By Michael Hardware, Director of Planning and Property
The elections in May will be complicated, and confusing for voters. In some areas they will have four elections at once, all with different candidates: county, district, Police and Crime Commissioner and referendums on neighbourhood plans. There are also various delayed byelections to take place. Voters will, apparently, have to bring their own pen or pencil to mark their X on the ballot papers and councils are wondering how they are going to conduct the counts whilst maintaining distancing and COVID precautions. Some are ‘isolating’ the ballot papers for 24 hours and not counting on Saturday whereas others are counting district and county ballots overnight on the day of the election.
Campaigning this time has been very strange with much more telephone canvassing and social media. Candidates started delivering leaflets from 8 March but most will not be door-to-door canvassing until after 29 March. Many will not be canvassing at all.
These elections are the first to take place since the December 2019 General Election, so they are the first opportunity for the population to express their views on Brexit and the handling of the pandemic. These national issues are dominating in most areas irrespective of what elections are taking place.
Predicting outcomes in the marginal seats is difficult as the last local elections were in may 2019. Things were very different then: there was no Brexit deal and UKIP was active in many areas. The Conservatives faired particularly poorly losing 1,300 councillors and 44 councils but the LibDems did well gaining over 700 new councillors and gaining control of 10 councils. The green also did well gaining nearly 200 councillors but Labour lost 84 councillors and control of six councils. The Brexit deal overturned this with the Conservatives romping to win a 80-seat majority in the General Election in December.
Predictions have to be based on the 2019 local election results, but we also have to factor in the 2019 General Election result and the current polls. The Conservatives are enjoying a big lead currently due to Brexit, the vaccination programme and that neither Labour or the LibDems have very effective or charismatic leaders. Based on the 2019 figures, we will probably see a 5-10% swing from Labour to Conservative, and a 5% swing from LibDem to Conservative. The Greens and Resident groups are also likely to make some further gains. That said, a week is a long time in politics and anything can happen between now and 6 May.
During the run-up to the local elections we will be providing political commentary insight, especially of those marginal councils where we have clients that could change hands on 6 May. We will be uploading a Local Elections section on our website at the start of April so you can see what elections are happening where, highlighting where a change could take place. After the elections, we will be analysing the results and the implications in those areas where administrations have changed hands.
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