Next year’s local elections are to be held on the same day as the European Parliamentary Elections. This, along with the political fall out from the current financial crisis, makes them particularly hard to predict.
In this year’s local elections, Labour finished 20% behind the Conservatives in terms of national equivalent vote share. There are signs, from recent local by-elections, that Labour’s vote share has started to recover slightly, and, typically, local election results in the third year of a Parliament are the worst for the incumbent government. In all likelihood, next year’s local election results will be less bad for Labour than this year’s were, perhaps showing a Conservative lead of 10-15% in terms of national equivalent vote share. Unfortunately for Labour, the large majority of these seats were last contested, in 2005, when Labour led the Conservatives by 3%. Further large seat losses for Labour therefore seem inevitable, and in all likelihood, Labour will no longer be in control of any County Councils.
There are elections in 27 County Councils. Of these, 19 are controlled by the Conservatives, 4 by Labour, 2 by the Liberal Democrats, and 2 are under no overall control. Confusingly, 3 County Councils, Cornwall, Wiltshire, and Shropshire, are to become Unitary Councils, with the abolition of District Councils in those counties. All 3 will face elections next year. In addition, Bedfordshire County Council, together with the districts of Mid-Bedfordshire and South Bedfordshire is to abolished, and replaced with a Central Bedfordshire Unitary Council, while Bedford Borough is upgraded to Unitary status. There will also be elections for Bristol City Council, and the Isle of Wight Unitary Council. Finally, there will be Mayoral elections in Hartlepool and Stoke (unless the Mayoralty is abolished in a referendum to be held shortly).
The Conservatives should retain Buckinghamshire, Cambridgeshire, Dorset, East Sussex, Essex, Gloucestershire, Hertfordshire, Kent, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, Norfolk, Northamptsonshire, Oxfordshire, Suffolk, Surrey, West Sussex, and Worcestershire. It is quite probable that on some of those authorities, such as Buckinghamshire, Hampshire, and Surrey, Labour will be left without a single councillor. On others, such as Hertfordshire, Kent, and Leicestershire, their representation could be reduced to low single figures.