The corporate structure of Milton Road Library

Once upon a time, Cambridge libraries were more straightforward operations than they seem to be today. The County Council owned the building they were housed in, ran the library, and Cambridge residents came in to browse the bookshelves, relax, read the papers, and borrow the occasional book. Nowadays, however, things are a little more complicated. Here is a look at the intriguing collection of companies that appears to be involved with Milton Road Library.


As I write, nobody is browsing the bookshelves at Milton Road Library – the building has recently been demolished, and is to be replaced by a new building which will house a number of flats, as well as a shiny new library. I understand that part of the imposing 1930s entrance has been preserved and will be incorporated in the new building. However, the site is no longer directly owned by the County Council. A collection of freshly-incorporated limited companies has sprung up, and their balance sheets are humming with library-related activity.

Some of the story is told in the minutes of the Council’s Commercial and Investment Committee, which has been dealing with the sell-off of the library site and the setting up of the corporate structure that now owns it. Remarkably, the County Council bans search engines from the site that holds its committee papers, making it much harder to find the relevant information. Fortunately Companies House has a more open policy.

Back in May 2016, the Committee approved the establishment of a Housing Development Vehicle (HDV), a separate company which the Council would own and sell property to, for the HDV to develop. The idea was that instead of selling off property to a developer, the Council could make more revenue by owning a development company itself. The minutes of the meeting record some concern from councillors about this approach. Tellingly, officers advised that “…having Councillors on the Company Board, had led to problems for other Councils – the company needed to be free and agile enough to run its own business.” Instead of councillors, Council officers would take up positions on the company’s board, at least initially. When councillors expressed concerns about whether this would lead to a conflict of interest, “…Officers reassured Members that whilst they would have a role once the HDV was being set up, it was envisaged that professional directors with no connections to the County Council would be in post as soon as possible.” We will see in a moment to what extent this has happened.

The HDV company was duly set up in June 2016, under the name Cambridgeshire Housing and Investment Company Ltd, known as CHIC for short. There were two directors initially, Quentin Baker and Christopher Malyon. Quentin Baker is Executive Director at LGSS Law Ltd, a legal services company jointly owned by Cambridgeshire, Northamptonshire and Central Bedfordshire councils; Chris Malyon is Deputy Chief Executive and Chief Finance Officer of Cambridgeshire County Council. In April 2017 they were joined on the CHIC board by David Gelling, an experienced property developer who has previously been involved with companies based in Tattenhall, near Chester. His LinkedIn profile reveals that he has worked on property development for the Ministry of Defence, and has “extensive property and political contacts in the London, Manchester, Liverpool and Birmingham markets.” At time of writing, Mr Gelling is the only director without a direct connection to the Council. Exactly how and why he was selected for this role is unclear, at least to me.

The decision to sell Milton Road Library to CHIC was taken at the October 2017 meeting of the Commercial and Investment Committee. CHIC would redevelop the site, replacing the existing building with seven flats and a new library. The Council would then lease the library back for a period of up to 25 years. The minutes report the capital value of the site as £1.82 million, and the rental of the library as £13,668 a year. The committee noted that the seven flats “…did not meet the City Council’s threshold for affordable housing, which was ten homes. The decision on whether to sell or rent the properties would be down to the developer.” The plan was duly approved.

In February 2018, CHIC changed its name to This Land Ltd and sprouted a number of subsidiary companies: This Land Asset Management Ltd, This Land Development Ltd, This Land Finance Ltd, and This Land Investment Ltd. All four subsidiary companies have the same three directors and are wholly owned by This Land Ltd. None of them have yet done anything very exciting, at least not that has to be reported to Companies House. This Land Ltd, in turn, remains 100% owned by Cambridgeshire County Council.

Milton Road Library is not the only Council property that This Land is involved with. Mr Gelling’s LinkedIn profile says This Land “…will primarily focus on residential developments, creating in excess of 1000 new homes and will create neighbourhoods in both rural and urban locations.” One supposed advantage of having a separate company is that the Council can borrow money at low rates, and then lend the same money to This Land Ltd at a commercial rate, pocketing the difference. However, as long the company remains wholly owned by the Council, this seems to amount simply to shuffling money around – This Land Ltd is expected to make large paper losses in its early years.

So what does all this matter? I think there are two key concerns. Firstly, this structure seems to make the management of these formerly Council-owned properties more opaque and more remote from elected councillors. Secondly, there is inevitably the concern that the continued – and enormous – financial pressures on the Council will lead it at some point to consider selling off some or all of its 100% stake in This Land Ltd, effectively privatising formerly publicly-held assets.

Arbury Councillor Jocelynne Scutt has tabled a question for Tuesday’s Full Council meeting asking for more information about This Land, and in response the Chairman of the Commercial and Investment Committee, Councillor Josh Schumann, has offered to circulate a briefing note to all members. Let’s hope that the Council will publish it to the general public. We will be watching developments carefully.



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Can Labour form a minority Government?

In a slight change to this blog’s regular topic, here’s a look at the political picture nationally rather than just in Cambridge. One question that has been raised since Labour’s better-than-expected showing in the General Election on Thursday is whether or not Labour could realistically form a minority Government. Here’s a look at the numbers, starting with the composition of  the new House of Commons:


The Conservatives are the largest group with 317 MPs – or 318 if you include the Speaker, but as he is neutral and does not normally vote, I have listed him separately. Labour are 55 seats behind the Conservatives, with 262. Amongst the minor parties, Sinn Fein now have 7 MPs, but they do not take their seats in the Commons and so do not vote. The other seats in Northern Ireland are now all occupied by the DUP, except for North Down which is held by an Independent, Lady Sylvia Hermon.

As I write, the Conservatives are busily trying to conclude an agreement with the DUP which would make the Commons arithmetic look like this:


The 317 Conservatives plus the 10 DUP MPs would add up to 327, while all the other MPs, apart from Sinn Fein and the Speaker, would total 315 – this would give the Government an effective majority of 12. However, if the Conservatives cannot ultimately enlist the support of the DUP, then their 317 MPs would face a combined opposition of 325 – enough to defeat them by eight votes.

So could Labour form a minority government instead? Their immediate problem, on putting forward a programme for Government in a Queen’s Speech, would be that their 262 MPs would be outvoted by the 317 Conservatives, by a margin of 55. Clearly, they would need support from other parties. Let’s look at what those parties have said about this.

The SNP’s Nichola Sturgeon has said, “If there was to be a hung parliament and the parliamentary arithmetic allowed it, I would want the SNP to be part of a progressive alternative to a Conservative government, not in a coalition.” So that’s probably enough of a basis, at least in theory, to add the 35 SNP MPs to Labour’s total. That brings it to 297, still 20 votes behind the Conservatives.

What about the Lib Dems? On the face of it, their policy would seem to rule out any sort of pact or deal with Labour. But, for the sake of argument, let’s assume that they find some way of supporting Labour against the Conservatives. That adds 12 more votes, bringing the total to 309, still eight votes short of the Conservative total. Let’s throw in the four votes of Plaid Cymru, and the vote of the lone Green MP, Caroline Lucas. We’re now up to 314 for our theoretical anti-Conservative alliance, still three votes behind the Conservative total of 317.

With Sinn Fein and the Speaker out of the picture, that just leaves the 10 DUP MPs, and Lady Sylvia Hermon. Even if the DUP MPs abstain on the Queen’s Speech, that’s not enough to put Labour in power – the Conservatives would still have three more votes. For Jeremy Corbyn to become Prime Minister, he would need the active support of the DUP as well as all the other non-Conservative parties. The DUP have explicitly ruled this out, saying that they would not support a Labour Government while Jeremy Corbyn remains leader. So barring something completely unexpected, such as mass defections, or a Conservative-Labour Grand Coalition, there is no way that Labour can form part of the Government as things stand.

Update: Julian Huppert points out that as well as the Speaker, there are three Deputy Speakers, who don’t vote either. The rules state that one of them comes from the same side of the House as the Speaker, and two from the other side. This doesn’t change the conclusion that Labour can’t govern without DUP support.

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The 2017 General Election result in Cambridge

As I left the Guildhall in the early hours of Friday morning, following Labour’s resounding victory in the contest for Cambridge MP, I met a large and very happy group of Labour supporters. Several of them expressed a keen interest in reading my next blog post. So here it is – I’m sure they’ll enjoy it.

It was already pretty clear by the time the polls closed on Thursday evening that Labour were going to win, but I’m not sure anyone was expecting the result to be quite as overwhelming as it was. My own best guess at the time was 41% for Labour to 35% for the Lib Dems, but this was well wide of the mark – Labour’s actual margin of victory was 52% to 29%. This is the first time any candidate for Cambridge MP has won over half the vote since Anne Campbell’s 53.4% in the Labour landslide of 1997. Before that you have to go back to Robert Rhodes James’s victory in the 1976 by-election to find a candidate winning more than half the vote.

Both main parties put in a huge effort on polling day, significantly in excess of what they managed in 2015. As I was out knocking on doors I was particularly struck by how many campaigners there were on the streets whom I didn’t recognise, a marked contrast to the situation in local elections.

I’m sure you’re expecting a few graphs at this point. And I’m not going to disappoint you. Here are the Cambridge vote shares compared to the last General Election in 2015:


In contrast to 2015’s knife-edge result, Labour’s 2017 win can only be described as emphatic. I’d been expecting the Conservatives to improve on their terrible showing in 2015, with Brexit playing a role and no UKIP candidate, but in the event they managed only a tiny improvement. The evaporation of the Green vote was a marked feature of the result, with much of it presumably going to Daniel Zeichner, despite a determined campaign from Stuart Tuckwood. Here are the graphs again, this time showing the actual numbers of votes, rather than the percentage share:


This graph makes clear how much Labour’s win was due to the increase in their vote, rather than the Lib Dem vote falling. Julian Huppert’s tally was down by 1,676; but in contrast Daniel Zeichner added 10,386 votes to his 2015 total. It’s likely that Labour’s victory came primarily from turning out previous non-voters, rather than in converting Lib Dem supporters. They probably also got a net benefit from former UKIP voters.

Back in May, Lib Dem hopes had been raised by a relatively competitive showing in the County Council elections. Although Labour won seven seats in the city to five for the Lib Dems, in terms of vote share they ran Labour pretty close, and were heartened by the fact that previously their Parliamentary vote share was ahead of their vote share in local elections. Here’s a comparison of the vote shares in the local and General elections this year:


As you can see, the 2017 local election graph looks a lot like the graph of the 2015 General Election, with the two main parties pretty close and the Conservatives and Greens well behind. But just five weeks later the picture looked very different. One reason why is clear from a graph of the absolute number of votes in the local and General elections:


As you can see, the turnout at the General election was much larger than in the locals – for every ten votes that Labour got in Cambridge on May 4th, they got 23 on June 8th. Meanwhile the Lib Dems got only about 14 General Election votes for every ten in the locals. (These figures are based on the estimated local election vote in the Cambridge constituency; boundary changes mean we don’t have exact totals).

Commiserations, then, to Julian Huppert and the other unsuccessful candidates, and congratulations to Daniel Zeichner, as he enjoys his victory party this evening. As I cycled to the count across Jesus Green on Thursday evening, with bats flying low around the trees, I reflected what an enormous privilege it is for Cambridge’s MP to represent this amazing city. I’m sure Daniel would agree with that.

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My prediction for the Cambridge 2017 General Election result

Update: I’m now expecting a Labour hold in Cambridge. See the final paragraphs for more.

With polling day nearly upon us, here is a look at the prospects for each of the candidates for Cambridge MP, and some predictions as to how they will fare on June 8th.

Locally, this year’s campaign has had a lot in common with the 2015 contest – once again it has been a closely-fought contest between Labour’s Daniel Zeichner and Lib Dem Julian Huppert, with a less well-known Conservative candidate struggling to make much impact. Nationally, of course, circumstances are radically different from 2015, with Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour leadership victory, the Brexit vote, and David Cameron’s sudden departure having transformed the political landscape. Of course, there are some points in common too. In an article about the 2015 campaign in Cambridge, I said:

Ed Miliband has come across better than many people (including me) expected, and has not turned out to be as much of a liability as he once seemed. Meanwhile the Lib Dems have struggled to make much impact nationally, a far cry from the Cleggmania of 2010.

Arguably it’s a similar story this time – Labour’s poll average has increased significantly during the campaign, though from a low base, while the Lib Dem poll rating has languished.

On, then, to the candidates, in reverse order of how many votes I expect them to get. As ever, bear in mind that I’m a Lib Dem member, and I’ve been actively involved in campaigning this year, so this is probably all a cunning ploy to get you to vote for Julian.

I’m expecting last place to be occupied by Keith Garrett, running once again on a platform of government by randomly-selected groups of citizens. Last time Keith garnered just 0.4% of the vote. This time his ballot paper description is “Rebooting Democracy” instead of 2015’s “Removing the Politicians”, but I’m not expecting this to make a great deal of difference to his level of support. I think Keith will win less than 0.5% of the vote this time, well short of the level needed to retain his deposit – so he could have saved himself a good deal of trouble by making a pile of a hundred £5 notes and setting fire to them. I hope he has enjoyed the campaign.

Fourth place is likely to go to the Green party candidate, Stuart Tuckwood. Cambridge has proved a frustrating constituency for the Greens in recent General Elections. Despite having a solid level of support in local elections, a large part of it tends to melt away when it comes to choosing Cambridge’s MP. Here are the results from 2015, with the General Election results in darker colours and the Council election results in lighter colours.

As you can see, the Greens got more than twice as many votes in the Council elections as they did in the General election. The graph suggests that much of their missing support went to the Lib Dems, though the vote switching pattern is probably more complex than this. I’m not expecting a Green breakthrough in Cambridge this year; Green support has fallen since the last General Election, and nationally their focus is on retaining Brighton Pavilion and winning Bristol West. In Cambridge, Stuart Tuckwood has had nothing like the resources that were squandered so ineffectively by Tony Juniper in 2010, or the repeated visits by Green leaders that supported Rupert Read in 2015. Given all this, I’m expecting the Green vote share to fall slightly this time to around 6%. If this does happen, it’ll be no fault of Stuart’s – he’s a passionate, committed and likeable campaigner who I’m sure we’ll see more of in Cambridge politics.

Along with almost everyone else who is politically active in Cambridge, I’m expecting Conservative candidate John Hayward to finish in third place. A last-minute selection for a seat where the Conservatives were already a distant third, he has struggled to make much impact on the campaign, with few canvassers on the streets, little leaflet delivery, and activists of other parties competing to spot the rare Conservative posters. I think it’s fair to say that he has found little support amongst hustings audiences – though (at least at the ones I’ve attended) these have been noticeably more partisan than in 2015, with fewer “ordinary voters” in attendance. There are of course some points in John Hayward’s favour. He has an unusual and impressive backstory compared to many Conservative candidates; the Conservatives, despite recent wobbles, are still higher in the polls than in 2015; and with no UKIP candidate in Cambridge this time, he is the only mainstream Leave supporter on the ballot paper. While Cambridge did only have a 26% Leave vote, this is still 10% higher than the 16% vote share recorded by Conservative Chamali Fernando in 2015. While the 2010 Conservative candidate, Nick Hillman, managed to snatch second place from Daniel Zeichner by a few hundred votes, that was after a much longer campaign that was more attuned to Cambridge. I think a top two Conservative finish is wildly unlikely this time. However, with UKIP’s 5% of the vote up for grabs, and starting from the low base of the 2015 result, I do think John Hayward will increase the Conservative vote share slightly. My best guess is that he’ll end up on 18%.

Rounding Keith Garrett down to 0%, that leaves 76% of the vote for the two leading candidates, Labour’s Daniel Zeichner and Lib Dem Julian Huppert. This is of course their third contest for the Cambridge seat, with the score standing at 1-1 so far, though with Julian’s 2010 majority of 6,792 just slightly more comfortable than Daniel’s 2015 knife-edge lead of 599. Both are battle-hardened campaigning veterans with large and effective teams of activists behind them. How will they fare this time?

As noted above, while there are a lot of similarities with the 2015 contest, a great deal has changed too. One of the most significant factors in Cambridge election results is the extent to which the Lib Dems manage to “squeeze” the Conservative vote by persuading natural Conservative supporters to lend the Lib Dems their vote in order to keep Labour out. My impression this time is that the Conservative vote was a bit less squeezable at the start of the campaign, with Brexit clearly a factor, but has softened somewhat as the campaign has gone on and Labour have reduced the gap in the national polls.

In terms of “feet on the streets”, there has been plenty of activity from both main parties. My impression is that, as usual, Labour have probably done more canvassing, and the Lib Dems are ahead in leaflet delivery. There seem to be more Labour posters on display across the city, but that was also the case in the last two General Elections, and in any case, as we saw with the Greens in 2010, posters don’t necessarily translate directly into votes. One noticeable change from 2015 is that the Labour student organisation, CULC, while still active, hasn’t been quite so prominent in the campaign this time – hardly surprising with University exams underway at the moment.

So my best guess for the result of the 2017 General Election in Cambridge is… aggravatingly, not going to be revealed until the polls close at 10pm on Thursday. I can only apologise for this after you’ve read so much of the article, but with activists from the two main parties going all-out over the next few days to win those extra votes, I’m not going to pre-empt their efforts now. Check back here when the polls close for an update. But here’s a prediction to keep you going until then: I think it could well be even closer than the 1.2% margin of victory in 2015.

Update: The polls have just closed, and I’m at the Guildhall to watch the votes being counted. I’m now expecting a Labour hold in Cambridge; while it could still be a close result, I think it’s mostly likely that Labour have done enough to retain the seat with an increased majority – my best guess is 41% for Daniel Zeichner to 35% for Julian Huppert. This is partly due to the increase that we’ve seen in Labour’s national poll rating as the campaign has gone on, and partly due to the effective local campaign that Daniel Zeichner’s team have run, successfully mobilising an army of activists. The Lib Dems have put in a strong campaign locally too, but their national poll rating has only gone sideways during the campaign from its already low 2015 base, as their strong anti-Brexit position failed to gain much traction. As a Lib Dem member I would very much like to be wrong, but I’m expecting to see Daniel Zeichner returned to Parliament for Cambridge.

However, I don’t think it’ll be unalloyed joy for Cambridge Labour supporters, as I’m not expecting a Labour government. It’s been an unusually volatile campaign, and Labour have certainly improved their position against a lacklustre performance from Theresa May, but I’m just not convinced that they’re going to oust the Conservatives from power. Recent electoral history is littered with unexpected events, of course. We’ll know soon enough how close it is this time. As the next few hours unfold, follow me on Twitter for a running commentary live from the Guildhall.

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Cambridge General Election Hustings events

I’ll aim to keep this page up to date with details of General Election hustings events in Cambridge. If you have any corrections, or details of one that isn’t listed here, please contact me on I’ll add links to any recordings that become available.

  • FeCRA Virtual Hustings: Available on YouTube here.
  • Mon 8 May, 8pm: Arts and Culture in Cambridge: The Election Debate. Junction 2, Clifton Way. Coverage: Cambridge News live blog; Antony Carpen’s video; Richard Taylor’s video; Cambridge 105 interview.
  • Tue 9 May, 5pm: Europe Day Hustings: General Elections & Brexit. LG19, Law Faculty, Sidgwick Site. More details here.
  • Wed 10 May, lunch: Hustings for Hills Road Sixth Form students, details here.
  • Tue 16 May, 7:30pm: Jubilee Centre, Eden Baptist Church, 1 Fitzroy Street. More details from @JubileeCentre. Coverage: Richard Taylor’s video.
  • Wed 17 May, 7:45pm: Human Rights, Equality and Refugees hustings, Emmanuel United Reformed Church, Trumpington Street. More details from @CamRefugees.
  • Tue 23 May, 10:30am: Disability hustings at Papworth Trust. Details from @PapworthPolicy. – Postponed following the Manchester attack.
  • Tue 23 May, 6pm: BBC/Cambridge News hustings, Churchill College – invited audience only, but details of how you can apply for an invitation are here. –Postponed to 1 June following the Manchester attack.
  • Wed 24 May, 8pm: Cambridge Cycling Campaign hustings, Friends Meeting House, Jesus Lane. More details here. – Cancelled following the Manchester attack.
  • Thu 25 May, 7:30pm: Cambridge Questions Election Special, hosted by Cambridge 105’s Julian Clover. Portland Arms. Tickets are free; you can get one here.
  • Tue 30 May, 10:15am: Cambridge Network hustings, William Gates Building, 15 JJ Thomson Avenue. Free to attend, but register here. – Claire Ruskin of Cambridge Network tells me they are now diverting their audience to the other hustings as there are rather too many now clashing following the postponements.
  • Sun 28 May, 12 noon: Broadcast of Cambridge Questions Election Special on Cambridge 105 (recorded on 25 May). Repeated on Monday 29 May at 6pm
  • Tue 30 May, 7:30pm: Cambridgeshire NUT Education Election Question Time, NCI Sports and Social Club, 1 Holland Street. Details here.
  • Wed 31 May, 5:30pm: Anglia Ruskin and Cambridge University Students’ Unions hustings event, Lab 002, Anglia Ruskin University, East Road. Tickets are free; you can get one here.
  • Wed 31 May: Live debate featuring senior figures from seven parties on BBC One, broadcast from Cambridge. Details to follow.
  • Thu 1 June, 12:00-2pm: Cambridge Assessment hustings, Howard Theatre, Downing College. Free but book here. Also live online.
  • Thu 1 June, 6pm: BBC/Cambridge News hustings, Churchill College – invitation only.
  • Sat 3 June, 6:30pm: Cambridge University Television: Cambridge Debates GE17, Trinity Hall and live-streamed on Facebook. Details here; book free tickets here.
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What do the local election results say about the contest for Cambridge MP?

I am currently sitting in the Guildhall waiting for the conclusion of the mayoral election count, so here’s a very preliminary look at the local election results for Cambridge, which were declared earlier today. Labour won seven seats to five for the Lib Dems:

  • Abbey: Labour held off a strong Lib Dem challenge to win with a majority of 75
  • Arbury: A relatively comfortable 412-vote win for Labour ahead of the Lib Dems
  • Castle: Independent John Hipkin lost out in a tight three-way race, finishing 27 votes behind Labour but 14 ahead of the Lib Dems
  • Cherry Hinton: A comfortable win for Labour in their safest seat
  • Chesterton: Lib Dem Ian Manning scored a solid win, 308 votes ahead of Labour
  • King’s Hedges: An improved Lib Dem performance, but Labour held them off by 191 votes
  • Market: A fairly comfortable win for Lib Dem Nichola Harrison by 287 votes
  • Newnham: Lib Dem Lucy Nethsingha won 51% of the vote and a 548-vote majority over Labour
  • Petersfield: Another seat where Labour won ahead of an improved Lib Dem vote, with a margin of 249
  • Queen Ediths: A very solid win for Lib Dem Amanda Taylor, 716 votes ahead of Labour despite boundary changes
  • Romsey: Similarly to Petersfield, Labour won by 274 votes from the Lib Dems
  • Trumpington: A Lib Dem victory by 269 votes from Labour, with the Conservatives third once again.

Labour and the Lib Dems were neck-and-neck in the vote across the city, with the Lib Dems winning 13,572 to Labour’s 13,542, just 30 ahead.

So what does this mean for the Cambridge result in the General Election in five weeks? There are a couple of reasons why we can’t extrapolate directly. Firstly, the Cambridge local election results include Queen Edith’s, which isn’t part of the Cambridge Parliamentary constituency. The Lib Dems won a majority of 716 votes in Queen Edith’s, and although boundary changes cloud the picture a little, this means Labour won more local election votes in the Cambridge Parliamentary constituency overall. On the other hand, Labour tend to do slightly better in local elections compared to General Elections, though this factor is far from constant. The bottom line is that the contest for Cambridge MP looks very close, with only a few votes likely to separate Daniel Zeichner and Julian Huppert on June 8th.

Update: Across Cambridge (including Queen Edith’s), Rod Cantrill got 13,273 first-round votes in the mayoral election, 1,051 votes ahead of Kevin Price, who got 12,222. Allowing for the Queen Edith’s effect, this also points to a very close race between Labour and the Lib Dems in the Cambridge constituency.

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My predictions for the 2017 Cambridge local election results

This year I’m going to be one of the Lib Dem counting agents at the election count, whose duty it is to scrutinise the process, so blogging and tweeting will have to wait until after the results are declared. The count takes place in two phases – the verification stage, which checks that the right number of ballot papers are in each ballot box, followed by “counting into favour”, i.e. separating the ballot papers to see how many votes each candidate has got. Normally these phases take place one after another, straight after the polls have closed, with the results usually being declared in the small hours of Friday. By closely observing the verification stage, party workers can get a pretty good idea of how the vote has gone in each polling station area, and will know which seats are going to be close and thus need special scrutiny during the counting into favour stage.

Things are a little different this year, partly because both the council and mayoral elections are being held on the same day. The verification stage will take place straight after the polls close as usual, but the ballot papers will then be locked away for the remainder of the night until Friday morning. Counting into favour for the County Council seats will begin at 9am, so we should get these results declared by mid-to-late-morning; counting into favour for the Mayoral election will begin at 12:30pm. Unless one candidate gets more than 50% of the first choice votes (which is unlikely), there will be two stages to the mayoral count. The two candidates with most first choice votes go through to a second round; all the other candidates are eliminated, and second choice votes from those ballot papers are then added to the first choice votes for the surviving two candidates. The whole thing has to be coordinated across several different counting centres across Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, so it all takes some time – I’m expecting the mayoral result to be declared some time in the late afternoon.

Because of the verification stage, party workers will have a pretty good idea overnight of what results are going to be declared on Friday. However, the law requires that the secrecy of the count must be maintained, and I won’t be sharing any information about how things have gone until the results are declared.

For the last few years I’ve published predictions for the local council results beforehand, but this year I’m not going to until 10pm on Thursday – just after the polls close but before the count starts. Look out for them on Twitter.

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