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West Mids election results outside Birmingham: if anything changed, it’s here

West Mids election results outside Birmingham: if anything changed, it’s here

🕔09.May 2016

Chris Game, from InLoGov at the University of Birmingham, casts his eye outside the region’s biggest city to assess election results across the WMCA area. 

Last time the seats contested on Thursday were fought was 2012. Over 30 councils in England alone experienced some kind of change in their political control, 7 of them in the West Midlands, and over 900 councillor seats changed political hands.

This year, with only a few results still to be declared (at the time of writing), despite some dire prognostications of the electoral disasters that might befall the Corbyn-led Labour Party, less than a half a dozen councils and fewer than 70 council seats had changed hands.

In England at least, not that much happened anywhere – but quite a lot of the little that did happen was here in the West Midlands. Here, then, is a fairly quick and dirty round-up of both the few actual changes in council control the did result from these elections, and of those councils where change had been at least half-expected and failed to materialise.

This means, therefore: first, no Birmingham, already covered by Paul Dale; secondly, no Coventry, Sandwell, Wolverhampton, Nuneaton & Bedworth, which were all comfortably, if not entirely uneventfully, retained by Labour, and no Tamworth, ditto by the Conservatives.

METROPOLITAN BOROUGHS

DUDLEY (Lab loss to NOC) New council: Lab 35 (-3), Con 29 (+4), UKIP 8 (+1)

Every vote counts!  It’s the ultimate election-day cliché, but, as Labour members and activists in Dudley and Cannock Chase (below) can testify, that doesn’t make it any less true. In each case, had three or four votes out of thousands been cast differently, the political control of both councils would today be different.

In Dudley, four extra Labour votes could have prevented the party’s losing the Wollaston & Stourbridge Town ward to the Conservatives for the second year running, and enabled Labour to continue to control the council through the exercise of a casting vote.

As it is, the Conservatives, who ran Dudley from 2004 to 2012, might well, with their successes last year and the borough’s high quota of marginal wards, have had hopes of regaining overall control themselves, rather than just depriving Labour of theirs.

In the event, they again took Belle Vale, Gornal, as well as Wollaston/Stourbridge from Labour plus Hayley Green & Cradley South from UKIP, but it was sufficient only to put UKIP into the role of power brokers. What that means in practice is unclear, though, as in the past the Conservatives have ruled out working with UKIP, who themselves have ruled out working with Labour.

However, with the Greens unable to retain Netherton, Woodside & St Andrews, following the honourable retirement of Will Duckworth, these three are the only teams left standing.

SOLIHULL (Con hold) New council: Con 32 (=), Grn 10 (+2), LD 6 (=), UKIP 2 (=), Lab (1)

After what now looks to have been a temporary interruption, the Greens resumed their progress towards becoming the undisputed opposition party on the council. They retained Shirley West, which they hadn’t managed last year, took Shirley South from the Conservatives, and Smith’s Wood from the hapless Mike Sheridan, whose defection to the Social Democrats resulted in a vote total countable on his own digits, thumbs excluded.

The Conservatives defeated the Residents’ Association member in Blythe, Labour retained its sole council member in Kingshurst & Fordbridge, and the Lib Dems held their seats in Elmdon, Lyndon and Olton – evidently to the shock of either winners or losers, as all three went to recounts, even Lyndon with an eventual 159-vote majority. One can only surmise how they’d cope in Dudley or Cannock Chase.

WALSALL (NOC – no change) New council: Lab 28 (+1), Con 25 (=), UKIP 3 (=), LD 2 (=), Ind 2 (-1)

This Conservative minority-run council was one of those, like Birmingham, where at least the odd Labour loss was expected to contribute to the national total of up to 150 net losses being projected by various pundits, Labour alarmists and anti-Corbynites. But, like Birmingham voters, Walsall’s refused to play ball.

Indeed, as in Birmingham, Labour retained virtually all the seats it was defending from 2012 – the exception being Bloxwich West – and won or held St Matthews and Rushall-Shelfield that it had lost in 2015, plus Blakenall from the longstanding Labour/Democratic Labour/Independent councillor, Pete Smith.

The Lib Dems too had some pleasing results, retaining both Short Heath and, with an outstanding personal vote for party leader Ian Shires, Willenhall North, both taken by the Conservatives last year.

All of which has left the Conservatives in a fractionally weaker position than previously and could account for the rumour that Labour may contemplate a minority coalition with the Lib Dems.

WARWICKSHIRE, WORCESTERSHIRE & STAFFORDSHIRE DISTRICTS

RUGBY (NOC – no change) New council: Con 21 (+1), Lab 9 (=), LD 9 (+1), Indep 2 (-2)

The Conservatives lost their overall control a few months back and must have hoped to regain it. They got halfway in two senses: they reduced the ranks of the Independents, that had been boosted by their own recent defectors, and they now hold exactly half of the 42 council seats.

But, in a repeat of 2015, they were thwarted by the Rokeby & Overslade Lib Dems, whose candidate this time won more votes than all three challenging parties put together. Conservative minority rule, therefore, looks set to continue.

REDDITCH (Lab – no change) New council: Lab 15 (=), Con 13 (=), UKIP 1 (=) 

Redditch gets into this overview on the ‘dog that didn’t bark in the night’ principle. Narrowly balanced after the Conservatives had come within touching distance of re-taking control, they were supposed to put in a repeat performance and complete the job. But they didn’t – Labour stay narrowly in control.

Nothing at all changed, and, if anything, the Conservatives lost ground. Within a hundred votes last year of taking Church Hill and overall council control, this time they managed less than half Labour’s vote and finished adrift of UKIP in third place.

In Winyates too, won in recent years by all three ‘old’ parties plus UKIP, last year it was the Conservatives’ turn, but this time they were back in third, behind Labour and again UKIP.

WORCESTER (Con lose to NOC)  New council: Con 17 (-2), Lab 16 (+1), Grn 2 (+1)

I described in my elections preview the machinations of the extraordinary Cllr Amos, through which the Conservatives gained control of the council in 2014 and he gained the mayoralty. This year was payback time – for the party, if not for Amos.

He now represents the fairly safely Conservative Bedwardine ward, but Labour regained his vacated Warndon ward. The bigger turnaround still, though, was in the hitherto Conservative Battenhall, where Louis Steven took the Greens from a weak third place to a nearly 200-vote majority, and ensured thereby that the Conservatives would lose their majority.

In his role as party spokesperson, however, Steven also made it clear before the election that, in the situation in which the council now finds itself, the Greens would not be interested in any power-sharing coalition with either major party. We shall see. 

CANNOCK CHASE (Labour hold) New council: Lab 21 (-1), Con 13 (+2), UKIP 4 (-1), LD (-1), Green 1(+1), Indep 1

This was Dudley in reverse, with Labour this time the beneficiaries, as they retained majority control of the council for a fifth year by just 3 votes in over 18,500.

Brereton & Ravenhill ward, though the result was declared quite early, proved the clincher. Labour took it 2012 from the Lib Dems by what seemed a fairly close 64 votes, and held on this time by a very definitely close 3, which, had they gone the other way, would have put Labour on 20 seats, with the rest on 21.

In other circumstances, the headline result would have been the Greens’ capture of their first council seat – in Hednesford South, with Paul Woodhead careering from a rather poor fourth place this time last year to an overall majority of nearly 300 votes, and in the process pushing the incumbent Labour member into third place.

The Conservatives improved their position and cut Labour’s majority, partly through retaking Hawks Green from one of the councillors who had defected to UKIP, but weren’t able to repeat their 2015 gains in Heath Hayes East & Wimblebury (lovely name!) and Norton Canes.

NEWCASTLE-UNDER-LYME (NOC)  New council: Lab/Co-op 27 (+2), Con 21 (+1), LD 3 (-2), Newc Indeps 3 (-), Borough Indeps 3 (-), UKIP 2 (-), Green 1 (-)

You wouldn’t guess it from this splintered arithmetic, but until a year ago this council was under majority Labour control. For the past year it has been under minority Labour control and this seems likely to continue.

Labour has slightly strengthened its position by regaining seats lost to defectors, while the Conservatives strengthened theirs by picking up Wolstanton. But not a great deal else changed.

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