No overall control

Nine local authorities in Essex had elections last month, and six of them ended up with no single party commanding a majority in their respective council chambers (and Harlow’s Labour administration saw its majority reduced to one). For a county that completely embraced the Conservative message in 2010 this is some significant change. Seventeen of the county’s eighteen Members of parliament sport the blue rosette, and the Liberal Democrats in Colchester means a clean sweep for the Government parties at Westminster.

Since 2010 there has been a steady nibbling away at the Conservative councillor base, and NOC was likely this year in one or two places before the UKIP surge. UKIP did not just eat into Conservative support; Labour had realistic dreams of taking Basildon, and UKIP have removed Labour’s majority in Thurrock.

In Southend-on-Sea three of UKIPs five successes came at the expense of the Liberal Democrats, two from the Conservatives. Labour may have held them at bay here, but it would be wrong to suggest that our vote was not affected. Besides, in Kursaal ward it may have been a UKIP win at the expense of the Conservatives, but Labour were the favourites having won the ward in the previous two elections.

No overall control means either a coalition or a minority administration, and either way there will be challenges. It will be four years before UKIP can be removed from local government in Essex, although the next set of elections for these authorities is less than twelve months away, and I am sure UKIP high command will be dreaming of more success.

The coincidence of the next set of elections with the General Elections will certainly influence local election voting patterns, if for no other reason than it should more than double turnout. If UKIP is a protest from those fed up with the traditional parties then this influence will be drowned out. If there is a systemic change to four party politics (something that I personally see little evidence of) then we could see all sorts of strangely formed administrations in the council chambers of Essex.

The picture for the nine local authorities in Essex who held elections this year is as follows:

Con UKIP Lab Ind LD Grn Others
Basildon NOC 17 12 10 2 1
Brentwood NOC 18 3 1 11 4
Castle Point NOC 20 5 15
Colchester NOC 23 8 3 25
Epping Forest Con 37 2 1 2 3 1 12
Harlow Lab 11 5 17
Rochford Con 27 3 1 3 2 3
Southend-on-Sea NOC 19 5 9 13 5
Thurrock NOC 18 6 23 2

Castle Point has one vacant seat in Canvey Island East and there is an imminent by-election. Colchester also has one vacant seat, and was NOC prior to this May’s elections.

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