Here's what you need to know about last week's local elections

08 May 19 | Gina Murgatroyd

As the main parties reflect on a bruising result at the polls, Iceni looks at what this might mean for the future of local politics, and whether the result now forces both national and local politicians to be more attuned to local opinion.

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It was national politics, rather than local issues, that proved to be the decisive factor in last week’s elections

As the main parties reflect on a bruising result at the polls, Iceni looks at what this might mean for the future of local politics, and whether the result now forces both national and local politicians to be more attuned to local opinion.

The key trends to note:

1. The end of two party politics?

Big losses were sustained by both Conservatives and Labour. Although after nine years of government the Conservatives were expecting losses, to haemorrhage 1,300 seats and lose control of over 40 councils, would have come as a big shock. Labour too, lost previous strongholds such as Hartlepool and Bolsover, which raises the question, are we witnessing the decline of the two party system?

2. A Liberal Democrat resurgence?

The Lib Dems were deemed the clear winners last week, recording their best local election results in fifteen years, with Vince Cable quick to announce that ‘three party politics is back’. Whether this was attributed to the influence of a protest vote, or the rebuilding of the local election machinery following the post-Coalition days, the real test for the Lib Dems will be when Change UK enter the fray in the forthcoming European elections, and who will claim the title of the dominant anti-Brexit party.

3. A good night for Independents and smaller parties.

Where the Brexit card has been somewhat overplayed in explaining some of these results can be seen in the success of Independent candidates who have campaigned on decidedly local issues. As such, many Councils are now facing a more politically fragmented future. The big irony of the elections seems to be that although the result may have been in response to frustrations around the delivery of Brexit, it has resulted in wins for smaller parties, reflecting a more European model of politics. Maybe this will spark a bigger conversation about the extent to which our first-past-the-post system best serves this new political reality, or whether a more proportionately representative system will provide an outlet for the diversity of political views fracturing the current traditional divides.

4. The rise of ‘No Overall Control’ Councils

Finally, one of the hallmarks of the local elections has been the increase in Councils that have lost their majorities and are no longer controlled by one dominant party (NOCs). This has introduced a greater level of uncertainty and raises question marks over policies that were previously favoured by Councils which may now be under threat, such as regeneration projects or the implementation of the Local Plans.

Will we witness more bartering at a local level then? One thing’s clear, the planning sector will need to adapt to this new reality, and now more than ever do we need to understand the local political environment, and the local issues that underpin them.

Gina Murgatroyd Consultant,Engagement
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