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The raw results are in, and as expected, London is very much still a Labour city, a couple of surprise results notwithstanding. Out of view from the public eye, discussions are happening to decide on cabinet members, committee chairs and committee memberships before the Full Councils formalise the decisions at the end of May. The team is providing bespoke, detailed political analysis to our clients, but here we provide a brief overview of a selection of results. If you would like more information please speak to the political expert for the relevant borough.
Longstanding majorities were overturned in four London Boroughs; three former Tory flagship boroughs – Barnet, Wandsworth and Westminster – made the headlines with a switch to Labour; read our synopsis of the Labour manifestos in each of the three here.
One former Labour borough, Harrow, switched to Tory control as did Croydon’s Mayor. The London Borough of Tower Hamlets now has a Mayor and council majority from the independent party Aspire.
Labour took control with 35 (+ 9) seats vs 22 (-11) Conservative seats. Labour’s Simon Hogg, who will replace the Conservatives’ Mr Govindia as council leader, said the result had been “way beyond my expectations”, with Labour taking target seats in the Trinity Ward and Wandle Ward. Labour has begun to appoint cabinet roles though no decision on regeneration appears to have been taken at time publication.
Labour: 41 (+12) Conservative: 22 (-12) This election was hard-fought with strong campaigns from both the Conservatives and the Labour Party, but Labour secured a decisive majority. Leader of the Council, Cllr Daniel Thomas conceded the Conservatives’ loss before all results had been declared and blamed their defeat on “a perfect storm of the cost of living crisis, 12 years of a Conservative government and redrawn boundaries”. Barry Rawlings, Barnet Labour leader said: A lot of the voters felt very neglected by the council, there are some national issues and I think a lot of normally conservative voters feel alienated from the Boris Johnson government.
In a major upset, the Westminster Labour Group has seized control of the former Conservative flagship authority of Westminster City Council for the first time in the Borough’s 58-year history. The prevailing national criticism of the Prime Minister, the cost of living crisis, and local issues including the ill-fated Marble Arch Mound, conflicts between commercial and residential interests, and questions about the future of the Oxford Street District ultimately cut through on the doorstep ahead of Westminster Conservatives’ campaign which focussed on the quality of local services and the lowest council tax in the country.Councillor Adam Hug will now be formally voted in as the new Leader of the Council. On Wednesday 11th May he announced his new cabinet, with Councillor Barraclough taking on the key planning and development brief.
The Conservatives clinched a shock victory in Harrow, assuming overall control of the Council for the first time since 2006. New ward boundaries meant there were just 55 seats contested, 8 less than previously. Conservatives won 31 seats and Labour took 24, giving the Conservatives a majority of seven. Closely fought wards included North Harrow, where long-standing Tory councillors Chris Baxter and Janet Mote won by just a few votes.
Snapshot of other key boroughs:
Labour remain firmly in control of Brent. The reduction from 63 to 57 seats was always likely to see a diminished Labour majority with the Liberal Democrats and Conservatives pressuring the Labour wards on the fringes of the Borough. The Conservatives claimed 2 seats from Labour in Queensbury ward and the Liberal Democrats claimed two seats in development heavy Alperton and one seat in the new two-member ward in Sudbury.
Big wins, hard-fought wins, unexpected wins: Labour swept away opposition candidates in wards new and old. Plenty of new faces will give a fresh feel to Camden politics, with a (hopefully) slimmed down Planning Committee overwhelmingly Labour dominated.
Croydon was another London Borough to buck the trend by electing a Conservative Mayor, the first elected Mayor for the Borough. The Labour party lost the election but is still the largest party on the council ,which means decision making – in terms of process and outcome – is going to be tricky for the next few months but should soon settle. Although the Borough is technically in No Overall Control, this does not mean no decisions will be made – things will happen but the decision making processes will be slower with significant political theatre from both sides. The Planning Committee will likely be interesting with the Greens, who took two seats in the centre of Croydon, potentially holding the balance of power.
Labour maintain control of the Borough comfortably increasing their majority. Labour won 59 of the 70 seats, with the Conservatives taking 5 and the Liberal Democrats winning 6. Lib Dem and Labour gains both came at the expense of the Tories with the Conservatives forced back into just two wards. Despite the expectation that unpopular Low Traffic Neighbourhoods could impact on the Labour vote, this was not the case with Labour surpassing its previous outstanding result in 2018 and gaining a further 3 seats. Labour will be emboldened by the result and placed well for the next 4 years.
Labour remains in control of Haringey just four years after losing seats to a significant Lib Dem resurgence. Labour increased its tally of councillors by 6, to a total of 50 with the Lib Dems losing 6 reducing them to just 7. Haringey has selected a number of moderate councillors who have sought to shed the “Corbyn council” moniker coined during the Jeremy Corbyn leadership. While still regarded as a left-leaning group of councillors there was no attempt to replace the existing leader Peray Ahmet at the recent AGM which strongly suggests Labour councillors are seeking stability after four years of political uncertainty. Labour 50 (+6) Liberal Democrat 7 (-6)
Labour Mayor Philip Glanville was re-elected as the Mayor of Hackney with 36,049 votes, amounting to 59% of the votes, 6.9% less than 2018. This will be Glanville’s third term as the Mayor. The voting turnout for the mayoral election was 34%, a 2.7% reduction from the turnout at the 2018 elections. Labour has conserved its stronghold in the Borough, after winning 50 seats out of 57 (holding majorities in 19 out 21 wards). Despite this strong performance, Labour has lost two seats to the Green Party in Dalston (1) and Hackney Downs (1). The Conservative Party retained control of Springfield ward (3) and Stamford Hill West (2).
Piles of red votes reached high on the counting clerks’ tables, but a clean sweep was thwarted by a very strong performance in Highbury from the Greens. The three Greens will be an active and vocal presence on the Council benches, but Labour still have complete control over all committees. There may be some changes to the faces at the top table and on committees, but it will be four more years of the same.
Labour were dominant in Thursday’s election returning 58 of the 63 councillors, a net gain of 2. In the Corbyn years Labour had come under significant pressure on issues of regeneration including their plans to regenerate several local estates. Despite extremely vocal campaigns against the administration on a range of issues, this result yet again shows that this negative outlook towards Labour is not shared by the wider Lambeth community. Councillor Claire Holland will now seek to bring her own brand of leadership to Lambeth in her first full term as leader supported by a new cabinet member for regeneration following Matthew Bennett’s decision to stand down.
Merton saw the overall number of councillors reduce from 60 to 57 following boundary changes, this also radically altered a number of ward boundaries in the centre of Merton. These changes and a failure to predict the Lib Dem resurgence in the Borough saw Council Leader Mark Allison narrowly lose his seat to the Lib Dems in the newly formed Wandle ward. Dissatisfaction regarding the expansion of the Ultra Low Emissions Zone by Mayor Kahn was a major factor for Allison, who was a vocal supporter of the change. Elsewhere the Liberal Democrats took 8 seats from the Conservatives to comfortably replace them as the Boroughs second largest party, leaving Labour with a working majority of 5, just 2 fewer than before.
On Tuesday 10th May Ross Garrod was elected as a new leader of Merton Council following a four year break from the Council.
Labour has once again maintained it’s strong control of Newham, but has a lost a ward to an opposition party for the first time since 2006. Rokhsana Fiaz has been comfortably re-elected as Mayor with 56%of the vote. Labour left the Conservatives (who only secured 11% of the vote) trailing in a very distant second place. However, Labour’s total grip of Newham Council has been disrupted. The Green Party secured both seats in Stratford Olympic Park ward (newly created after the boundary review). After a targeted Green campaign in the area that covers the Olympic Village, they finished comfortably ahead of the Labour candidates.
Mayor Fiaz has begun a significant reshuffle of her cabinet with Councillor Paul and Councillor Beckles both standing down.
Royal Borough Kensington and Chelsea
As anticipated, there’s been very little movement overall (in stark contrast to neighbouring Westminster), with the Conservatives losing one seat to the Liberal Democrats in Earl’s Court – to reduce their tally to 35 councillors – and Labour staying steady on 13 seats, the same number as before. The Liberal Democrats now have two seats, both in Earl’s Court.
Southwark Labour has consolidated its dominant position in the Borough, winning 52 seats out of 63, compared to 11 for the Liberal Democrat opposition. This represents a net gain of three seats for Labour compared to the 2018 election – these seats were gained from the Liberal Democrats in London Bridge and West Bermondsey (a marginal in 2018, albeit in special circumstances – with the election having been postponed due to the death of a candidate, resulting in a lower turnout). With a renewed mandate for the next four years, the Labour administration can be expected to focus on the delivery of key commitments within its manifesto, including the delivery of additional affordable housing and the strengthening of environmental regulations in response to the Climate Emergency.
The Tower Hamlets mayoralty has changed hands, with Lutfur Rahman beating the incumbent Mayor John Biggs and returning to the job that an Election Commissioner removed him from office from in 2015. Rahman gained 54.9% of the vote, to Biggs’ 45.1%. This is a key change for the Council. Lutfur Rahman is now backed by a majority of Councillors from his community focussed Aspire Party. Unlike the last time Mr Rahman was Mayor, he will now be able to pick his own Cabinet and Strategic Development Committee Chair. These positions will become clear over the coming weeks, but in an unlikely outcome for the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, the politics of planning may possibly have become slightly more straightforward.
For further information about London Boroughs not featured here, please speak to the following political experts: