Friday, 16 December 2016

My analysis of local by-elections from the first 3 weeks of December 2016 and on local governmental reform

Readers, the results of local by-elections featuring Green Party candidates within the first three weeks of December 2016 were as follows:

(01/12/16):

South Northamptonshire DC, Grange Park:  Conservative 244 (58.4%, -9.7%), Labour 105 (25.1%, -6.8%), UKIP 49 (11.7%), Green 20 (4.8%)

Tower Hamlets LBC, Whitechapel: Independent (ex-Tower Hamlets First) 1147 (44.7%, +4.4%), Lab 823 (32.1%, +6.5%), Con 217 (8.5%, +0.7%), Lib Dem 173 (6.8%, -0.1%), Green 170 (6.6%, -6.4%), UKIP 34 (1.3%).

(08/12/16):

Lancaster BC, University & Scotforth Rural: Lab 98 (34.9%, -1.0%), Green 79 (28.1%, -3.8%), Con 68 (24.2%, -1.5%), Lib Dem 36 (12.8%, +6.3%)

Maldon DC, Maldon West: Ind 279 (38.1%), Con 172 (23.5%, -5.3%), UKIP 114 (15.5%), Green 69 (9.4%, -10.3%), BNP 51 (7.0%), Lab 47 (6.4%).

(15/12/16):

Fife UA, Leven, Kenneway & Largo (1st preference votes): SNP 1501 (37.0%, -4.1%), Labour 1155 (28.4%, -6.9%), Conservative 752 (18.5%, +11.7%), Liberal Democrats 580 (14.3%, +4.3%), Green 74 (1.8%)

As I was writing rather extensive analyses on the Richmond Park by-election and the Sleaford & North Hykeham by-election during the weeks of 1st December and 8th December, I did not have time to comment on those local by-elections then, especially since there are not many local by-elections in December and those that do have very low turnouts indeed. This was exemplified in the by-election of student-dominated University & Scotsforth Rural ward, which I sincerely hoped we would gain even with many students not voting (and more not even registered) in light of Labour becoming increasingly useless in the eyes of many under Corbyn's tenure.

Elsewhere in local by-elections where no Green Party candidate was present, the Liberal Democrats were regaining ground in rural areas of the West Country, particularly Devon and Somerset. The Taunton Deane result is notable here not only because of the very large 40.15% swing, but also because Taunton Deane council is planning a merger with the much smaller and nearby West Somerset council, and once this happens the whole ward map will need to be redrawn.

This is likely just predicting another trend of local government reforms-the rural Dorset councils could end up merging as well with Bournemouth/Poole/Christchurch (aka South East Dorset) having absorbed half of Dorset's current population into its conurbation. Buckinghamshire's four district councils are requesting 'unitarisation' of Buckinghamshire, especially with Buckinghamshire County Council's grant set to disappear in a matter of years. Many small districts have now become ipso facto suburbs of large cities-Broxtowe & Gedling are effectively now one with the city of Nottingham and the majority of South Gloucestershire (but not the area currently covered by the Thornbury & Yate constituency, just so you know!) is almost entirely intertwined with the city of Bristol. The same is applicable with quite a few villages in the South Cambridgeshire district with regards to the city of Cambridge, particularly with more suburban development set to take place there.

Increasing urbanisation and suburbanisation is in my opinion more responsible for this than budget cuts to council grants (to all types of councils except in the wealthier areas, like Surrey). With many conurbations having already absorbed towns and villages containing tens of thousands (hundreds of thousands in some cases) of people into their new effective boundaries, I would not be surprised to see another round of major structural local government reforms in the next decade and/or the abolition of possibly all remaining county councils in Britain .Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland no longer have any county councils at all, the metropolitan county councils have not existed for 30 years (meaning all metropolitan boroughs are really just unitary authorities), and of the 39 non-metropolitan counties which still overall form the two-tier basis for the local government system we have in England, seven have already been split and another five have been 'unitarised' (stripped of all underlying districts).

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