Peterborough City Council elections: Could the Conservatives’ 20 year grip on power come to an end?

It is now exactly three months until the local elections.

Friday, 7th February 2020, 5:00 am

On Thursday, May 7 voters in Peterborough will be able to cast their vote for 22 city councillors which could have huge implications.

The Conservatives have been in control of the city council since 1999, either with a majority of seats or with the help of other parties/independents.

However, after a net loss of three seats last year they were left with 28 seats out of 60, meaning they have relied on the support of the three Werrington First councillors to have enough votes in the Council Chamber.

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The local elections count in 2019 at The Cresset

And this time the Tories are defending 14 of the 22 seats which are being contested, compared to just four for Labour, two for the Liberal Democrats, one for the Liberal Party and one for Werrington First.

A net loss of even one more seat could make a huge difference, as 27 seats for the Conservatives on top of three for Werrington First would not make a majority, meaning there could be an almighty scramble to try and form an administration with the opposition parties possibly looking to form a coalition cabinet.

With less than 100 days to go, here are some of the things to look out for in May:

Safe seats?

Recent elections suggest there are now fewer safe seats than before. Labour have gone from holding three seats in Bretton to one, while Dogsthorpe has changed from a Liberal Party stronghold to a Labour majority.

Last year, the Lib Dems took a seat off the Conservatives in Hampton Vale while Labour took a seat off the Tories in Orton Longueville. Meanwhile, the Greens made it two wins in a row in Orton Waterville having previously never held a seat anywhere.

All this suggests that everything is up to play for, and in local elections it often only requires a small swing for a seat to change colour.

Lib Dems to keep making gains?

Going into the all-out elections of 2016, the Lib Dems had four seats. Since then they have increased that number to nine despite seeing two of their councillors defect.

Having enjoyed success in several wards in recent years, and with just two seats to defend this time around, will they continue to make progress or have they hit a ceiling?

Big names on the way out

As previously revealed by the Peterborough Telegraph, both council leader Cllr John Holdich and cabinet member for finance Cllr David Seaton are not seeking re-election this year, meaning arguably the two most senior figures at the authority are leaving.

This year sees the councillors who won their wards at the 2016 local elections defending their seats - this includes leader of the Labour group Cllr Shaz Nawaz (Park ward) and leader of the Liberal Democrat group Cllr Nick Sandford (Paston and Walton), although it would be a big surprise if either failed to be re-elected.

Other high profile seats include West ward, where cabinet member for children’s services, education, skills and the university Cllr Lynne Ayres is up for re-election, Ravensthorpe, where current Mayor of Peterborough Cllr Gul Nawaz (Conservative) currently holds the seat, and Fletton & Woodston where the serving councillor is Andy Coles.

Cllr Coles (Conservative) has been the subject of protests after his past as an undercover cop was revealed.

Boris bump?

Last year, council deputy leader Cllr Wayne Fitzgerald, chairman of the Peterborough Conservative Association, called on Theresa May to resign as Prime Minister after the party lost its majority on the council.

Although the local elections will focus on Peterborough issues, national politics will still play a part in how some people vote. With the Conservatives now in a much stronger position nationally than 12 months ago, the Boris bump may give the Tories a boost.

Current balance of seats

Conservatives - 28

Labour/Labour and Co-operative - 17

Lib Dems - 9

Werrington First - 3

Green Party - 2

Liberal Party - 1

Full list of contested seats

WARD AND CURRENT MEMBER

Barnack - David Over (Cons)

Bretton - Angus Ellis (Lab)

Central - Amjad Iqbal (Lab)

Dogsthorpe - Chris Ash (Liberal)

East - Azher Iqbal (Cons)

Eye, Thorney & Newborough - Nigel Simons (Cons)

Fletton & Stanground - James Lillis (Lib Dem)

Fletton & Woodston - Andy Coles (Cons)

Glinton & Castor - John Holdich (Cons)

Gunthorpe - Darren Fower (Lab)

Hampton Vale - David Seaton (Cons)

Hargate & Hempsted - Janet Goodwin (Cons)

North - Mohammed Nadeem (Cons)

Orton Longueville - Graham Casey (Cons)

Orton Waterville - Kim Aitken (Cons)

Park - Shaz Nawaz (Lab)

Paston & Walton - Nick Sandford (Lib Dem)

Ravensthorpe - Gul Nawaz (Cons)

Stanground South - Chris Harper (Cons)

Werrington - John Fox (Werrington First)

West - Lynne Ayres (Cons)

Wittering - Diane Lamb (Cons).

When are the candidates announced?

The candidates are officially confirmed in April. There is no exact date on the Peterborough City Council website, but further details on how to apply to stand as a candidate will be announced nearer the time.

Don’t forget the other election

On the same night as the local elections is the vote for the next police and crime commissioner in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.

The Conservatives have won both previous elections, but Jason Ablewhite will not be seeking a second term after resigning back in November. Mr Ablewhite quit after he had been referred to the Independent Office for Police Conduct after a complaint was made to Cambridgeshire police about messages he had sent on social media.

Fed up of elections?

Yes, five in 2019 (for some) was a lot, but don’t worry, next year there is a break before approximately a third of the council is up for re-election in 2022.

However, for those worried about withdrawal symptoms don’t panic as you will be able to vote for your next metro mayor. Conservative Mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough James Palmer is the incumbent having become the first elected mayor in 2017.