Local elections 2022: the councils to watch

Some of the key results to look for once the polls close.

28 April 2022

A total of 200 local authorities across Britain are holding elections on Thursday May 5.

Every council seat in Scotland, Wales and London is up for grabs and there are polls across much of the rest of England.

Many of the seats being contested this year were last elected in 2017 and 2018, when the UK was still in the European Union, the prime minister was Theresa May and Labour was led by Jeremy Corbyn.

The political landscape of the UK has undergone huge changes in the past few years, but many of the issues that can decide local elections remain the same, such as when bins are collected, the state of parks and pavements, and access to libraries and hospitals.

This year’s elections are also likely to be a verdict on Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, in particular their handling of such national issues as Covid-19 and the cost of living.

Here are some of the key contests to look out for in each region of England, as well as in Wales and Scotland.

– North-west England

– Bury has all of its 51 seats up for grabs this year. Labour has run the council since 2011 but has only a small majority and will want to improve its position in what is the party’s traditional heartland of Greater Manchester. Bury’s status in this year’s elections was reflected by the fact Sir Keir and Mr Johnson both visited the town during the campaign. (Estimated declaration time: 8.30pm Friday May 6)

– Bolton is another key test for Labour in Greater Manchester, but here it is hoping to take back control from the Conservatives who have run a minority administration since 2019. A third of the council’s 60 seats are being contested. (12.30am)

– Pendle is being defended by the Conservatives, who won a slim majority last year. If the Tories lose two seats, the council will slip back into no overall control. Elections are taking place for 12 of the 33 seats. (4.30pm)

– Cumberland and Westmorland & Furness are two new unitary authorities that will elect councillors for the first time this year. The two authorities cover the whole of Cumbria. Cumberland is comprised of the former district councils of Allerdale, Carlisle and Copeland, while Westmorland & Furness covers Barrow-in-Furness, Eden and South Lakeland. All the main parties will be jostling for prominence in these new “super-councils” and the outcome in both contests could be close. (Cumberland 2.30am, Westmorland & Furness 1pm)

– North-east England

– Sunderland has been run by Labour since 1973 but both the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats have made advances in recent years. A third of the council’s 75 seats are up for grabs this year, and if Labour suffers six or more losses it will lose overall control. Although Sunderland is part of Labour’s so-called “Red Wall” – areas of the country that saw many Tory gains at the 2019 general election – all three Sunderland MPs are Labour and the party defied predictions in 2021 when it retained its majority on the council. (2am)

– Hartlepool sees the Conservatives and Labour fighting to be in with a chance of taking overall control of the council – or failing that, end up the largest party and lead a minority administration or a coalition. The Tories won the parliamentary seat of Hartlepool from Labour at a by-election in May 2021. A strong showing by independent candidates could spice up the outcome of this year’s contest. Some 13 of the council’s 36 seats are being contested. (2am)

(PA Graphics)

– Yorkshire & the Humber

– Kirklees is currently run by Labour but the party does not have a majority. A third of seats are being elected and just two gains by Labour would give it overall control. Both the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats are also hoping to do well. (6.30pm)

– Wakefield is a Labour stronghold and is not likely to change hands, but the party will be hoping for a solid performance ahead of the expected parliamentary by-election in the city later this year, after Conservative MP Imran Khan was convicted of sexual assault. A third of seats are being contested. (5pm)

– Hull is a two-way fight between Labour and the Liberal Democrats. Labour’s majority has been whittled away in recent years and the party goes into this year’s election defending a majority of one. A third of the council’s seats are in play and the Lib Dems are hopeful of victory. (3.30am)

– West Midlands

– Dudley is a crucial test for both the Conservatives and Labour. The Tories hope to build on the slim majority they secured at the 2021 local elections, while Labour will want to halt the blue advance and make gains themselves. A third of the council is up for grabs. (4am)

– Solihull is another West Midlands metropolitan council under Conservative control, but the main opposition is the Greens. The party has been slowly eating into the Tories’ majority and will hope to take a few more bites this year. One third of Solihull’s seats are being contested. (1pm)

– Nuneaton & Bedworth is dominated by the Conservatives after a bumper performance in last year’s elections. Labour will hope to demonstrate it is making a comeback, having controlled the council as recently as 2018. Half of the 34 seats are holding ballots. (4am)

– Newcastle-under-Lyme will be a battle royal between Labour and the Conservatives, with every council seat up for grabs and the Tories defending a tiny majority. Success here for Labour would suggest the party is winning back support in one of its target areas of country. The parliamentary seat of Newcastle-under-Lyme was won by the Conservatives in 2019 after being held by Labour for the previous 100 years. (3pm)

– East Midlands

– Derby is currently run by the Tories as a minority party. Labour will be looking to make gains in another test of party’s ability to win back support in urban areas of central England. An unknown factor is the popularity of the Reform Derby party, based on the former Brexit Party, which is standing candidates in all the seats being contested. There are 17 of the council’s 51 seats up for grabs. (5am)

– Eastern England

– St Albans saw the Liberal Democrats make enough gains in 2021 to take overall control, but with a slim majority. The party will want to improve its numbers this year as an example of how it is now the main opposition to the Conservatives in parts of the so-called “Blue Wall” of southern England. The entire council is up for election. (4pm)

– Peterborough is a long-running Conservative-Labour battleground and for decades the council has see-sawed between a Tory majority and no overall control. It is currently run by a minority Conservative administration and Labour will want to make gains to show it is recovering in a city it lost to the Tories at the 2019 general election. A third of seats are being contested. (2.30am)

– Basildon in Essex could provide clues to how the Conservatives are doing in the commuter belt around London. The party won control of the council last year and will hope to consolidate its position in elections for a third of its 42 seats. (1am)

– Stevenage in Hertfordshire is another commuter-heavy area but this time it is Labour who will be hoping to make progress. The party has controlled the council continuously since its creation in 1973 but will want to show it can reverse the losses it made last year. A third of the seats are up for grabs. (2.30am)

(PA Graphics)

– London

– Barnet is Labour’s top target in London for the third election in a row. The party failed narrowly to win control in 2014, while 2018 saw the council swing further towards the Conservatives, with local Labour members blaming the row over antisemitism in the national party. Labour needs to gain nine seats to form a majority. As with every council in London, all seats are being elected. (7am)

– Wandsworth is another long-standing Labour target, but here the party managed to increased its number of councillors in both 2014 and 2018. The Tories have held the council since 1978 and have made a point of charging residents one of the lowest average levels of council tax in the country, so a Labour victory would be of symbolic significance. (5.30am)

– Hillingdon contains the constituency of the Prime Minister and has been controlled by the Conservatives since 2006. Labour is hoping to make gains, but the outcome is hard to predict as the size of the council is being cut from 65 to 53 seats. (4am)

– Westminster has been held by the Tories continuously since its creation in 1964. But Labour has slowly increased its number of councillors at recent elections and will want to make more progress this time. Given the current volatile political climate, plus a reduction in the size of the council from 60 to 54 seats, the final result could be close. (3am)

– Harrow is a council where the reduction in the number of seats from 63 to 55 could work in either Labour or the Conservatives’ favour. Labour won a narrow majority in both 2014 and 2018 but the borough’s electoral districts have been substantially redrawn for 2022 and both parties could profit from the new-look map. (5pm)

– Sutton is a Liberal Democrat-Conservative battleground that has been run by the Lib Dems since 1990. The party should retain control again this year, but the Tories will hope to make gains and chip away at the Lib Dems’ small overall majority. (4am)

– South-east England

– Crawley has tilted between Conservative and Labour control in recent years but neither party has an overall majority. It would take only a couple of gains for either the Tories or Labour to take full control of a council deep in the commuter belt of West Sussex. A third of seats are being contested. (2pm)

– Gosport sees the Conservatives, who have only a small majority on the council, under pressure from the second-place Lib Dems. All the seats are up for grabs and boundary changes across the borough means the outcome will be even more unpredictable. (5pm)

– Worthing is a top Labour target and the party goes into the election level-pegging with the Conservatives on 17 seats each. The Tories currently run the council as a minority administration but Labour has made steady gains in recent years and is hoping to take full control this year. A third of seats are being elected. (2pm)

– Southampton is another Labour target and winning control from the Conservatives would help demonstrate the party is building back support in southern towns and cities. The Tories are defending a majority of two and a third of the seats are being contested. (5am)

– South-west England

– Somerset is undergoing major changes this year in its system of local government. Until now the area has had a county council and four district councils (Mendip, Sedgemoor, South Somerset and Somerset West & Taunton) but these are being scrapped and replaced with a single unitary authority. Elections are taking place for all 110 seats in the new-look organisation, with the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats fighting for control. (4pm)

(PA Graphics)

– Wales

– Blaenau Gwent has been run by a group of Independent councillors since 2017, some of whom used to be in the Labour Party. Labour is keen to take back control and might be helped by a reduction in the number of seats from 42 to 33. (3pm)

– Cardiff is a key council for Labour, where the party will hope to defend its slim majority. The number of councillors is being increased slightly from 75 to 79, which might make the outcome more unpredictable. (5pm)

– Flintshire sits in an area of Wales, the north east, where the Conservatives did well at the 2019 general election. The party won only six council seats in 2017 compared with Labour’s 34, so they are hoping to make an advance this year. For its part, Labour will want to remain the largest party and even win a majority, although the total number of seats is being cut from 70 to 67. (3pm)

(PA Graphics)

– Scotland

– Aberdeenshire is a Conservative stronghold, but like many councils in Scotland, power is shared between several parties. All councils in Scotland are elected using the single transferable vote (STV) system, where voters rank candidates and results are based on preferences rather than the winner-takes-all method used in England. This leads to many councils ending in no overall control, but encourages parties to work together either informally or as part of a coalition. The Tories have run Aberdeenshire in partnership with the Lib Dems and a group of Independents. Their success this year may hinge on the popularity in Scotland of the Tories’ UK leader Mr Johnson. (3pm)

– East Renfrewshire is a three-way battle between the Conservatives, Labour and the SNP with each hoping to end up the largest party. (2pm)

– Edinburgh has been run by a joint SNP-Labour administration for the last five years, but the Conservatives head into this election as the largest party on the council. The Lib Dems and Greens have a smaller number of councillors but both will hope to make gains from the larger parties. (3.30pm)

– Glasgow council has been run by the SNP since 2017 in what has been their first stint in control of the city, albeit as a minority administration. The party needs only a few gains to take full control, but Labour – which had previously run the city since 1980 – is keen to stop them. (4pm)

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