Welsh local elections: five things to watch out for

It’s almost that time of year again: election season. For our clients, this can be important. Long-term relationships can be lost overnight and a new set of stakeholders with different ideas introduced.

It’s critical that business looks ahead to assess who may be winners and losers in May.

Last year’s devolved elections in Wales saw all three major parties lose out to Plaid Cymru and UKIP. Labour lost its majority in the Senedd and UKIP won its first seats in the assembly, seven of them in fact.

So, what can we expect with local council elections in Wales this May? Here are five things to watch out for:

#1 Lost Labour. Labour achieved 35% vote share across Wales in the last local authority election in 2012. This may fall, due to underperforming councils and weak polling nationally. Carmarthenshire, formerly of Labour control, turned to minority Plaid Cymru control in 2015. A narrow majority on Cardiff city balances precariously in the face of a probable Lib-Dem and Plaid coalition.

#2 Conservative gains. Buoyed by their national polling, Welsh Conservatives will be hoping to gain majority control of at least one local authority in Wales. The party currently operates minority control on Monmouthshire council and needs just three seats for a majority, whilst Alun Cairns the Secretary of State for Wales will be hoping his local party can flip control to the blues of the Vale of Glamorgan. Can Conservatives pick up those few extra seats?

#3 UKIP flops? UKIP had a remarkably successful Assembly election, picking up seven seats. Yet, the party does not have a single councillor in Wales. If they are to win a seat, these will most likely be in the Valleys, where the party registered its highest vote share in the Assembly elections last year.

#4 Flat-lining Plaid Cymru. Fired into the limelight in the General Election debates, Leanne Wood enjoyed some popularity, including winning the Rhondda Assembly seat off Labour last year. Since then the Welsh nationalists have flat lined in the polls. However, the party will be confident of capturing overall control of Carmarthenshire and Ceredigion, but show no sign of truly breaking out of their Welsh-speaking heartland.

#5 Lib-Dem fight-back? Against all odds, Wales voted to leave the EU last June. Having lost all but one of their Assembly seats last year too, the local elections are a key yardstick of any electoral fightback in Wales by the pro-European Liberal Democrats Their best prospect remains Cardiff City Council, formerly a Lib-Dem stronghold. A Plaid Cymru and Lib-Dem coalition might unseat Labour in the Welsh capital.

I shouldn’t neglect to mention Wales’ many independent councillors, who are increasingly coming out and nailing their colours to the mainstream parties. The independents of Wales have been key in forming coalitions and propping up parties with minority control across Wales.

Events of last year have provided that making firm predictions is a mug’s game. We are certain, however, that Wales needs strong local leaders at a challenging time for its economy.

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