Friday, 5 May 2017

Counting the County

A luxury of sorts that we have here in Medway is that our Unitary Council deals with matters that a county council would handle in a dual-tiered area, as well as the borough matters. Thus Medway Council deals with education and highways (for example) as well as waste collection and libraries, among other topics.

Therefore, when it comes to county council elections, we can sit back and relax while the rest of Kent goes to the polls. This is what happened yesterday; and many other elections were going on around the country, from county and district/town/borough to mayoral elections and even a by-election in the nearby Tonbridge & Malling council area.

Despite there being no impact in my home area, I felt that this was all so significant on this occasion – especially falling so close to the snap General Election next month – that I stayed up all last night to follow the results as they came in. I resumed at mid-morning to get the results from those places that did not count their votes overnight but had waited until the morning to make a start. These included Kent County Council, in whom I was understandably most interested.

Anyway, there were 81 seats being contested in various 'divisions' as they are called, some having one seat and others having two seats. This was down three seats from the previous 84, owing to some boundary changes. The resulting seat counts were as follows…

Conservatives 67 seats
Liberal Democrats 6,
Labour 5
Green 1
Liberal Democrat Focus Team 1
Swanscombe & Greenhithe Residents' Association (SGRA) 1

Note especially that UKIP, who had 17 seats before the election, were completely wiped out – something that happened almost universally around all of Great Britain where elections were held on this occasion. Altogether, GB-wide, UKIP lost over 50 councillors, and retained just one.

The oddity with the Lib Dem designations has meant that officially the party group comprises six members – already more than Labour so making the yellows the official opposition group – but in practice the 'Focus Team' member will undoubtedly form part of that group. Labour's membership, meanwhile, has lost more than half of its former twelve seats.

Overall, this is a healthy step-change for the county council in clearing out much of the deadwood, though in the longer term it needs to achieve a less one-sided make-up, which could lead to cosiness and stagnation. That, though, is for the next elections in four years from now.

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