The North West has always been a strong area for the Labour party and Thursday's election results strengthened their grip on the region, writes Sam Schofield.
The 25% jump in Labour's representation saw them win more than half the 2,200 seats contested last week.
Labour's performance, though good by most measures, was still less spectacular than it managed across England as a whole, a 50% increase in seats.
In part, this can be put down to the performance in the 15 metropolitan authorities of Greater Manchester and Merseyside where Labour only won 16% more than it had last time round, a function of being the dominant player to begin with and having less headroom to make gains.
Across England, the Tories more or less stood still, an impressive feat for a party of Government as voters normally use local elections to attack the party in power at Westminster. Conservatives in the North West performed less well, losing 8% of their seats. The Liberal Democrats, after a catastrophic performance across England, losing one third of their seats, did slightly better here in the North West losing 'just' one quarter.
Beyond a blizzard of statistics, what does all this mean?
Well, more than one quarter of our councils have seen a change in control. Labour's dominant position in terms of councillors is reflected in council control. From Bury, won by a hair's breadth after the final seat to be announced was declared a dead-heat and subject to a drawing of lots, to St Helens, where Labour now have 93% of the seats on the council, Labour has overall control in 18 councils, and a strong enough position in a handful more to give them effective leadership in more than half of the North West's councils.
In the urban corridor along the Manchester Ship and Rochdale Canals, from Liverpool in the West to Oldham in the East, Labour now has majority control of 12 of the 17 authorities, and is the largest group in three others. Only Stockport – Liberal Democrat – and Trafford – Conservative – stand out as significant urban authorities not led by Labour.
Elsewhere in the region, the two Cheshire authorities remain in the hands of the Conservatives, with relatively weak gains by Labour. Lancashire and Cumbria are more a mixed bag, with the Conservative vote strengthening in West Lancashire and Ribble Valley, Blackburn and Blackpool returning to the Labour fold, and Copeland and Barrow remaining strongly Labour. The only Liberal Democrat majority council left in the North West is South Lakeland.
Now that the elections season is out of the way, we're into the AGM season – converting election wins and losses into council appointments. By the end of May each of the 40 councils in the region will have had their AGM and selected new members to their planning committees, executives and scrutiny boards. This period is perhaps even more critical to developers than the outcome of the election itself – new ward members may be influential but the post-holders appointed at the AGM will be the main decision-makers.
- Sam Schofield is director of PPS North