Following yesterday’s local elections, Cambridge City Council now has a delicate balance of power. The Lib Dems hold 21 seats, as do the combined opposition, with 19 Labour, one Conservative and one Independent:
While this is technically No Overall Control, in practice the Lib Dems will retain effective control of the council, barring any defections or other unexpected events. Under the Local Government Act, the outgoing Mayor, Lib Dem Ian Nimmo-Smith, keeps the right to vote until his successor is appointed, which means that the Lib Dems will be able to ensure that a Lib Dem mayor is elected at the next council meeting on May 24th. This new Mayor will wield a casting vote, so with the Council split 21-21 the Lib Dems will still get their way, and they can continue to decide the Leader, Executive and policy of the council. Of course, this depends entirely on all the Lib Dem councillors, and the outgoing Mayor, actually turning up. If anything should happen to prevent Ian Nimmo-Smith from chairing the next council meeting, his Labour deputy Caroline Hart would replace him in the chair, and things would turn out very differently. I’m sure he is being careful to look both ways when crossing the road.
When the next City Council elections are held in May 2014, however, things will look very different. Fourteen seats, one third of the total, will then be up for election. Of these, the Lib Dems currently hold 11 and Labour just three, which means the situation will be as follows (hollow blocks are seats up for election):
Labour will go into the elections already holding 16 seats, and will need to win just six more of the 14 to be guaranteed control. This year they won eight. By contrast, the Lib Dems will only have ten seats left, and will need to win eleven seats even to keep control on the Mayor’s casting vote. This year they won just four. While a lot can happen politically in two years, it seems almost impossible that the Lib Dems will keep control, and extremely likely that Labour will win a clear majority in 2014.
However, this is still some way off. In the meantime, one other interesting question is what effect the elections have had on the political balance of the Area Committees. There are four of these in Cambridge; they deal with local issues in particular parts of the city. The Lib Dems used to control three of them, but not any more.
The North area, which covers Arbury, Kings Hedges and East and West Chesterton is now evenly split between the Lib Dems and Labour:
In the East (Abbey, Coleridge, Petersfield and Romsey), Labour have extended their grip:
Following Labour’s shock win from the Lib Dems in Queen Edith’s, and the Conservative win in Trumpington, the Lib Dems no longer control the South area, which covers these wards plus Cherry Hinton:
Only in the West/Central area do the Lib Dems still have a majority, with just Independent councillor John Hipkin to keep them company:
Whatever else may happen over the next couple of years, they are certain to be politically very challenging for the Cambridge Lib Dems.