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Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Local Elections: Analysis – Gedling Borough Council

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With Labour’s relatively slim majority, the Conservatives – even if they don’t quite say so in public – quietly fancy their chances of taking back control of Gedling Borough Council.

On paper at least, the area has all the hallmarks of a former coal mining area, but with high home ownership. It has pockets of deprivation and leafy rural expanses.

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Some parts feel like you’re still in the city, others like you’re in the middle of nowhere.

It’s Labour who have held the upper hand electorally in recent years, but it’s never far off the top of the Conservative target list.

At the last local elections, in 2015, Labour won 25 seats (21 is the winning post for a majority), the Conservatives won 15 and there was one liberal democrat councillor.

Election Guide – What the parties say: Gedling Borough Council

Local Elections 2019: Full list of Gedling Borough Council candidates released

So while a Conservative majority seems improbable, Labour would only have to lose five, and their majority would be gone, opening the door to a possible coalition.

Historically, control of the two parties has swung several times, even sharing power at one point.

In 2011, Labour regained control, and go into this year’s election having run the council for the last eight years.

Ironically, one of the main issues on the doorsteps is something beyond the control of any of the candidates – Brexit.

In the referendum, 55.6 percent voted leave, compared to 44.4 percent who opted to remain.

Countless senior Tories at Westminster have said the current Brexit impasse could damage their chances in the local elections, but it remains to be seen how much – if at all – the national picture will affect the local vote.

It also doesn’t feel safe to assume frustration with Brexit will only damage the Tories, and leave Labour unscathed.

If opinion polls are anywhere near accurate, then the two main parties are collectively much less popular than they were four years ago.

Whether or not smaller parties can capitalise on this and break through to take seats remains to be seen.

Slightly closer to home than Brussels, the two massive developments – at Teal Close and Chase Farm – will change the face of the borough, and are likely to be major issues for those living nearby.

Like all councils, Gedling was handed a minimum house building target by the Government – 7,250 by 2028.

Almost all of these have already been given planning permission, with just under a third of them on the two biggest new estates.

This means a lot of new neighbours, a lot of disruption, and potentially a lot of disgruntled residents.

Likewise, the multi-million pound Gedling Access Road will be another significant – but temporarily disruptive – development for the area.

Predictably, the main themes of the campaigning by the major parties have been the evergreen issues – filling potholes, clearing up dog poo, and protecting green spaces. The bread and butter of being a councillor.

But an existential issue also sprung to life last year, and remains on the backburner.

A plan by the Conservatives at County Hall would have seen the borough council abolished altogether, and replaced with one new county-wide authority.

This, they said, would save millions at a time when councils are cash-strapped, and would have helped improve council services.

But Labour strongly opposed the plan, and are only too keen to point out that many Gedling Conservatives standing this time around voted to abolish the council just a few months ago.

In response to the ‘super council plan – which has now been indefinitely shelved – Labour in the city drew up its own plan to expand into Gedling, Rushcliffe and Broxtowe.

This was publicly opposed by all parties in Gedling, but many Conservatives think Gedling Labour remain too cosy with their city counterparts.

But after all the huffing and puffing, the parties have shouldered arms for the time being – albeit caveated with a warning that plans are still ‘living documents’.

Keen to capitalise on the general feeling of despair over Brexit negotiations will be UKIP and the Liberal Democrats.

UKIP currently have no councillors, but are hoping to change that, with candidates in seven wards (out of 19).

The Liberal Democrats, who go into the election with one councillor, are fielding 30 candidates across 12 seats.

There is also a healthy smattering of independents – something which could become key if no party can win a majority.

The election will be held between 7am and 10pm on Thursday, May 2. A result is expected around 1pm on Friday.

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