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Key facts about the 2011 local elections

By Matthew Barrett
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BALLOT BOX 1 Yesterday Rob Hayward drew our attention to a House of Commons Library briefing paper, regarding the results of the local and mayoral elections in May. Summarised below are some key facts about the local elections contained in that briefing.

Conservative council seat facts:

  • The Conservatives won or retained 5,108 seats, representing 58% of the total contested and a net gain of 85 seats
  • The Conservatives have 9,400 councillors, 46% of the total councillors in Britain
  • They control 51% of the total number of councils, including 96% of county councils and 69% of shire district councils
  • They control two councils in Wales, but none of the 32 unitary authorities in Scotland
  • In England, 51% of councillors are Conservative
  • The Conservatives control 59% of seats in shire districts
  • By contrast, in metropolitan boroughs, where one-third of seats were up for election, they won 22% of the seats
  • They have no councillors on several metropolitan borough councils, including Gateshead, Knowsley, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle-upon-Tyne and Sheffield
Labour council seat facts:
  • Labour won 2,459 seats, 28% of the total contested and a net gain of 857 seats
  • Labour has nearly 5,700 councillors, 28% of the British total
  • The number of Labour councillors is still lower than in 2006
  • Labour controls 81 councils, 20% of the total number in Britain
  • Labour controls 29% of metropolitan boroughs
  • The party controls 51% of London boroughs
  • Labour controls just 4% of English shire districts
  • The party controls 59% of the seats in metropolitan councils, 17% in shire districts and 32% in unitary authorities.
  • Labour has no representation on 61 shire district councils including Castle Point, Chiltern, Craven, Ryedale, New Forest, South Somerset, Tewkesbury and Worthing.

Liberal Democract council seat facts:

  • The Liberal Democrats won 1,099 seats, representing 12% of all contested, and a net loss of 747 seats. 
  • The Lib Dems have just over 3,100 councillors, 15% of the British total
  • The party has 1,000 fewer councillors than in 2009
  • The party controls 13 councils, 3% of the British total
  • The party holds 15% of seats in both shire district and metropolitan boroughs councils
  • The party has no representation on five metropolitan borough councils and 45 shire district councils

Minor party council seat facts:

  • Minor parties and independents won 153 seats, representing 2% of the total contested
  • The Green Party won 79 seats, a net gain of 14, and have the most seats on Brighton and Hove council
  • The Residents Association won 48 seats, a net loss of 3
  • The BNP won 2 seats, a net loss of 11
  • UKIP retained its 7 seats
  • The Boston Bypass Independents lost 14 seats and retained 4 seats

Overal council seat facts (since 1973):

Screen shot 2011-06-02 at 08.15.12

  • It is worth taking into account that the total number of councillors has fallen over the years: from 1973 to 1985, the number was roughly 25,250 and this has fallen gradually to the current figure of 20,679
  • The number of Conservative councillors now (9,435) is slightly smaller than in 2008, 2009 and 2010, but apart from those years, is the highest since 1985, when the number was 10,191
  • The number of Labour councillors now (5,691) is roughly the same as in 2007 and 2008, and the number in these three years is the lowest of any time in the 1973-2011 results
  • The number of Lib Dem council seats now (3,111) is the lowest since 1986, and so the lowest since the SDP and Liberals became the Liberal Democrats
  • The number of other/minor party seats is the lowest in the 1973-2011 period. In the 1970s, there were roughly 5,250 independent/minor party councillors, and a steady decline since then has brought the figure down to 1,872 this year

National vote share facts (since 1979):

Screen shot 2011-06-02 at 08.14.56

  • In half of past cases, the year after a general election, the party in power had a lower share of council vote than the opposition party. This was the case in 1980, 1993, 2002 and 2006
  • The situation this year, where the major governing party has more votes than the opposition a year after a general election, also happened in 1984, 1988 and 1998
  • It is almost always the case that a year before a general election, the opposition party has more votes than the governing party. This is true of 1986, 1991, 1996, 2000, 2004 and 2009
  • The one case since 1979 in which this did not happen was 1982. The results for that year were Conservative: 40%, Labour 29%, and SDP/Liberal 27%
  • The Lib Dem vote (or Liberal/SDP) in council elections the year after general elections tends to be greater than in the general election before. This was the case in 1984, 1993, 1998, 2002 and 2006, but was not the case in 1980, 1988 and this year
  • Other/minor parties may be experiencing a fall in popularity. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, other party candidates had about 5% of the vote. In 2002 and 2003, this rose to 8%, and in 2004, this rose to 10%. It stayed at 10% in 2006, 2007 and 2008, and rose to 18% in 2009. In 2011, however, the other/minor vote was halved, and went down to single figures again, at 9%
  • Of all the years after a general election since 1979, this year is most comparable to 1988: a modest increase in the vote for the Conservatives (1988: 1%, this year: 2%), an encouraging increase in the vote for Labour (1988: 6%, this year: 8%) and the Lib Dems suffering a significant decrease in their share of the vote (1988: from 27% to 18%, this year: from 23% to 17%).

Mayoral election facts:

  • In the mayoral elections, held in Bedford, Leicester, Mansfield, Middlesbrough and Torbay, the trend was towards the incumbent
  • In Bedford (Lib Dem), Mansfield and Middlesbrough (both independent), the incumbent candidates won
  • In Leicester's first mayoral election, Sir Peter Soulsby, until recently the MP for Leicester South, won
  • In Torbay, the incumbent, Nick Bye, was de-selected by the local Conservative Party, stood as an independent, and lost to the official Conservative candidate - so Torbay voted Conservative again, even if for a different candidate


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