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Key Councils That Changed Hands At The Local Elections

Keir Starmer in Chatham after Labour took control of Medway Council (Alamy)

9 min read

Labour and the Liberal Democrats have so far made major gains at the expense of the Conservatives at this year’s local elections, which Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has described as "disappointing".

Most votes in the 8,000 seats will be counted from Friday morning, but a number of councils have already changed hands, with Labour and the Liberal Democrats both taking authorities from the Tories, and others falling to No Overall Control. 

The Tories so far have lost more than 800 council seats while Labour won an extra 400 seats. The Liberal Democrats have also picked up more than 250 seats. 

Opposition parties are jubilant, but Conservative figures have said it has been “disappointing” to lose councillors after a “tough night” for the party. 

Here are the key changes from across England so far:

Medway

Medway in Kent is now in Labour control for the first time in more than 20 years. 

Labour secured 33 of the 59 seats on the council, while the Conservatives, who previously had a majority, got 22. 

Labour leader Keir Starmer visited Chatham in Medway on Friday morning, and said that the party is “on course for a Labour majority at the next election”. 

He added: “We’ve won the trust and confidence of voters and now we can go on and change our country.” 

Stoke on Trent

Labour has taken back control of Stoke on Trent council, nearly 10 years after the party was last in charge. 

The party won 29 seats, compared to the Conservatives’ 14, and will lead the council for the first time since 2015. 

Stoke is a key battleground in the so-called ‘Red Wall’ of formerly traditional Labour areas that have shifted to the Conservatives in recent general elections. 

Labour will take the council win in one of their top targets as a good sign ahead of the next general election, where they will hope to regain the three parliamentary constituencies, all of which have switched from Labour to the Tories since 2017. 

Windsor and Maidenhead

The Liberal Democrats have made progress in the so-called ‘Blue Wall’ of traditional Tory seats, taking Windsor and Maidenhead Council from the Conservatives. 

The result in former prime minister Theresa May’s patch is a “massive blow to Rishi Sunak”, the Lib Dems said on Friday morning, as they took 22 of the 41 council seats. 

The party had been hoping to make gains in parts of the south that traditionally have voted Conservative, but have been put off the party by the Boris Johnson and Liz Truss premierships. 

Speaking in Windsor this morning, Lib Dem leader Davey said: “Voters across the country have sent a clear message in these local elections, a message so loud that even someone as out of touch as Rishi Sunak can’t ignore it."

Hartlepool

Having been previously run by a Tory-Independent coalition, Hartlepool council now has no overall control. Labour became the largest party – but fell one short of an overall majority – in Hartlepool, another key Red Wall area. 

Overall, 18 of the 36 councillors on Hartlepool Borough Council are now Labour, and like Stoke, Labour will hope that the council results can be replicated at a general election to help them regain a former stronghold area. 

Jill Mortimer became the first Conservative MP in Hartlepool constituency in 2021, when a by-election gave her a majority of almost 7,000. At the time, the Conservative party led by former prime minister Boris Johnson were on track to remain in power, with the Hartlepool victory demonstrating their popularity in former Labour heartlands. 

Brentwood

The Conservatives lost their majority in Brentwood, Essex, as the Liberal Democrats made more gains in blue areas. 

The Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives now both have 17 seats on the council, after the Lib Dems made three gains from the Tories. 

Plymouth 

The local Conservative MP lamented a “really terrible” result for his party in Plymouth, as Labour took control of the council. 

Reflecting on the result, Veterans minister Johnny Mercer told the BBC that “people don’t vote for divided parties” as he pointed to the four Conservative leaders in the local council group in the last two years. 

Labour now hold 31 seats of the 57 on the council, and local leader Tudor Evans described it as a “seismic shift” in the city’s politics. 

There has been no party majority on the council since 2021, and Labour last won overall control in 2019. 

Plymouth’s two constituencies are represented by Mercer, and a Labour MP Luke Pollard. 

Mercer, who has represented Plymouth Moor View since 2015 when he won it from Labour, had a majority of almost 13,000 at the 2019 general election.

Welwyn Hatfield

The Conservatives lost Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council to no overall control as both the Liberal Democrats and Labour made gains at their expense. 

The patch includes Energy Secretary Grant Shapps' parliamentary seat, which he has held since 2005, with a majority of almost 11,000 since 2019. 

Stratford on Avon

The Lib Dems have taken control of Stratford on Avon council, home to the constituency of former cabinet minister Nadhim Zahawi. 

They gained 15 seats while the Conservatives lost 14, to take control of the council in Warwickshire. 

A party spokesperson had earlier said that a win in Stratford and other areas with ministers as MPs would show that "there is nowhere safe in the Blue Wall."

Swindon

Labour gained Swindon from the Conservatives, a key target area for them and also where they launched this year's local elections campaign. 

The town has two Conservative MPs, but Labour will now be hoping to win these at the next General Election.

Mid Suffolk

The Green Party has taken sole control of an English council for the first time, with a majority in Mid Suffolk.

The authority was previously run by a minority Conservative administration, when they had 16 seats of of the 34 available. 

The Green Party's co-leader Adrian Ramsay had earlier praised a "fantastic set of results".

He tweeted on Friday morning: "People are fed up with Conservatives, uninspired by Labour and voting Green in growing numbers."

Bracknell Forest

Labour have taken control of Bracknell Forest council, as the Conservatives lost 27 seats across the authority. 

Keir Starmer's party now hold 22 of the council's seats, while the Conservatives are on 10, and the Liberal Democrats are on seven, and the Greens two. 

The parliamentary constituency of Bracknell has returned a Conservative MP at every election since it was created in 1997, and incmbent James Sunderland currently has a majority of almost 20,000. 

Dover

Labour have also taken control of Dover council in Kent for the first time since the 1990s. 

The area which has had a Conservative-majority council since 2007, and has also returned a Conservative MP since 2010.

Speaking to Sky News shortly after the result was announced, Labour's national campaign coordinator Shabana Mahmood said it was a "fantastic set of results." 

"We are in absolute bellwether territory," she added. 

"These are the areas that decide who gets to be the government of our country, and we are on course for a majority Labour government at the next general election."

Stockton on Tees

The Conservatives have become the largest party in Stockton on Tees after making 11 gains, but the council remains under no overall control. 

The Tories now have 23 of the 56 seats in the authority, compared to Labour's 22, and the gains made in this north-eastern council buck the national trend of Conservative losses. 

It will be welcome news for the Conservatives who took the Stockton South parliamentary constituency at the 2019 general election with a majority of more than 5,000. 

The seat had been Tory from 2010 to 2017, but was regained by Labour at the 2017 election. The town's other seat, Stockton North, has been Labour since its inception in 1983, and is currently held by Alex Cunningham.

Bromsgrove

The Conservatives have lost Bromsgrove to no overall control. 

The area is home to the parliamentary constituency of senior MP and former chancellor Sajid Javid, who said he was "disappointed" by the day's results. 

The Tories now hold 11 of the council's 31 seats, down from 17, losing ground in several directions, with Labour on eight, the Liberal Democrats on five, and seven independents. 

In terms of Westminster elections, Bromsgrove is considered a safe Conservative seat, having returned a Conservative MP since its inception in its current form in 1983. Javid currently has a majority of more than 23,000.

Surrey Heath

The Lib Dems have said that they have taken control of Surrey Heath council, where senior Cabinet minister Michael Gove is MP. 

The result would be another significant gain in the 'Blue Wall' of traditionally Conservative voting areas.

A party source described the result as "the Michael Portillo moment" of the elections. and said that ministers are "now looking nervously over their shoulders at the Lib Dems" ahead of the next general election.

 

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