence of the Lib Dems.

While we should be careful of tarring all councils with the same brush, much of the new landscape does not look particularly friendly in the short-medium term. In the new Labour urban strongholds, we can perhaps expect a more positive approach, albeit with high expectations for affordable housing.

South Gloucestershire

A coalition agreement was finally reached in South Gloucestershire, with the Lib Dems and Labour forming a joint administration and holding the leader and deputy leader positions respectively: their pledges include a greater commitment to public participation and new decision-making area committees.


In Devon, the Democratic Alliance sees power-sharing between the Lib Dems, Independents and Greens, with Lib Dem Paul Arnott remaining as Council Leader.


Sussex has seen the Greens and Labour team up in Lewes, where their coalition replaces the ‘co-operative alliance’ that had included the Lib Dems and an independent. The Lib Dems are now in opposition. 


Torridge has seen things stay stable at the top, with Cllr Ken James continuing at the head of his Independent minority administration.

Mid Sussex

The Liberal Democrats have entered into a coalition agreement with Independent councillors of Mid Sussex, given them a very slim governing majority (25/48 seats). This sees the Conservatives lose control of the Council for the first time in 24 years. Councillor Robbie Eggleston has been appointed as Council Leader, whilst taking responsibility for the District Plan. The remaining cabinet positions are held by Liberal Democrat members except for independent Councillor Ian Gibson who will be holding the portfolio for Sustainable Economy and Housing. The District Planning Committee will have a composition of five Liberal Democrats, five Conservatives, one Green, and one Independent councillor. The Planning Committee has a balance of five liberal Democrats, four Conservatives, one Green, one Independent and one Labour councillor.

Basingstoke & Deane

An Independent, Lib Dem and Labour coalition has taken control of Basingstoke & Deane Borough Council from the Conservatives, with Independent Paul Harvey becoming Council Leader. Cllr Harvey was previously Leader in 2006/2007. The new coalition has put housing numbers and the Local Plan at the forefront of its policy agenda.


Canterbury City Council is now a Labour-run administration. After Labour became the largest party on the council at the elections, Cllr Alan Baldock, a longstanding Labour councillor for Northgate ward, was elected as Leader of the Council. A former safe Conservative council, Canterbury has experienced one of the most significant collapses in the Conservative vote in the South East, with the Conservative Group now the third largest group on the council with only 8 councillors.

East Devon

Due to a mistake on a party emblem on postal vote ballots, East Devon District Council has admitted to issuing a second round of ballots to postal voters during the local election. After spotting the mistake, and after seeking guidance from the Electoral Commission, new postal vote ballots were issued to voters before the election closed. Voters were urged to ignore the previously issued ballots and return the yellow paper ballots instead.


Labour finally ousted the Conservatives after 25 years of failed attempts – Jim Robbins and his group now hold 31 of 55 seats, and managed to oust Tory leader David Renard in the process.

Brighton & Hove

Labour ousted the Conservatives after 25 years of failed attempts – Jim Robbins and his group now hold 31 of 55 seats, and managed to oust Tory leader David Renard in the process.

Bournemouth, Christchurch & Poole

True to form, BCP remains chaotic: heavy Conservative losses (24, including the Planning Committee chair) were not enough to gift any single party a majority. Expect plenty of horse-trading between now and the council AGM on 23 May as the Lib Dems – who are the largest single party – try to forge an alliance with the assorted independent groups.

East Hampshire

Also under no-overall control is East Hampshire, where the Conservatives lost 13 seats. Again, a coalition between the Lib Dems and a residents’ group is looking the most probable outcome.

Insight provided by:

George Burr
Associate Director