Notable local government by-elections for November showed the continuing theme of a Lib Dem recovery as seen on a national level by the Lib Dem victory in the Richmond Park Parliamentary by-election on 1st December.
In Eastleigh on 3rd November, a Lib Dem council with a healthy majority over the Conservatives, the Lib Dems retained a seat in Fair Oak and Horton Heath with a 12% increase in their vote, compared to the Conservatives reducing 2% and UKIP 4%.
In Gloucester City, the Conservatives held a seat in Longlevens with a 5.1% increase in their vote share to retain their five seat majority but the story was the halving of the Labour vote to 9.7% and the Lib Dems (currently third on the Council with seven seats) increasing their share by 23.4%.
The Conservatives also held a seat at Kingswood in Reigate and Banstead by a comfortable margin with 73.2% of the vote but the main party of opposition was UKIP, who dropped 18.4% with the Lib Dems not standing a candidate. The result cements Conservative control in the borough with less active opposition than in neighbouring Tandridge.
In Cardiff, Labour lost a seat to Plaid Cymru in a marginal ward where they had managed to win all three seats in 2012. The result is that Labour has had its majority in the city cut from six to four.
On 10th November in London, the Conservatives regained a seat in Eltham North from Labour. This is a split ward from 2014 when Labour gained two seats on the same day as the EU elections with UKIP getting 20.6% of the vote. In the by-election UKIP collapsed to 5% (and the Greens reduced from 10% to 3.5%) and the Conservatives were able to regain enough votes to increase their share by 12% and take the seat by 38 votes.
In Wandsworth though the reverse result happened in Queenstown. In 2014 the Conservatives took two seats to Labour’s one but Labour easily defended this seat in the by-election by increasing their share by 13.8% with the Conservatives dropping 6.4%. Whilst the Conservatives still have a healthy 18 seat majority and didn’t actually lose anything in this election, there must be a concern at not being able to challenge Labour in a split ward with an unpopular Labour Party nationally.
In Bath and North East Somerset the Conservatives gained a seat from the Greens on 17th November in a previously split ward. This increased their majority, and therefore political comfort, to 10 and reduced the Greens to a single Councillor. The Lib Dems moved into second in the ward with a 4.8% increase in their vote share.
In Welwyn Hatfield, the Conservatives held their seat in the split Haldens ward against Labour (who hold the other seat) with the Lib Dems once again putting on a good performance with a 20% increase of their vote share to turn the ward into a three way marginal. The Conservatives have control of the borough but the Lib Dems will be bolstered locally by such a result to try and add to their five Councillors.
In Newcastle-Upon-Tyne on 24th November Labour held a seat in Blakelaw ward under a strong challenge from the Lib Dems. Labour’s vote share reduced by 25.6% whilst the Lib Dems increased their share by 21.4%. Newcastle City Council remains firmly under Labour’s control with 55 Councillors compared to the Lib Dems 20, but the Council was Lib Dem controlled from 2004-2011 so boosting their electoral performance so effectively will give confidence to the Lib Dems going forward.
In Tandridge, the Valley ward of Caterham was retained by the Lib Dems when they increased their vote by 16.6%. The Conservatives dropped 8.8%, which will worry them for future elections and for given their recent losses to Residents.
In the important pending by-elections, Waverley have the Cranleigh West by-election on 21st December with the Conservatives, UKIP and Lib Dems having put up candidates. Eastleigh has a by-election on 22nd December in a ward that should stay Lib Dem but with a strong Conservative presence. Broxbourne has a by-election in Waltham Cross in a Labour ward but one that only put them 240 votes ahead of the Conservatives in 2015.