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LCC Election Analysis 2013

LCC Election Analysis 2013We promised readers our analysis of the results from the recent LCC elections.

In the run up to the election we highlighted the presence of Greens and UKIP candidates almost throughout Fylde, and we noted that whilst UKIP clearly wanted to capitalise on disaffected supporters from the three main parties, we thought the Greens were after the votes of anti-fracking people that are growing in numbers, but that probably, those numbers would not yet be enough to dent the other parties.

We also said you didn't have to be a genius to work out that the Conservatives would lose overall control at the County. We attributed that partly to a reduction in party worker numbers who have left after being disenchanted with the way their party is moving (as evidenced by the big swing to UKIP in other elections), and it was partly things like the incredibly stupid waste of money with Dim Tim's 20 mph signs. But mostly we thought it would be the social policy and in particular benefit changes nationally that would see Labour restored to power in County.

We also agreed with the Blue Mole that we thought Peter Buckley (Princess Karen's husband) was not expected do well in what was thought to be a "a no-win seat for him in St Annes." We thought Howard Henshaw would walk it. We also thought his wife Karen Henshaw had a good chance of unseating Fabian Craig-Wilson in St Annes South. We were uncertain about the UKIP candidates but thought they might do well if they worked hard, and we thought in Fylde the Greens and Labour would not do well.

So how did we do with our predictions? Well, some were quite accurate and some were glaring howlers.

Nationally we got the mood of the country right. A huge surge to UKIP and significant but not disastrous losses for the Conservatives was the main feature. Labour did less well than could be expected. The Lib Dems had a bad experience, losing 124 council seats and coming fourth behind UKIP in the projected national share of the vote.

Locally (as we should probably have guessed), Fylde did not follow the national pattern.

Probably the most spectacular result was the overturning of Howard Henshaw's 2,000 majority by Conservative Peter Buckley who won with a clearly convincing majority of 1,500 547 majority by Conservative Peter Buckley who won with a clearly convincing majority of 207. He did an excellent job and is to be congratulated on his stellar performance.

We were also wrong about Karen Henshaw's prospect of winning St Annes South. She dropped from 1,353 votes last time, to just 494 votes this time. So credit is due to Fabian Craig Wilson for the effort she put in to gain twice as many votes as her nearest rival.

It's tempting to think that the Henshaws were the victims of the national downswing for Lib Dems, but if we look at Lytham's result, where Carol Gilligan also stood for the Lib Dems, she actually improved slightly on her result from last time, increasing it from 528 to 600. OK that's not the end of the world, but if the St Annes downswings had been echoed in Lytham, she would have been down at around 150 votes, so clearly something else is at work here.

As we predicted, Tim Ashton retained Lytham quite easily, but has lost power and his Cabinet position at the County Council.

Fylde South was, again as we predicted, a close race for second between Julie Brickels and Kiran Mulholland - both very able cllrs but with differing styles. There was just ten votes between them.

In Fylde west, Independent Paul Hayhurst consolidated his small lead of 23 or so from last time to a convincing lead of over 400 votes, and, equally as expected Liz Oades stormed home to win Fylde East again.

Partywise, Fylde's conservatives bucked the national trend and improved their position. Labour had very mixed results - a couple of candidates doubled their vote from last time, and other halved it. We were especially surprised this happened to Marjorie Sherwood, who we know won the hearts of several of the anti-fracking supporters with her interest and her stance on this issue.

The Lib Dems did badly in Fylde, although (to us) it's not exactly clear why some did so badly (given Mrs Gilligan's performance).

UKIP did more or less nothing - with those who did little campaigning polling low 400's - 500s and even the better known ones not improving much beyond 700 votes.

So we're pretty much sure that our MP Mark Menzies isn't going to have to worry too much about the UKIP threat in Fylde - at least not unless there is a big change in strategy and the capability of the UKIP candidates. Likewise, we can hardly see any electoral impact being gained by the Greens (and others) who embraced the anti-fracking agenda, so we guess Mr Menzies can take comfort from that as well.

So what of the County picture?

Well it was mixed. technically classed as 'no overall control' Labour gained the biggest number of seats with 39. The Conservatives took 35. There were 6 Liberal Democrats, 3 Independents (including, we must congratulate, Sandra Perkins who did so much to try and keep Garstang Tip open), and one Green.

The arithmetic in that result is really complicated and has taken two weeks of talks and negotiations to reach some sort of conclusion.

We heard that both Labour and Conservatives were courting the smaller groups in the hope of achieving an agreed overall majority.

We also heard that the independent councillors were arguing for all issues to be judged on merit, ie that free votes should be allowed on all issues. Some were pushing for the idea of a change back to the Committee system for the County Council and away from the Leader and Cabinet system. We understand progress on this came close to agreement with a sort of halfway house proposal of a cross party 'rainbow coalition' sub-cabinet structure that would have given input to all groups - but in the end this could not be agreed.

Then we heard that one of the Lib Dems in particular was agitating to get a firm agreement with Labour which would be akin to the national Coalition agreement. We didn't think that would work out, because even from what little we know of the LCC Lib Dem group, it encompasses a fairly wide range of views, and it wasn't likely they would all be able to stay together in a Labour dominated agenda.

However, the finale to the negotiations was announced last week. For the purposes of choosing the Leader and Cabinet, the Lib Dems have agreed to support Labour in forming an administration and will look at working as closely as they can with them.

Supporting Labour to form an administration is probably as it should be, because Labour gained the most seats and by rights should be able to govern, yet the people of the area chose to balance the County Council in the way they have, and we think it's right that decisions commanding widespread support should go through, and those that don't should be lost on the basis of an open and transparent majority vote in Council.

Thankfully there is not to be a formal coalition agreement, but we believe there is to be some advance agreement on broad issues, and on policy, and we believe there is to be an attempt to try and reach agreement on issues before Council meetings.

Those who are civic anoraks (like us) might like to follow this link to see the provisional agreement between Labour and the Lib Dems.

We're less excited with this working together behind the scenes approach. We like debate out in the open, not with negotiations taking place behind the scenes to pre-obtain a majority, but we're not yet sure that - in practice - such pre-agreement would work ,and so we'll have to wait and see.

The provisional agreement argues that "The prime role of [the County] council is to provide the infrastructure to promote sustainable economic growth and to support the vulnerable." We're not so sure we would have that as our primary aim, but it's where the new administration is going.

One good thing is that the agreement commits to changing LCC's Constitution so that the first and second opposition groups have a place at the Cabinet table by right. This is nowhere near as good as changing to the Committee system, but not as bad as a single party Cabinet.

Rural and deprived areas might do well out of plans for improved bus services. Road repairs are to be a focus, as is gritting, and especially the siting of grit bins in hilly areas.

They're also planning a review of the Household Waste Recycling Centres (former tip's) with special reference to having one in Colne. Whether St Annes and Garstang and elsewhere will get their 'tip's' restored is anyone's guess. The Lib Dems (and others) made a great fuss about their closure, so this might be a chance to reverse the loss.

The worst news on the policy front is that from what we can see, all of the main parties at County Hall are retaining support for the awful 20 mph scheme, so there will be no change there. In fact we're picking up that it might be more enthusiastically enforced.

Dated:  27 May 2013


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