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Local Elections 2018 – South West


With less than one month to go until this year’s local elections, becg’s Bristol team has taken a look at the key local authorities across the South West that are holding elections in May.


In Swindon, the council currently consists of 30 Conservative, 25 Labour and two Liberal Democrat Members with one third of councillors being up for election on the 3rd May. The Council has been controlled by the Conservatives since 2004.

To gain control of the Council the Labour Group need to gain three seats directly from the Conservatives or can draw level with the Conservatives by taking two seats directly off them and gaining a seat from the Liberal Democrats.

Key wards to look out for include Lydiard and Freshbrook, Shaw and Haydon Wick, all of which have narrow Conservative majorities, and the Liberal Democrat held ward of Eastcott. Cabinet Members Councillor Garry Perkins (Cabinet Member for Regeneration) and Councillor Mary Martin (Cabinet Member for Communities and Place) are both standing for re-election in marginal wards (Haydon Wick and Shaw respectively). Areas of contentious development include growth in the North, West and Eastern parts of the town, not least the Eastern Villages proposals.

Prediction: Conservative Hold (just)

We expect the Conservatives to narrowly hold on in the Shaw and Haydon Wick wards therefore holding onto the council.


Cheltenham Borough Council holds elections every two years, with half of the seats available up for grabs each time. Cheltenham is currently run by a strong Liberal Democrat administration, which has a majority of 20. Despite this however, the MP, Alex Chalk, is Conservative.

The Tories will be looking to make some inroads in this year’s election, capitalising on the Liberal Democrats’ unpopular decision to approve the Joint Core Strategy and the Cheltenham Plan.

Prediction: Lib Dem Hold (comfortably)

Despite some unpopular decisions, we would expect the Lib Dems to retain their healthy majority come 3rd May, given the strong majority they currently enjoy.


There are 13 council wards in the City, each represented by three members. On 3rd May one third of the 39 councillors (one member per ward) are up for election meaning the entire City will go to the polls. Labour currently runs the council, holding 29 out of the 39 council seats giving them a large majority over the Conservatives who hold eight seats. Labour has controlled Exeter City Council since 2012.

Key wards to look out for include Pinhoe, Pennsylvania and St Loyes where councillors were elected with majorities of under 100 votes at the last election in 2016. Additionally, Cabinet Members Councillor Rachel Sutton (Portfolio Holder for Economy and Culture) and Councillor Stephen Brimble (Portfolio Holder for Place) are seeking re-election.

An important issue in the election campaign will be the draft Greater Exeter Strategic Plan, which will outline strategic areas for housing and employment until 2040 across the wider region.

Prediction: Labour Hold

Given the current make-up of the council and the national political context, it is almost a certainty that Labour will retain a healthy majority. 


Plymouth is the most southerly council holding local elections this year, with one third of council seats up for election. Since becoming a unitary authority in 1998, the running of Plymouth City Council has changed frequently between the Conservatives and Labour. The council has been run by the Conservatives since 2016 under the leadership of Councillor Ian Bowyer. Following the defection of three UKIP councillors to the Conservatives in 2017, the Conservatives have 30 council seats compared to Labour with 27 seats. If Labour gained two seats they would have a majority and Councillor Tudor Evans would be set to become Leader of the Council for a third time.

Key issues in the election will be the proposed redevelopment of Plymouth City Centre championed by the current Conservative administration, the pledge from Labour to build new low-cost rented housing as well as improving the infrastructure on the Plymouth Rail Link.

Prediction: Labour Gain

Labour held several seats with small majorities when these wards were last contested in 2016 however with three Conservative councillors (formerly of UKIP) re-standing in traditional Labour areas, a Labour majority on the council is a real possibility. 

As we approach Election time, it can be a frustrating and unpredictable period for anything related to planning and development. At becg, we have the knowledge, background and political understanding to help navigate this tricky period.

To find out more about how the changes in the electoral landscape could affect your chances of planning success, get in touch with the Bristol team.

Tom Phipps


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