It’s all change at councils throughout the South West

The local elections last month resulted in a good night for the Liberal Democrats who made a large number of gains across the South West, winning councils such as Bath & North East Somerset, North Devon and even the Cotswolds. In the newly formed authority of Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole, a council that the Conservatives were expected to win, the party instead collapsed, leading to protracted negotiations over its future administration. After 19 days, a “Unity Alliance” was formed to govern the new authority. Led by the Liberal Democrats, the 39-member group also consists of the Christchurch Independents, Poole People, other independents, Labour, Green and the Alliance for Local Living councillors.

In a region that has traditionally been strong for the Lib Dems, the party’s gains have helped to restore their political clout across the region, taking them towards a similar level of councillors they last held in 2010.

The Lib Dems’ success came largely at the expense of the Conservatives, with Brexit clearly having an influence on voter’s minds. The Conservatives will be thankful, however, that they held onto Swindon Borough Council and South Gloucestershire Council despite strong challenges from opposition parties in what was a difficult night for the Conservatives nationally.

It was a quiet night for Labour in the South West, with the party failing to make any serious gains across the region, despite being in opposition to the Conservative government. However, they did hold onto the control of Exeter City Council and Plymouth City Council where well organised party machines have delivered results that largely bucked the national trends.

Anecdotally, Labour and the Conservatives have both been punished for their handling of Brexit by both Remain and Leave voters, which seems to have played a bigger part in the elections than local issues such as public services and development.

Voter turnout was always going to be lower than 2015 as those elections took place at the same time as the General Election. Nevertheless, the extreme low turnout predicted due to “Brexit fatigue” did not materialise.

Matthew Roberts - Account Executive