In Oxfordshire and Cambridgeshire, results did not follow the national picture of Conservative gains. Both County Councils are under no overall control, and the Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Combined Authority also changed hands. The political outlook in the region looks set to become far more colourful moving forward.
At Oxfordshire County Council, the Council remains under no overall control with the local elections having narrowed the gap between the major parties, resulting in just a one seat difference between the Conservatives, the largest party, and the Liberal Democrats, the main opposition. Leader of the County Council, Ian Hudspeth, was a major Conservative casualty of the elections.
Talks are now said to be ongoing between the Libs Dems, Labour and the Greens with a view to forming a new coalition, which would plummet the Conservatives into opposition for the first time in the authority’s history and potentially see Lib Dem Group Leader, Richard Webb, emerge as the authority’s new Leader at the Council’s AGM on 18th May.
The Conservatives’ grip on the Council could be weakened still further if a legal challenge mounted by Labour to contest the result of the Banbury Ruscote division is successful, with the County Council having already confirmed an ‘administrative error’ in the result for this seat.
The Conservative woes in the region also impacted on Cambridgeshire County Council, where an eight-seat reduction in their numbers has left the Conservatives three seats short of a majority, and the County Council in a position of no overall control.
The future of the authority currently looks uncertain, and a collation between the Lib Dems, Labour and a number of Independent councillors may result in the emergence of a new administration, headed up by a new Leader, potentially bringing Steve Count’s tenure at the head of the Council to an end.
Another bad result for the Conservatives came in the closely fought contest for the role of Mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, where the Labour candidate, Nik Johnson, defeated the incumbent Mayor James Palmer in a shock result that bucked the national trend.
The Conservative Mayor actually won the initial count but fell short of the 50% vote share required for an outright win. He was subsequently defeated after the second count revealed his Labour counterpart has secured 51% of the vote. The new Labour Mayor has already spoken about his desire to rebrand the region as ‘Greater Cambridgeshire’, focus on the delivery of affordable and social housing, and to scrap James Palmer’s £100k homes initiative.
At a local level across Oxfordshire, political control was retained by the majority party at Cherwell District Council, Oxford City Council and West Oxfordshire District Council, resulting in only minor changes within each of these authorities.
Cherwell District Council saw the Conservatives retaining control and losing just one seat to the Liberal Democrats. The picture was the same for the Conservatives at West Oxfordshire District Council where they retained control, despite losing three seats. Labour maintained control of Oxford City Council, despite suffering a three-seat loss.
In Cambridge, local elections took place for Cambridge City Council and Peterborough Council, with no change in leadership at either authority.
At Cambridge City Council, Labour retained their majority, gaining one seat. Meanwhile the Liberal Democrats lost three seats, reducing their number of seats on the Council to 12.
Meanwhile, at Peterborough Council, there was no change in leadership with the Council remaining under no overall control, despite the largest party, the Conservatives, gaining one seat and taking their total number of seats to 29.
Last week also saw the first full elections take place for Buckinghamshire Council, a unitary authority formed in April 2020 to replace Buckinghamshire County Council and the district councils of Aylesbury Vale, Chiltern, South Bucks and Wycombe.
These elections saw the Conservatives win a huge majority and retain control of the Council with 113 of the 147 seats up for grabs. A leadership contest is now expected to ensue, with the current Leader, Martin Tett, looking to ward off competition from others within his own party to remain in post as the head of the Council. The Leadership contest, and other key cabinet and committee appointments, will be determined at the Council’s AGM on 26th May.