Councils to watch on polling day
With the media focus squarely on who will occupy the green benches in Parliament come May, it is easy for development professionals to miss the fact that there will be a full complement of local elections on the same day.
These will be just as important for anyone who works with the planning system: while the Government may make the rules, it is up to councils to produce Local Plans and it is their planning committees that will determine most applications.
In light of that, we've taken a look at which councils might see changes in control come May. We'll be keeping you updated throughout the election season and beyond, but if one of these councils is relevant for your work, you might just want to keep an eye on the campaign. The voters have, in some respects, the fate of your business in their hands!
In High Peak, Labour only needs to gain one seat to turn their minority administration into one with an outright majority. All 43 council members are up for election. If Labour can hold their current seats, a further collapse in the Liberal Democrat vote in Limestone Peak could deliver the victory they need. Labour will hope the conventional wisdom that says that General Elections bring out their voters in a way that local elections don't is true.
Fylde will also hold an all-out election. The Conservatives, who secured a majority in 2011, have run the Council since 2003. Fylde's Independent Group is likely to put up a strong challenge this time around, threatening that majority status. The extensive Independent presence in Fylde makes it a difficult one to predict, and the Conservatives are sure to be worried.
One-third of councillors in Stockport, where the Liberal Democrats have retained the numbers for a minority administration throughout their national decline, are up for election. The Lib Dems will hope that they have hit their 'floor' in Stockport – both Labour and the Conservatives will hope that they are wrong. Last year, the Liberal Democrats won in Bredbury Green & Romiley, where the Conservative Group leader, Syd Lloyd, will be in a fierce fight for re-election.
All-out elections offer Labour the chance to win a majority in Lancaster for the first time since 1999. They would need to win seven more seats than in 2011, which would seem a tall order. New electoral boundaries add an element of unpredictability and will have a lot of candidates and electoral agents feeling uneasy: a good night for Labour nationally could carry them into power in Lancaster.
West Lancashire has been very close for some years, with last year's election evenly split between 27 Conservative and 27 Labour councillors. Which way will it tip this year? Labour might like their chances, with switching only 50 votes in Bickerstaffe or gaining Knowsley, where they won in 2012 and 2014, likely to do the trick.
We've taken a look at who'll be setting planning and housing policy, and supervising devolution and local authorities, from now on.
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