Labour became the largest party in local government in Great Britain following the 4 May 2023 local elections, which were held in 230 councils in England. For the first time in recent history, councils are more likely to have ‘no overall control’ than be controlled by a political party.

The Conservatives lost 1,063 seats, while Labour gained 537 and the Liberal Democrats 407. If the voting patterns witnessed in these elections were duplicated in a general election, writing in the Sunday Times, politics professors Colin Rallings and Michael Thrasher predict that Labour would become the biggest party in Parliament with 298 seats.

Seats up for election

Local councillors are elected for four-year terms using the first past the post system. Across England elections were held for 8,025 seats (8,519 including by-elections). With some exceptions, these seats were last up for election in 2019, when both Labour and the Conservatives lost seats to smaller parties and independents. After the 2023 elections there were 24 seats left vacant for various reasons. There were also elections for four local mayors.

Local election results in England

The diagram below shows changes in council control in England between 2019 and 2023. In 2019, there were 57 councils controlled by a Labour majority, which increased to 71 in May 2023. The Conservatives controlled 89 councils in 2019 and now have 33.

Council control in 2019 and 2023

Source: BBC, local election results 2023

Local elections in Northern Ireland 

Local elections were held for all seats on the 11 local councils in Northern Ireland on 18 May. Votes were counted using the Single Transferable Vote system. 

Sinn Fein became the biggest party in local government, winning 30.9% of first preference votes and 144 seats. The Democratic Unionist Party won 122 seats and 23.3% of first preference votes. The Alliance Party came third with 13.3% of first preference votes and 67 seats.  

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