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South West Elections

Looking ahead to the key local election battlegrounds in the South West

We will see 107 local elections taking place across England in May. The majority are held in part with 94 councils electing one-third of councillors and seven councils electing half of all councillors. Six councils will elect all members, four of which are in the South West. Police and Crime Commissioner elections will also be held in May.

In the South West region, eight authorities will be going to the polls, as summarised below:

Whole elections

  • Bristol – No Overall Control
  • Dorset – Conservative
  • Gloucester City – Conservative
  • Stroud – Co-operative Alliance (Greens, Independent Left, Community Independent, and Liberal Democrats)

Elections in Half

  • Cheltenham City – Lib Dem

Elections in Thirds

  • Exeter – Labour
  • Plymouth – Labour
  • Swindon – Labour


Bristol’s political landscape is undergoing a transition as it abandons its Mayoral system in favour of a Committee structure. As well as a changing system of governance, many familiar faces will be stepping aside with half of the current Cabinet and Mayor Marvin Rees not seeking re-election in 2024.

Bristol will be hotly contested between Labour and the Greens, with the parties currently holding 23 and 25 seats respectively. The Green Party secured its position as Bristol City Council's largest political party in February 2023, winning a tight by-election and is pushing hard to consolidate what it sees as a mandate for change in Bristol.

If successful, 2024 would mark a historic shift in political power away from Labour, which has governed Bristol City Council since 2016.


The political mercury is certainly rising across Dorset, with the Council’s current composition setting the stage for a potentially transformative election. The Conservatives' slim majority is under threat, with the Liberal Democrats positioned as the main challenger, capable of either leading a new coalition or possibly securing a slim majority of their own.

The overall political picture looks set to go down to the fine margins and the exact political arithmetic come Friday 3 May. Perhaps the only certainty in Dorset this year is that every seat will count.

Gloucester City

Another close fight is expected in Gloucester where the incumbent Conservative administration holds 21 of the 39 seats in Gloucester City and the slim majority of just two seats makes this one to watch.

With the Lib Dems leading the challenge as the main opposition, they will be looking to jockey themselves as the main beneficiary of an eroded Conservative vote. Labour, who last controlled Gloucester City Council in 2000 will also be hopeful of rallying back to prominence from a lacklustre performance of just 2 seats last time out.


Nestled below the Cotswolds, Stroud presents an interesting electoral picture. The Conservatives and Greens hold 19 seats each, but dig a little deeper and it certainly isn’t a straight shooting match. On the face of it, Labour is not in the running with just 4 seats. However, eight members originally elected as Labour members have since deflected to the Independent Left and Community Independent groups, meaning a Labour recovery isn’t out of the question.

Whether the incumbent Cooperative Alliance (comprised of Greens, Independent Left, Community Independent, and Liberal Democrats) can remain in position comes down to who benefits most from the expected collapse of the Conservative vote in Stroud. Watch closely, Stroud could be another contender to be a Green-led authority.


The political landscape of Swindon Borough Council has seen various shifts over the past decade, with the balance of power oscillating between the Conservative and Labour parties.

The May 2023 elections saw Labour Party gain control of the Council for the first time in 20 years, securing 33 of the 57 councillors. With the 2024 elections seeing the election of one member from each Swindon Borough Council ward (save for Chiseldon and Lawn), there is limited opportunity for change, particularly given the national picture. Swindon is fancied to stay red in 2024.

2024 will be the last time Swindon elects in thirds with a shift to whole council elections starting from May 2026.

Our South West team will be looking more closely at the key battlegrounds across the South West, stay tuned for more insight on Bristol, Dorset and other South West authorities in the coming weeks.

By James Mallinson

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