Labour gain control of the council after winning local elections


A disappointing night for the Lib Dems and Greens in York as Labour reach a majority of council seats

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Image by Millie Simon

By James Clay and Millie Simon

Labour take control of the City of York Council with a majority of one, securing their place as the governing administration for the next four years. They take control of the council from the Liberal Democrat and Green Coalition both of whom lost a number of seats across the city.

Having counted all votes, Labour now have 24 seats on the council, the Liberal Democrats come in second with 19 seats and the Conservatives won three seats across York. In order to become the largest party on the council, Labour gained seven seats across York, including three seats from the Greens, three from the Liberal Democrats and one from an independent councillor. Having had a poor election showing, the Greens go from being in coalition to having no seats across the city.

Of particular note to students, the Hull Road ward, which encompasses the University of York, was secured by all three Labour candidates. One of whom is Sophie Kelly, a former YUSU Sabbatical Officer and another being Anna Baxter who currently holds the position of Co-Chair of the University of York Labour Club.

Hull Road was a particular target ward for Labour who feared an active Liberal Democrat campaign team. Two other students stood in Hull Road, namely Caleb Pell for the Liberal Democrats, who gained 497 votes and Ellis Holden who secured 189 votes for the Conservative Party.

As Labour take control of the council, Claire Douglas has become the first woman to lead the City of York Council which reflects a larger movement in the Labour Party to have better representation for women across politics. Douglas highlighted the importance of Anna Baxter being elected as councillor, not only for women in politics, but also for students, whom she notes have been “disenfranchised” particularly due to the requirement of Photo ID.

Despite some hopes from the Conservative Party, their candidate Arif Khalfe did not win in Rural West York. As a result, there is still yet to be a non-white councillor sat on the council.

A number of issues have dominated the local election with transport and disability access into the city centre being particularly important. Voters have seemingly expressed their frustration with the Liberal Democrat and Green coalition administration who have governed the city over the past four years.

Despite a loss of seats nationally, the Conservative party won three seats, which is a gain from the two seats they had before the election. This is still considerably lower than the 14 seats they had before the local elections in 2019. They have gained Copmanthorpe from the independent Lord Mayor of the City David Carr and Bishopthorpe from the Liberal Democrats. Despite this, the Conservative council leader Paul Docherty lost his seat to Liberal Democrat, Paul Healy, in the Strensall ward.

The new Liberal Democrat councillor Paul Healy, was “very happy” with the Liberal Democrat gain in Strensall, despite it being a disappointing day for the Liberal Democrats as a whole. He attributed their defeat to the “quite well funded, organised Labour”.

Claire Douglas suggests that the Lib Dems have performed so poorly because “they haven’t listened to the population of York, it’s not rocket science”. She adds, “the difference between us [Labour] and the Liberal Democrats is that we go out and we speak to people on the doorstep… and we’ve listened to what they’ve been telling us [...] If they [Liberal Democrats] want more seats, they need to go out and speak to people”

One of the main issues surrounding the local election is the implementation of the Blue Badge Ban, which prevents blue badge holders from parking on pedestrianised areas, allowing them easy access to the city. Healy notes that whilst Labour have pledged to reverse it, he will be “interested to see if they do it, given the security concerns of why it was actually implemented”.

Speaking to Nouse, returning Conservative Councillor for Osbaldwick and Derwent, Martin Rowley, commented that: “I think it’s because local elections are about local issues, not national issues. Being in opposition, we need to ensure our strategy to challenge and scrutinise the administration.

“As a conservative party, we’ve had a lot of issues to deal with. I think one of the positives is we have a Prime Minister who has steadied the ship. We’ve got a great Chancellor in Jeremy Hunt who is working really hard to get hold of the economy and bring it back into a place where it needs to be.”

Commenting on the poor election results for the Greens, former Deputy Leader of the Council and Green Party Councillor Andy D’Agorne said: “It’s obviously very disappointing. After 20 years representing the Fishergate Ward, I have lost the seat to the Labour candidate. I think it’s part of the national picture and the Labour party might be in a position to take the government from the Tories in one years’ time.

“I’m certainly very proud of what I’ve achieved and I’m proud of how we have developed as a city. In spite of all the negative campaigning from Labour, it is nice to see the nine hundred people still voting for me. I don’t think it is a collapse in the support of the Greens, so much a swing and a boost to Labour.”

These results come in a very poor night for the Conservative Party, losing over one thousand council seats up and down the country. Labour have made gains in a number of different areas around the country, including Middlesbrough and Bracknell Forest. The Liberal Democrats have also made gains nationally, including Windsor and Maidenhead, despite losing control of the council in York.

Although many disagree as to the significance of local council elections in determining who may or may not win the next general election, many Conservatives will see these results as a sign that winning the next general election could be an incredibly challenging thing to do.