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The Dorset Council Elections: Every seat counts

As May approaches, the second set-piece elections for Dorset loom on the horizon. Who will hold the reins of power in this picturesque corner of England?

A look at the Council's current composition underscores the high stakes of the election in May. Currently, the council is composed as follows:

· Conservatives - 43 seats (a working majority of 2)

· Liberal Democrats - 27 seats

· The Green Party - 5 seats

· The Alliance for Local Living - 4 seats

· Labour Party – 2 seats

· Independent – 1 seat

With the Conservative Party having held a fragile majority since 2019, and national polling predicting a collapse in the Conservative vote, the upcoming elections are widely tipped to see a change in the balance of power in Dorset.

The key indicators show the Council falling into No Overall Control. However, predicting the impact to the Conservative vote in rural Dorset, which has been somewhat a blue heartland, could see an outcome which bucks the national trend.

Back in the realms of the likely, the Liberal Democrats, buoyed by an impressive performance in the adjacent BCP Council in 2023, will be confident that they are well-positioned to be the main beneficiary of a collapse in Conservative support.

The Lib Dems will have one eye on securing a slim majority of their own. This would be a fairly seismic shift in the political landscape across Dorset and would put meat on the bones of recent poor national polling for the Conservatives.

However, the safe money is on the Council falling into No Overall Control. The Conservatives could well be the largest single party but unlikely to have the support across the floor to form a minority administration. This leaves the Lib Dems as most likely to lead an alliance supported by the Greens and Labour.

Central to the election discourse will be how the authority grapples with delivering its housing need and to what extent this includes sites within the Green Belt. While the Local Plan has stalled, its most recent iteration saw in the region of 3,000 units located in areas with Green Belt protections. How candidates grapple with the crossroads between conserving the Green Belt and delivering the level of housing needed to sustain its community, will likely be a defining factor.

As the political mercury rises across Dorset, its residents have a decision to make and with it comes the direction of local governance and planning policy.

The current composition sets 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 sets to go down to the fine margins and the exact political arithmetic come Thursday 2nd May. What is certain, is that in Dorset, every seat will count.

By James Mallinson

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