Local Elections

Midlands Insight

 

Across the Midlands, 17 councils are holding elections. Some councils like Birmingham and Tamworth are holding all-out elections, while others are for half (Nuneaton & Bedworth) or one-third of councillors. 

BECG has identified five councils that are likely to be key battlegrounds. The top three to watch out for are Newcastle-under-Lyme, Worcester City Council, and Derby City Council. All are Conservative led but only by narrow margins and have a high probability of switching to Labour control. Likewise, Walsall Council and Cannock Chase Council are the ones to watch and have a similar chance of switching to Labour control. 

Councils that are unlikely to see any change include Redditch, Nuneaton & Bedworth, Tamworth, Dudley, Rugby, Solihull, and Amber Valley. All of which are under Conservative control with significant majorities. Birmingham, Coventry, Sandwell, Wolverhampton, and Lincoln all have a strong likelihood of remaining Labour-led. 

Birmingham City Council is the local government body responsible for the governance of the City of Birmingham. It is the most populated local council area in the United Kingdom. Councillors represent over a million people. 

Birmingham City Council is a Labour-led authority and has been since 2012. Birmingham is one of the few councils holding all-out elections. For the council to switch control a swing of 19 seats is needed. While possible, BECG believes this is extremely unlikely considering the council’s history and current polling.

 

This is the second election following Birmingham’s boundary changes. At the 2018 election Labour lost 18 seats, while the Conservatives lost four but the overall number of councillors was reduced as part of the redrawing of boundaries.

 

At this election, we are likely to see a number of new faces in the Council Chamber as is the norm for authorities with such large memberships. The selection process for both main parties has been fairly pain-free with the most controversial moment being when Councillor, Zhor Malik, Labour, defected to the Conservative Party branding his former Labour Party a dictatorship. Councillor Malik switched following Labour’s decision to de-select him. A claim which he denies. Councillor Malik says he will represent the Conservative Party in May’s local elections.

 

Labour Cabinet Member for Transport & Environment, Waseem Zaffar MBE, published Labour’s plan to ‘build a safer, cleaner and better Birmingham’ on Twitter. Labour’s six-point plan for Birmingham is as follows: One, keep weekly waste collections and get rid of your bulky waste for free. Two, bring extra investment into Birmingham to create 100,000 new jobs. Three, build 65,000 new homes and upgrade all their council houses to make them greener and cheaper to heat. Four, invest £1million in youth services to tackle knife crime and help young people into work. Five, invest £1billion to build a reliable, green and affordable public transport system. Six, ensure every community in Birmingham benefits from the Commonwealth Games.

Coventry has been under Labour control since 2010 following a short period of Conservative control during the period Labour were in Government nationally. Coventry residents will be voting for one third of their representatives in May 2022. In 2021 Labour lost one seat to the Conservative’s.

 

It is expected that key Cabinet Members David Welsh and Patricia Hetherton will stand for election again. As will Councillor Lindsey Harvard, the Planning Committee Chair.

Solihull residents will be voting for one third of their councillors in May 2022. Historically, the council has had Conservative leadership. The Conservative’s have controlled the council since 2011. The Green Party is the second largest party with 15 councillors.

 

Since 2018, the Green Party has gained four seats. Considering the prominence of environmental issues in the political climate at the moment it is possible they may make further gains in May.

The Black Country has four administrative authorities within its boundary. These are Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council, Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council, City of Wolverhampton Council, and Walsall Metropolitan Borough Council. 

Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council

Sandwell Council has 72 seats in total, of which 24 are up for election in May 2022. It is a Labour-led council and would need a swing of 25 seats to change control. This is impossible in the upcoming election.

 

The government has intervened in the running of Sandwell Council which may sway voters. However, the council since its formation in 1973 has been Labour-led bar one year in 1978. Despite the troubles the council has faced over the years the constituents have continually put their faith in Labour. In the 2021 local elections, the Conservative Party did take nine seats from Labour. 

 

There has been news on councillors who have been deselected. Four Labour councillors of Asian backgrounds were deselected in November 2021 after failing to pass their selection panel interviews. This prompted members of the Muslim and Sikh communities to protest about the “institutionally racist” selection process.

Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council

Dudley Council is currently led by the Conservative Party. A swing of 11 seats is needed to change control of the council. With 24 seats up for election, this is possible although unlikely. 

 

Historically, Dudley Council has has varying periods under Conservative and Labour control and periods of No Overall Control. In 2021 Labour lost 11 seats to the Conservative which handed control to the Conservatives following a five year period of No Overall Control. 

 

Councillor Judy Foster, the Deputy Leader of Labour is one councillor who may be re-selected. Considering in 2018 Councillor Foster only narrowly won by 47 votes and last year’s results overall, losing her seat would be bad for Labour’s hopes.

 

Four Conservative councillors to watch out for are the Leader of the Council, Councillor Patrick Harley; Councillor Nicolas Barlow, Cabinet Member for Health & Adult Social Care; Councillor Shaun Keasey, Cabinet Member for Digital, Customer & Commercial Services; and Councillor Andrea Goddard, Development Committee Chair. All won by fairly comfortable margins in 2018. 

City of Wolverhampton Council

Wolverhampton Council has only ever been Labour-led or under No Overall Control. The city has been under Labour Control since 2011. In May 2022 residents will be voting for one-third of their representatives. For the council to change a swing of 14 seats is needed, considering the council’s history we consider this unlikely. 

 

In last year’s local elections Labour lost five seats to the Conservatives. In May 2022 Labour have several seats up for election represented by their Cabinet Members and it’ll be key for them to hold on to these. All had significant majorities, so it is unlikely we will see significant change.

 

Labour councillor Mary Bateman has been reselected to represent the Wednesfield North ward in Wolverhampton. Councillor Bateman has represented Wednesfield North ward since 2014 and is expected to win re-election having previously had a majority of 54%. 

 

On the Conservative side, they have already deselected their Deputy Leader, Councillor Simon Bennett. It is not known why the local branch of the party turned against him. Councillor Bennett said: “Each ward has its own selection meetings and this decision has been made. It’s a ward-based decision – it’s happened and it is what it is. I have the full support of my colleagues and the group are fully behind me. This allows me to pursue and seek selection in another suitable ward.”

 

It has been announced Councillor Bennett will contest the Bushbury North seat currently held by Councillor Alan Butt, Labour. With only a majority of 64 votes in 2018, it will be a hotly contested seat.

Walsall Metropolitan Borough Council 

From its formation in 1973 until 2000, Walsall Council went through a period of Labour control or No Overall Control. Post-2000 it has been under Conservative Control or No Overall Control. Currently, it is under Conservative control and has been since 2019. 

 

Last year’s elections saw the Conservative Party gain three seats from Labour. In May 2022, Labour Leader, Councillor Aftab Nawaz, is likely to be up for election. 

 

Senior Walsall councillor, John Murray, Conservative, failed to win re-selection for Aldridge Central & South, a ward he has held since 2011. Instead, Conservatives ‘overwhelmingly’ voted for local man Bobby Bains.

 

Other Conservative councillors that may be standing in May are Councillor Oliver Butler, Cabinet Member for Clean & Green; Councillor Stephen Craddock, Cabinet Member for Health & Wellbeing; Councillor Mark Stratham, Cabinet Member for Internal Services; and Councillor Christopher Towe, Cabinet Member for Education & Skills. Councillor Stratham was only narrowly elected in 2018. 

Staffordshire has eight administrative authorities within its boundary. Three are holding elections in May. These are Cannock Chase District Council, Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council, and Tamworth Borough Council. All three councils are under Conservative Control. 

Cannock Chase District Council

Cannock Chase residents will be voting for one-third of their constituents in May 2022. The Conservatives are the ruling party with 24 seats. Labour are the second largest party with nine seats. 

 

Cannock Chase Conservatives took control of the council for the first time in the council’s history in May 2021. Labour Leader Councillor George Adamson said it reflected the failures in national leadership.

 

The list of candidates for the 13 seats up for election has not been published yet. However, the Leader of the Council, Councillor Olivia Lyons’ seat will be up for election and it is expected she will stand again and likely win considering her significant majority of 471 in 2018. Likewise, opposition leader, Councillor George Adamson may also be seeking re-election. In 2018, he was only narrowly elected with a 72 vote majority. 

 

With a swing of eight needed to change control, it is unlikely to change hands as Labour in the current political climate. 

Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council

Newcastle-under-Lyme council historically has been Labour led or under No Overall Control. In November 2021 it became Conservative controlled for the first time. This followed the Knutton by-election where Conservative’s gained the seat from Labour by a margin of eight votes. 

 

The Conservative Party has 23 councillors while Labour has 18. All that’s needed to swing control back to Labour is a change of three seats. Considering it’s an all-out election, the Knutton ward will be another fiercely contested seat. 

 

It has not yet been announced who will be standing in the election but one seat to watch out for is Deputy Leader of the Council, Councillor Stephen Sweeney’s, Clayton ward, as he only narrowly beat the Labour candidate by 47 votes. Elsewhere, Veteran Newcastle-under-Lyme councillor, John Cooper, who has served the May Bank community for two decades and twice been Mayor, has switched from Conservatives to Independent. 

Tamworth Borough Council

Tamworth Borough Council is electing a third of its councillors. As a Conservative stronghold, it is unlikely Labour will be able to gain control of the council. In fact, you would have to go back to 2004 to last see Labour control the council. 

Warwickshire hosts five local authorities. Two of which are upholding elections in May 2022. These are Nuneaton & Bedworth Borough Council and Rugby Borough Council. Both are Conservative-controlled with significant majorities 

Nuneaton & Bedworth Borough Council

Nuneaton & Bedworth constituents will be voting for half of the seats in the council. In the May 2021 elections, Labour received a shock when they lost every seat they had in Bedworth and some wards in Nuneaton. Further shock came when both the Labour leader and deputy leader lost their seats.

 

New Labour leader Councillor Chris Watkins will be looking to regain lost seats. With 17 seats up for grabs and a swing of 10 needed to change control, it is possible albeit with a low likelihood.  Leader of the Council Kristofer Wilson’s seat is up for election and he is expected to stand again. 

Rugby Borough Council 

Rugby borough residents will be voting for one-third of their representatives in the May elections. The Conservatives are currently in control with 25 seats and have been since 2018.

 

Last year, the Conservatives gained two seats, one from Labour and one from the Independents. The Liberal Democrats, who are the second largest party (nine seats), followed by Labour with eight seats, held their three seats up for election. For a change in control to happen a swing of nine is needed which is unlikely to occur in the current political climate. 

 

Key councillors whose seats are up for election include Councillor Jill Simpson-Vince the Cabinet Member for Growth & Investment and Councillor Ian Picker the Planning Committee Chair. Both had fairly significant majorities of 260 and 177 votes respectively. 

The Worcestershire area hosts six local authorities, two of which are holding elections in May 2022. These are Redditch Borough Council and Worcester City Council.

Redditch Borough Council

Redditch Borough Council, currently controlled by the Conservatives, is holding elections for one-third of its councillors. With 9 seats up for election and a difference of 10 needed to swing control it is impossible a change of control can occur.

 

Redditch Labour Group has announced their candidates for May’s local election. Nine candidates will stand for Labour including Councillor Andrew Fry, the Leader of the Labour Group.

 

The Conservative Party have put forward nine candidates, four of which are sitting Cabinet Members. The Deputy Leader of the Council, Gemma Monaco, is one of those. In 2018, Councillor Monaco only had a majority of 32, her seat will be one to watch. Councillor Mike Rouse, the Cabinet Member for Finance & Enabling was narrowly elected in 2018 by one vote.

 

Even though Labour cannot gain a majority this year if they were able to take some seats away from the Conservatives, including key cabinet members, that would be quite significant.

Worcester City Council

Worcester is currently controlled by a Conservative majority. With a difference of seven between them and Labour, only a swing of four is needed in the upcoming election to change control. Worcester elects one-third of its councillors meaning that 12 seats are up for election in May. In recent years it has been under Conservative control or No Overall Control but with a Conservative minority.

 

In the May 2021 elections Labour lost four seats, two to the Conservatives and one to both the Greens and Liberal Democrats.

 

Key councillors that are expected to re-stand for their seats are Mike Johnson (Conservative), Planning Committee Chair; Stephen Hodgson (Conservative), Mayor; and Louise Griffiths (Conservative), Heath & Wellbeing Chair. As well as Labour potentially making gains the Green Party could also make ground having won three seats last year.

Within the East Midlands, there are 40 local authorities. Of those 40 only three are holding elections. Two from Derbyshire: Derby City Council and Amber Valley Borough Council and one from Lincolnshire: City of Lincoln Council. 

Derby City Council

Derby is currently under No Overall Control albeit with a Conservative minority. With one-third of its seats up for election, it is one of the few councils with a high probability of changing control. Only four seats changing hands will swing the control. In its 26 year history as a unitary authority, it has only ever been in Labour control or No Overall Control. 

 

Derby City Council recently voted to change their electoral voting system from the current thirds system to all-out elections every four years. This will begin in 2023. 

Amber Valley Borough Council

In May 2022 Amber Valley constituents will be voting for one-third of their representatives. Amber Valley is currently under Conservative control. In order to change control a swing of six seats is required. 

 

The May 2021 elections were devastating for the Labour Group losing nine out of the available 15 seats. The Labour Group Leader Chris Emmas-Williams lost his seat after being a councillor for 35 years. 

 

In the upcoming elections, the key Conservative up for election is Trevor Ainsworth, Cabinet Member for Environment. In 2018 he had a majority of 57.4% and failing a concerted campaign this is unlikely to change. On Labour’s side, they have eight councillors up for election. Considering the 2021 results Labour will be looking to ensure a repeat does not happen in 2022. 

City of Lincoln Council

City of Lincoln Council is currently Labour-controlled with 24 councillors compared to Conservatives nine. Despite the difference, only a swing of eight is needed to change control. The city has been under Labour control since 2011 this is unlikely to happen. However, in the last three elections since 2018 the Conservatives have gained four seats from Labour. 

 

With seven Labour candidates up for election in May 2022 all of whom had significant majorities in 2018, it is unlikely their seats will change. On the other hand, the four Conservatives up for election, including Deputy Leader Christopher Reid all only held slight majorities. Councillor Reid had a majority of 51. 

Countdown to Local Elections

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