by David Bean

Counting has now concluded for the local elections held on Thursday 5 May amid mixed results for the two main parties.

Labour has gained a net six councils and the Conservatives lost twelve, with Labour gaining a net 238 councillors and the Conservatives losing 399. In England, however, the result was a great deal closer with Labour’s net gains amounting to three councils and just 22 councillors. At this point in the electoral cycle both sets of results outperformed their parties’ worst fears while failing to meet their best hopes.

The election has proved a boon for smaller parties with the Liberal Democrats gaining control of five councils and 189 councillors. In Wales, Plaid Cymru’s net gain of only one councillor was belied by its takeovers of Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion and Anglesey, whereas in Scotland the SNP’s net gain of 62 councillors brought it control only of Dundee. Concerningly for rural interests the Green Party gained a net 84 councillors though no councils, whereas a net 218 councillors representing ‘other parties’ lost out.

Few of the major changes took place in rural Britain. Aside from Plaid Cymru’s gains the main shifts were the Conservatives’ losses of Huntingdonshire, Maidstone, Monmouthshire, West Oxfordshire and Wokingham, each to no overall control, and Gosport to the Liberal Democrats. The Liberal Democrats also took control of Somerset, Westmorland & Furness and Woking, and enjoyed an impressive result in St Albans where they maintained control and surged to a total of 50 councillors.

Previewing the elections, we wrote:

“At this time the interests of the whole country, rural and urban, can best be served by a renewed focus on the core interests that matter to us all: security, local services and the cost of living. Harassing farmers and land managers with town hall condemnations at a shouty minority’s behest should fall well below the bottom of councillors’ to-do lists.”

With the results in, these thoughts remain relevant as ever and the Countryside Alliance will be monitoring councils’ priorities. As eyes turn to the Queen’s Speech, the whole country will have chance to see how serious the Government is about tackling the real challenges that face our country.

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