The Liberal Democrats have won 41 seats on Bath and North East Somerset Council following Thursday 4th May’s elections, increasing their majority and securing their coveted second term in office.
Winning a consecutive term running the council, which has tended to flip between the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats, was the ambition of council leader Kevin Guy, who said before the election: “Democracy delivers short term vision-ism, and you can’t make fundamental changes to people’s lives unless you are given the opportunity to have two, three terms.”
41 seats out of the total 59 on the council went to the Liberal Democrats, up from 36 before the election.
Meanwhile, the Conservatives went from 10 seats to three — a catastrophic result for the party which ran the council with more than 10 times that number just four years ago.
In a final blow for the Tories, the leader of their group on the council Vic Pritchard lost his seat in the last ward to declare of the night. He had been one of two Conservatives representing the Chew Valley, but both seats were won by the Liberal Democrats.
It is the second consecutive election in Bath and North East Somerset where the Conservative leader has been unseated, with then council leader Tim Warren losing his Mendip seat to Liberal Democrat David Wood in 2019.
Mr Wood held on to his seat, which includes Conservative MP for North East Somerset Jacob Rees-Mogg’s family home, with 75% of the vote, but Mr Warren did get back on the council, winning a seat in Midsomer Norton Redfield.
Despite their overwhelming victory, the Liberal Democrats did not hold all their seats, losing one in Radstock to Labour and one in Lambridge to the Greens — where Mayor of Bath Rob Appleyard was unseated by “Bicycle Mayor” Saskia Heijtjes.
With five councillors, and hopes to hold onto their two seats in Paulton where the poll has been postponed, Labour has achieved their hope of becoming the official opposition.
Labour group leader Robin Moss said: “We will be a constructive and where necessary critical opposition. We don’t think the Conservatives have been much of an opposition over the last four years.”
While three councillors is a result that has disappointed Conservatives, the Greens have welcomed being in the same situation. Joanna Wright, who had been the only Green on the council, said: “The Green Party are now a group on B&NES council. We will continue to work hard for residents.”
Bath’s Liberal Democrat MP Wera Hobhouse said the election was a “stunning victory” and she was “immensely proud”.
A stunning victory for @bathnesld increasing our Council seats from the 2019 high water mark!
I am immensely proud of what my colleagues have achieved and look forward to working with them on a relentlessly positive and ambitious agenda for Bath & North East Somerset.
— Wera Hobhouse MP ? ?? (@Wera_Hobhouse) May 5, 2023
Across the district, nearly 96,000 votes were cast.
The Paulton election has been rescheduled due to the death of Green Party candidate Tim Morgan.
Candidate nominations will reopen for a set period once the new date is announced.
Local election results as of 5th May 2023 (compared to 2019):
- Liberal Democrats: 41 seats (+4)
- Independents: 5 seats (-1)
- Labour Party: 5 seats (+0)
- Green Party: 3 seats (+3)
- Conservatives: 3 seats (-8)
Turnout for the election remained around the same level as 2019, however some areas did see a small increase. The highest turnout was in Lambridge, with 52.99% of residents having their say.
John Wimperis, Local Democracy Reporter | Additional Reporting & Content, Bath Echo