Super Thursday: The review
So ‘Super Thursday’ dragged on a bit. It’s now Monday and the dust is settling after a long weekend of counting votes across the country. There were some important elections and some interesting results in our region. I’ve cantered through what’s new.
Marvin Rees will be Bristol’s mayor for the next three years. The Green’s Sandy Hore-Ruthven was second, increasing the Greens’ vote by 22%. Despite this, Marvin won with a comfortable margin of 13,613 votes.
The Green gains at councillor level can partly be attributed to Sandy’s presence in the campaign. They took seats from parties of all colours including high profile Labour scalps.
Kye Dudd who had cabinet responsibility for transport, energy and the Green New Deal lost his Central ward seat. Cabinet member with responsibility for climate, ecology and sustainable growth Afzal Shah lost in Easton ward.
In all Labour went from 37 councillors to 24 with the Greens going from 11 to 24.
With 24 members each, technically the council is in no overall control. In reality, the fluidity of Bristol’s politics was a key driver for having a directly elected mayor. Unlike other councils where there would now be tense negotiations to establish an administration, Marvin still holds many of the cards.
One of the main responsibilities of councillors is to approve the council’s budget. There’s provision for this to be agreed by only a third, or 24 councillors – the same (just!) as Labour now has.
Another responsibility is scrutiny. The Greens are now certainly in a much stronger position to scrutinise through the council system but the level of scrutiny Bristol’s leadership receives outside of the council chamber and committee rooms is more than almost any other local authority in the country.
The new makeup impacts council committees which must reflect the number of councillors each party has. This includes two of the city’s most important decision-making functions, Bristol’s two development control committees. These rarely voted on party lines anyway and officers have worked well with councillors to professionalise this regulatory function. The strong calibre of many in the new intake suggests this will continue.
The best in the West
The West of England mayoralty delivered one of Labour’s most significant wins nationally. Former MP Dan Norris won by 40,093 votes to become the second mayor of the combined authority.
These elections felt like a big thumbs up to the concept of metro mayors. Andy Burnham, Ben Houchen and Andy Street have all become household names in the areas they represent. They retained their roles with increased turnouts and vote shares.
Dan now has a chance to become something similar. He’s got four years to make a difference in a region that has struggled to speak coherently and consistently in the way other regions have done.
Ups and downs
Elsewhere across the South West the Conservatives retained Gloucestershire County Council but failed to make inroads at Stroud District Council.
In Stroud, the Greens made gains with five extra councillors. Whilst the Conservatives remain the largest party with 20 seats, the Greens now have 13 councillors to Labour’s 15 and the Liberal Democrats’ three. Conversations about the Labour-led rainbow coalition’s future or whether Conservatives could create something with the Greens in Stroud are underway.
The Conservatives improved at Gloucester City Council, where they increased their majority by five with 26 seats to the Liberal Democrats’ 10 and Labour’s three.
“The start of a big new adventure for Cornwall”
So proclaimed Linda Taylor the leader of the Conservative group that now runs Cornwall Council. It’s the first time the unitary authority has been controlled by a single party since it was first established in 2009.
Boundary changes had seen the number of councillors reduce from 123 to 87 giving the Conservatives the opportunity to replace the Liberal Democrat/Independent coalition by winning 47 seats.
Quit while you’re ahead
The Leader of Wiltshire Council has announced he is standing down despite Philip Whitehead being re-elected and the Conservative group that he leads retaining control of the council. A new leader will be chosen tomorrow (11 May).
Further drama in Wiltshire has seen the area’s Conservative candidate for police and crime commissioner withdraw from the race due to a previous driving conviction.
Eyes now turn to group and then council AGMs. This is where the leadership of councils will be confirmed with new portfolio responsibilities handed out and committee makeups agreed. Now council meetings can’t be held virtually this process may take a little longer than usual.
Then it’s time to get on. There is a plethora of challenges ahead of our newly elected representatives which we’ll be delving into in our regular Politics of Place emails. Sign-up to stay in the know.
If you have any questions on what’s happened or what might happen across the West Country feel free to contact me via email@example.com