With this year’s Cambridge City Council elections completed, Labour now have a comfortable majority of eight, and can settle down to implementing their policies with a firm basis of control. The new Council now looks like this:
Their group of 25 councillors is a dramatic turnaround from the group of just nine that they were reduced to at their lowest ebb in 2010. Conversely, only 14 Lib Dems remain, less than half the group size of 29 that they reached at their peak.
So Labour have a comfortable majority for now, but how might things develop at future elections? Cambridge City Council is elected by thirds; 14 of the 42 seats are up for grabs each year, with a break in the fourth year when the County Council elections are held, most recently in 2013. Here is the pattern over the last three elections:
At the next local elections, which are due to be held at the same time as the General Election on 7 May next year, the councillors elected in 2011 will be up for re-election. This means Labour will have eight seats to defend, and the Lib Dems six. With those seats shown as hollow blocks, this means the balance on the council will be
If this year’s results were repeated in 2015, Labour and a theoretical Castle Independent would each take a further seat from the Lib Dems, increasing Labour’s majority to ten. Conversely, for Labour to lose control of the council next year, they would need to lose five of the eight seats that they have to defend – a wildly unlikely prospect. Losing four would leave them with 21 seats, half the council – but they would then also have the mayor’s casting vote, allowing them to stay in power the same way that the Lib Dems did between 2012 and yesterday. Even this is extraordinarily implausible – of the eight defences, six are now safe Labour seats (Abbey, Arbury, Cherry Hinton, Coleridge, King’s Hedges and Petersfield), even with a General Election on the same day, and only two, East Chesterton and Romsey, are likely to be seriously contested by the Lib Dems. This leaves Labour with a realistic worst case in 2015 of having their majority reduced to four. So barring something totally unexpected, Labour are virtually guaranteed to retain control of the Guildhall until at least 2016. However, we will by then be a year into a new Government at Westminster, the Lib Dems will have two years of Labour track record in Cambridge to attack, and only four City Council seats to defend. Things may look different then.