Election shocks

By Michael Hardware, Director of Planning and Property

The dust is settling following the dramatic May local elections in which the two main parties saw very significant losses. Ordinarily, the party in power would be expected to lose members mid-term and for the opposition to pick them up, but that did not happen. Both parties lost seats to the benefit of the LibDems, independent and resident groups.

Although many are seeing this as a protest vote rather than a trend, caused by the procrastination over Brexit, it has sent shockwaves through the political establishment. This was reinforced by the results from the European elections.

There have been some shock results. South Oxfordshire has gone from Conservative control to a ‘rainbow alliance’ between the LibDems and the Green party. In Uttlesford, the Conservative administration lost 19 seats and control to the residents’ association, and in Chelmsford the Conservatives lost a staggering 31 seats with the LibDems taking power.

In Basildon, a bastion of conflict over the years with control changing hands three times in the last three years, has changed yet again with Labour taking control but requiring the support of every non-Conservative councillor.

These were strange elections as in some districts there were significant shifts in voting, whereas in others, only small changes. St Albans did not see a significant shift, but the Conservatives lost power to a LibDem coalition headed by Cllr Chris White, former head of Chelgate Local.

The shock to the parties is obviously related to Brexit, and the indecision is having significant ramifications at party grass roots level reflected in the local elections. The frustration of party activitsts and grass roots members is palpable with all their efforts in local politics overshadowed by what is happening on the national stage.

Brexit is also now impacting upon the development industry with a number of housebuilders and developers holding back on projects and land waiting to see what happens – why pay top dollar now when there could be some distress purchase bargains a couple of months down the road.

If, however, Brexit does go through with an agreement, there could be an avalanche of projects coming to planning, and scrabble to buy land to populate the forward land pipeline.