024 Local Elections Forecast: Key Battlegrounds and Looking to the Future

01 May 24

Labour have promised to increase house building on brownfield sites and poorer quality areas in the green belt, dubbed the “grey belt”, with at least 50% of housing development on these sites to be affordable

.

Local election experts predict that the Conservatives are set to lose around half of their contested seats, but what is less clear is whether voters will swap directly to Labour or choose the smaller parties and community-focused independent candidates instead. With rapidly growing social housing waiting lists and a decreasing number of new homes being built, housing and planning policy have become key battlegrounds in this local election campaign. 

Labour have promised to increase house building on brownfield sites and poorer quality areas in the green belt, dubbed the “grey belt”, with at least 50% of housing development on these sites to be affordable. Whilst both Labour and the Conservatives state their intentions to prioritise development on brownfield land, the Conservatives have hit back at Labour’s plans, claiming that they ignore the concerns of local people.  

The Green Party launched their local election campaign with a demand for more affordable homes and have promised an introduction of rent controls in areas where prices are highest. The Greens will be defending 107 seats, with Bristol City Council as their main target. They are already the largest party in the city and will be hoping to take formal control of the Council. Liberal Democrat leader Ed Davey has committed to building 380,000 homes and delivering the necessary infrastructure alongside, claiming that the Conservatives and Labour are taking a developer-led approach, whereas the Liberal Democrats will be community-led.  

Essex will prove to be a particular area of interest, with Labour looking to make significant gains in Basildon, which is currently controlled by the Conservatives and has been greatly reshaped by the boundary changes. Elsewhere in Essex, Thurrock, where the Conservatives control the Council with a small majority, could see many more Labour and Independent seats being won. All 33 seats in Harlow are also up for election, where the Conservatives increased their majority last year, but a marginal area that has also been covered by the BBC as a centre of the housing crisis with residents who want to see meaningful change. 

The Mayoral Elections will feature 7 incumbent mayors re-standing, including Andy Burnham in Greater Manchester and Sadiq Khan in London. With 43% of London voters identifying that housing issues would be the main determining factor in how they vote (Source), it is unsurprising that Khan has pledged to deliver over 40,000 new homes by 2030. Conservative candidate Susan Hall has focused on promises to restrict high-rise tower blocks and prioritise family homes. Whilst Sadiq Khan is widely forecasted to be successful in winning an unprecedented third term as Mayor of London, it is likely to be a close race as covered in our email last week, with transport and environment also at the forefront of the electorates’ minds.  

There is no doubt that Thursday’s results will be closely scrutinised in anticipation of a General Election later this year. This week’s polling of Westminster voting intention sees Labour leading by 23%, and with YouGov illustrating housing as one of the most important issues facing the UK right now (Source), homes and planning are set to remain greatly influential policy issues in the next election too.  

On a personal level, having studied politics at university, I find this a fascinating time to observe and advise clients on the current political climate, and I look forward to seeing what the results of the local elections bring for the future.

Sian Buckley Consultant,Engagement