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DUST SETTLES: Where election results leave Solihull

DUST SETTLES: Where election results leave Solihull

Image: LDRS

As the dust settles on Solihull’s local elections, the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) drills into the data and looks at where results leave the borough.

Tories emerge all the stronger:

Ahead of the contest there had been speculation Solihull would revert to “no overall control” for the first time in a decade.

As of last week, the ruling Conservative group held 26 out of 51 seats – meaning their outright majority rested on a knife edge.

With the Greens having effectively ruled out leading a “rainbow coalition”, the Tories would have almost certainly stayed in charge – even in the event of losses.

But a minority administration would have left them far more vulnerable in key votes and possibly opened the door to opposition parties taking control of the council’s scrutiny boards – the panels appointed to assess and question policy.

In the end the Conservatives came out on top in the half a dozen battlegrounds that mattered – snatching gains from the Lib Dems and seeing off challenges from the Greens.

It was, of course, a good set of results across the region for the Tories and it is always difficult to unpick whether local or national issues proved the most decisive.

Cllr Ian Courts, leader of the group, suggested that the successful roll-out of Covid vaccines nationwide – widely credited for a Conservative poll bounce – as well as his own administration’s record may both have had an influence.

Although one Green councillor had suggested afterwards the Tory vote was likely buoyed by the West Midlands Mayoral contest held on the same day.

As widely expected, Andy Street took home a huge share of the vote in Solihull – he secured 41,664 “first preferences”.  His nearest rival in the borough was Labour’s Liam Byrne, who notched up 9,515.

Greens grow – but slightly slower:

Solihull’s second largest party emerged from last week’s contest with an extra seat – courtesy of a gain from Labour in Kingshurst & Fordbridge.

Although the official opposition fell short in their top Tory-facing targets of Shirley East and Castle Bromwich.

They almost came within 100 votes of ousting Conservative deputy leader Karen Grinsell in the first seat, although the Tory victory in the north of the borough was far more emphatic.

It will be a slight disappointment for a local party with a very high success rate of taking those seats it has set its sights on.

That said in all four seats it was defending it won by a comfortable margin.

Nationwide the party also enjoyed success, gaining scores of council seats in England and finishing a strong third in the race for London Mayor.

Although this year it seemed the richest pickings came in those left-leaning Labour areas – Bristol being a good example – where Jeremy Corbyn had previously enjoyed a strong following.

“Small parties” continue to decline:

Both Solihull’s Labour and Lib Dem groups are smaller and seeking new leaders after a tough day.

Tweeting afterwards, the Lib Dems said: “We are bruised at the moment, but [we] are fighters. We will continue to work hard for our communities all year round and won’t give up.”

Losing leader Ade Adeyemo in the marginal seat of Lyndon will undoubtedly be a blow to the party locally – with several colleagues keen for him to return to the fray next year.

Last week’s defeats continues a decline which set in soon after Nick Clegg entered coalition and has never really stopped; the party now has just three councillors remaining in an area where it held the Parliamentary seat for 10 years.

That said, it will take some solace from holding one of the two seats up in Elmdon and the fact it remains competitive both in Lyndon and Olton will give some hopes that recovery is still possible.

Meanwhile Labour also lost its leader and former Mayor Flo Nash.

In recent years the party has managed to see off a Tory challenge in Kingshurst & Fordbridge – the last blot of red on the borough map.

But with the Greens having gained a foothold, it must now fight to avoid a total wipeout within the next couple of years.

Turn-out was actually up:

According to Solihull Council, turn-out in fact increased compared with the previous contest in 2019.

Turn-out then was 30.6 per cent, while last week it was 38 per cent.

This was despite fears that some with concerns about voting in-person, due to Covid-19, would neither go to the polling station nor apply for a postal/proxy vote.

In fact major “get out the vote” drives tied to the Mayoral election may well have boosted turn-out in the council contests.

Although inevitably numbers varied across different areas and while ward-by-ward breakdowns have yet to be released, the three “regeneration wards” – Chelmsley Wood, Smith’s Wood and Kingshurst & Fordbridge – once again appeared to see far lower levels of engagement.

New faces in the council chamber:

Eight out of Solihull’s 17 wards now have at least one new face following last week’s results (Elmdon has two, due to the by-election delayed from last summer).

The full list of newly-elected councillors is as follows: Martin McCarthy (Con, Castle Bromwich), Shesh Sheshabhatter (Green, Chelmsley Wood), Richard Long (Lib Dem, Elmdon), Yvonne Clements (Con, Elmdon), Dave Pinwell (Con, Knowle), Daniel Gibbin (Con, Olton), Angela Sandison (Con, St Alphege), Nathan Moses (Green, Kingshurst & Fordbridge) and Josh O’Nyons (Con, Lyndon)

Cllrs Sandison and McCarthy will be familiar to some, returning to the council having previously represented Elmdon and Shirley South prior to losing their seats in 2019.

The results you may not have heard about:

Headlines over Friday and Saturday were dominated by the results on Solihull Council and the declaration of the West Midlands Mayor and Police and Crime Commissioner.

But borough residents may have missed that two referendums for Neighbourhood Plans in Balsall and Meriden also took place last Thursday.

The public votes are needed for the locally-drafted documents – which help shape planning policy within the respective parishes – to be officially adopted.

They are open to all eligible voters who fall within the relevant area.

Plans must pass by a simple majority and both were overwhelmingly endorsed by those who voted.

In Balsall, the NDP was passed by 1,796 votes to 269, while Meriden’s was carried by a similarly emphatic 756 to 127.

 

Words: David Irwin, Local Democracy Reporter


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