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An Eastward Shift AB

An Eastward shift: how local elections in the East of England point to changing political winds

DevComms account executive Aleksis Butler examines the entire East of England’s local election results and considers which way the direction of political travel is heading.

The recent local elections revealed a substantial national swing against the Conservatives, in line with many polls’ predictions. Across the country, the Conservatives lost nearly half of the seats they were defending.

While this pattern was evident in the East of England, the results were more muted than Labour might have hoped, suggesting that the region’s political landscape remains complex and diverse.


Labour emerged as the largest party in Basildon Council, but without overall control, following the Conservative party’s loss of 12 seats.


In Brentwood, the Liberal Democrats did not achieve a breakthrough, leaving the council without overall control. The Conservatives retained their position as the largest Party with 19 councillors, while the Liberal Democrats held 17 and Labour three. Despite all 39 seats being contested, the outcome left the council in a familiar state of uncertainty.


The Conservatives maintained their grip on Broxbourne Borough Council, retaining all nine seats they were defending. The Tory majority in Broxbourne has been unbroken for 50 years, and this election reinforced that streak. Labour retained just one of the 10 seats contested.


Labour’s control of Cambridge City Council was solidified, retaining all of its seats in the recent election. The Green Party, however, scored a notable victory, winning a seat previously held by a prominent Liberal Democrat. Hugh Clough secured a win for the Greens in Newnham, defeating Lucy Nethsingha, who also serves as the Liberal Democrat leader of Cambridgeshire County Council.

Castle Point

Independent councillors took complete control of Castle Point Council, unseating all remaining Conservative councillors. The council is now comprised entirely of independent groups, with 24 members from the People’s Independent Party and 15 from the Canvey Island Independent Party. This unique outcome was influenced by nomination issues that left 13 Conservative candidates off the ballot papers.


Colchester remains a council with no overall control, with the Green Party gaining one seat while the Liberal Democrats lost one. Despite this, the Liberal Democrats continue to run the council with a minority administration. The Conservatives hold a significant share of seats, but no single party has secured a majority in Colchester’s elections since 1996.

Epping Forest

The Conservatives retained control of Epping Forest District Council, but with a reduced majority of three seats. This marks a continued decline for the Conservatives, though they have governed the council since 2007. The clean sweep in rural wards helped the Tories maintain their slim edge.


Labour’s gains in Harlow reduced the Conservative majority to just one seat, as Labour won four seats from the Tories. Despite this narrow margin, the Conservatives held on to control. The situation is complicated by the re-election of a Conservative councillor, James Leppard who was suspended by the party after he was accused of posting Islamophobic comments on social media. Despite his suspension, Leppard was re-elected in the Church Langley South and Potter Street ward. The outcome leaves the council’s leadership hanging in the balance as the investigation into Leppard’s comments continues.


Labour solidified its dominance in Ipswich Borough Council by expanding its majority, gaining eight additional seats. This surge brought their total to 28 councillors, a record in over 20 years. The Conservatives suffered significant losses left the Town Hall disheartened, with their representation reduced from seven seats to five. The blow was compounded by the failure to win back three seats held by independents who had departed from the Tory party since 2021.

North Hertfordshire

Labour came within one seat of an overall majority in North Hertfordshire, gaining eight seats, while the Conservatives lost eight. Despite Labour’s gains, the council remains in a state of no overall control. In the 2019 local elections, the Conservatives held an overall majority in North Herts with 28 seats. However, this year, Labour made significant gains, the party’s progress reflects a considerable shift in the political landscape, leaving the Conservatives with a diminished presence in a traditionally conservative area.


Norwich City Council remains in no overall control, with Labour one seat shy of an overall majority. The Green Party made two gains from independent councillors leaving Labour as the largest party.


The Conservatives lost 11 council seats in Peterborough, dropping from the largest party on the previously hung council to the third-largest, behind Labour and the Independent Peterborough First group. Labour’s gains included the election of Daisy Blakemore-Creedon, who at 18 became one of the youngest councillors in the UK. Discussions are expected to determine the next leader and the potential structure of a coalition, power-sharing deal or confidence-and-supply arrangement. Labour’s group leader Dennis Jones has indicated a preference for partnering with just one other group, suggesting that Peterborough First is the most likely ally for a stable administration. The Independent Peterborough First group now plays a key role in determining the council’s administration.


Rochford Council remains without overall control. The Liberal Democrats gained three seats, becoming the largest single party, while the Conservatives dropped from 14 to 10. The coalition administration comprising independents, Liberal Democrats and the Green Party is likely to continue given the lack of an overall majority. This coalition-based governance model has been a common feature in Rochford, providing a mix of political representation while addressing the absence of a dominant party.

St Albans

St Albans City and District Council remains in Liberal Democrat control, despite minor changes in seat allocation. The Liberal Democrats retained a majority with 44 councillors, while Labour gained two seats with the Conservatives losing one. Labour’s success came at the expense of both the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives. Mike Hobday and Emma Turnbull, the Labour candidates, were elected in the London Colney ward, representing Labour’s new foothold.


Labour became the largest party in Southend, gaining four additional seats while the Conservatives lost four. Independent councillors maintain a presence with seven seats, the Liberal Democrats control four and the Green Party holds two. The shift in power dynamics reflects Labour’s growing influence, though the council’s composition is still fragmented. However, the council remains in a position of no overall control.


Labour’s gains in Stevenage were dramatic, securing an eight-seat majority while the Conservatives were reduced to a single seat. This outcome displaced the Conservatives as the official opposition party, with the Liberal Democrats taking on that role.

Three Rivers

The Liberal Democrats retained their majority on Three Rivers District Council, despite losing a seat to the Green Party. For the third consecutive year, the Green Party expanded its presence on the council, adding one more member to reach a total of three seats, equalling Labour’s representation on the council. The Green Party’s gain was one of the few changes in the council’s make-up, which largely retained its existing structure.


Labour’s gains in Thurrock signalled a major shift, gaining control for the first time since 2014. Thurrock’s political landscape has seen turbulence, especially following the council’s declaration of effective bankruptcy in December 2022, due to failed investments in solar farms, resulting in debts of around £1.5 billion. Labour’s success marks a significant shift in Thurrock, a district with the fourth highest Leave vote in the 2016 Brexit referendum. The recent election underscores a changing political dynamic as Labour gains control, setting the stage for a new era of governance following a period of financial instability.


The Liberal Democrats solidified their control over Watford Borough Council by gaining three seats from Labour. The party now holds 31 of the 37 seats, suggesting a continued Liberal Democrat dominance in Watford’s political landscape. Labour’s setback and the Conservatives’ lack of representation further emphasise the Liberal Democrats’ growing control in Watford’s political landscape.

Welwyn Hatfield

The Conservatives lost their overall majority in Welwyn Hatfield in May 2023, leading to a joint Labour and Liberal Democrat administration running the council prior to the 2024 elections. In the 2024 election, the Conservatives suffered additional losses, losing 10 more councillors, while Labour gained eight and the Liberal Democrats won two additional seats. Labour emerged as the largest party with 20 councillors, though they remain five seats short of an outright majority. The Liberal Democrats now hold 16 seats and the Conservatives retain just 12 after their losses. Despite Labour’s significant gains, the council remains in a state of no overall control.


The overall trend in the East of England indicates a shift away from the Conservatives, although the results were mixed across the region. Labour’s gains suggest growing momentum, but there is also evidence of a broader disaffection with traditional parties, as seen with the rise of independents and smaller parties. While the focus of these elections was on local governance, the broader implications for national politics are significant, particularly as the region gears up for a General Election.

By Aleksis Butler

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