Local elections 2018: the numbers

Tomorrow, local elections are being held in 32 London boroughs, 30 metropolitan districts, 17 unitary authorities and 67 district councils across England. There will be five council mayors elected in Hackney, Lewisham, Newham, Tower Hamlets and Watford as well as a metro mayor election for the new Sheffield City region.

What happened in 2017?

Directly after the 2017 local elections, the number of councils controlled by party in England was as follows:

  • Conservatives: The 2017 local elections saw the number of councils controlled by the Conservative party rise by nine to 200. This was the largest number of councils controlled by them since 2010.
  • Labour: Labour lost control of one council in the 2017 local elections; and the number has remained fairly constant at around the 100 mark since 2012.
  • Liberal Democrats: The Liberal Democrats gained control of one council, which puts them in control of more councils (8) than any time since 2014 (10).
  • The Green Party won 20 seats (1% of the seats up for election).
  • The United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) were successful in one seat in the 2017 local elections.

The Conservatives continued to have the most councillors in Great Britain (9,233) and the Labour Party the second largest share of councillors (6,439).

Chart illustrating figures discusse din post re party membership over time

The 2018 Local Elections – comparing like with like

Local council members are elected for four year terms using the first past the post system. There are a variety of electoral cycles with three methods of holding elections to local councils: wholes; halves; and thirds. Consequently, it is difficult to compare council results year on year as this would involve comparing elections in different councils. To give an accurate picture of underlying change, it is better to compare to the results from four years’ previously.

Below is a look at the corresponding elections in England from 2014:

  • The Conservatives retained control of 164 councils immediately following the 2014 local elections. This was a loss of 16 councils compared to 2016 and 35 compared to the corresponding elections in 2010, when they controlled 199. The 2014 result left them with the lowest number of councils controlled since 2005. They won 32% of the seats up for election (1,366), down from the 38% of available seats in 2010 (1,609). The percentage of seats won was the second lowest since 1998.
  • The Labour Party gained control of three councils in 2014 from 103 in 2013, leaving them with their highest number in the last decade (106). This was an increase of 56 from the 50 controlled immediately after the 2010 local elections. They won 2,124 seats in 2014, (50% of the seats up for election), compared with 1,778 they won in 2010 (42% of seats available). Winning 50% of the seats up for election in 2014 was the highest percentage in the last decade.
  • The Liberal Democrats controlled 10 councils following the 2014 local elections, this was a decrease of two from the 2013 local elections and 15 from 2010. They won 429 seats in 2014, 10% of the seats up for election. This was the second lowest percentage of seats won in the last twenty years, the lowest coming in 2015 where they won 7% of the seats available.
  • The Green Party won 37 seats in the 2014 local elections (1% of those available). This compares to the 13 seats they won in 2010.
  • UKIP won 163 seats at the 2014 local elections (4% of seats up for election). This compares to the one seat they won in 2010. The 2014 result was their second highest percentage of seats won in the last decade; they won 6% of seats available in 2013.

London Boroughs

In London all seats in the 32 boroughs are up for election, which happens every four years. Since 1964 the Conservatives have controlled the most councils on four occasions and Labour, ten. Some London boroughs have been under continuous control of one party; Labour has controlled Barking and Dagenham and Newham after each election since 1964 whereas the Conservatives have controlled Kensington and Chelsea and Westminster. Since 1998, 8 boroughs have seen no change in political control.

Table showing London council control by party from 1998-2014

The House of Commons Library will be collecting results from local authorities and publishing a summary analysis of the 2018 Local Elections. Our local elections paper from 2017 can be found here: Local Elections 2017 and further historical local election results can be found in our research briefing, UK Election Statistics, 1918-2017.

Sources: Rallings and Thrasher, Local Elections in Britain: A Statistical Digest, April 2003; Rallings and Thrasher, Local Elections Handbooks, various years; the House of Commons Library

Picture credit: Polling Station  by Simon ClaysonCreative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC by 2.0)