In May’s 2023 local elections in England, the Liberal Democrats won 72% of the seats on Bath & North East Somerset. In Broxbourne, the Conservatives won 90% of the seats that were up for election. In Tameside, the Labour party won 90% of the seats. You would think that all these parties had massive, near-universal support in their local areas. But that’s not what happened.
In Broxbourne, 50% voted Conservative; In Bath and North East Somerset, 42% voted Liberal Democrat, and in Tameside, 48% voted Labour. Certainly popular, but not universal support.
Following 2022’s local council elections, Lewisham became a 100% Labour council when 52% of Lewisham voters backed the party.
Why don’t England’s local councils represent how we vote?
Simply put, a party can win all the seats without gaining all the votes because every candidate only needs one more vote than the runner up to win the seat.
You can see how this can play out in York’s Copmanthorpe ward. The Conservative candidate was elected.
But imagine if this happened in every ward, then the Council will be run by one Party that only won 29% of the vote and would not face any opposition from within the Council.
All local elections in England use First Past the Post even if the electorate is electing more than one Councillor in their ward. When there is more than one vacancy, voters have the same number of votes as there are vacancies. E.g. if there are 2 seats available, then each voter can cast 2 votes (for different candidates), and the top two candidates will win.
This can exasperate the problem as most people will cast both their votes for candidates from the same party. In Chester West & Chester council, the ward of Christleton & Huntington saw the Conservatives win the 2 seats up for election – the vote shares were – Conservative 24.4%; Green: 21.9%; Labour: 19.9%; Independent: 17.1% and Liberal Democrat: 16.7%.