Polling day: Who will control Northamptonshire’s new councils?

Voters go to the polling station today

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By Natalie Bloomer

In what is the biggest shake up in Northamptonshire’s politics for decades, voters go to the polls today to decide who will run the two brand new unitary councils. 

We’re not expecting to know the full results until late on Friday but we’ve been speaking to the main parties to see if they’re feeling confident and whether they are expecting any upsets.

The parties need to win 47 seats in the West of the county and 40 in the North to take control of each of the unitary councils. If that’s not achieved a minority administration or coalition could be formed. 

The Conservatives are hoping to maintain control of Northamptonshire but are taking nothing for granted, particularly in some wards. 

“Each area is different and whatever a candidate’s majority might have been last time, they can’t be too confident,” Conservative candidate for Billing and Rectory Farm Victoria Perry told NN Journal

“You can’t second guess the public but we’ve had a positive response on the doorstep and are hoping for the best.”

In the West of the county we understand Labour is expecting to do well in Northampton but fear the new unitary boundaries are likely to favour the Conservatives. The party will consider any gains from the Tories or Lib Dems as a good result and are also expecting to win the town council election. 

“We’ve really been campaigning well and have reached lots of people,” Danielle Stone, Labour candidate for Castle said.

“We’re running some great campaigns in places like Duston East where we’re really taking on the Tories but there’s a reason Northampton was put in with South Northants when the unitary boundaries were decided and it doesn’t work in our favour.”

All parties have been campaigning hard in the West especially in their target wards. But whereas they previously would have made campaign decisions within their own local group (e.g Northampton or Daventry) they are now having to coordinate with candidates and volunteers across a much bigger area. 

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Andrew Simpson, Lib Dem candidate for Braunston and Crick says it hasn’t been easy to cover the whole area.

“It has been a challenge but we’ve been working really hard together across Northants. Volunteers have moved between areas when needed and I believe we’ve done more than we have ever done in a campaign.”

He says the party is very optimistic that they will see gains after its disappointing performance in 2017. They are focusing on seats which they have held before but are also targeting some new territory like Daventry.

“We’ve never held a seat there at county level but think we have a chance of breaking into Daventry. We’re also hoping to do well in areas like Kingsthorpe South and the Headlands in Northampton and Towcester and Roade in South Northants.”

In the North of the county, there has been talk of the possibility of a minority-run council. Although the Conservatives are seen as the favourites it’s thought they could have a fight on their hands to take full control.

“The most likely result is a Conservative win but we’re not ruling out the chance that they could be the biggest party but not have a majority,” Lib Dem candidate for Oakley Chris Stanbra said. 

“That would mean the Lib Dems, Greens and Labour could come to some sort of agreement. It’s there for the taking if we work hard enough.”

The party has formed an electoral pact with the Greens in two wards in the North. The Lib Dems have not put forward a candidate in Clover Hill in Kettering, where popular local Green candidate Dez Dell is standing, and are instead asking their supporters to vote Green. In Wicksteed, the Green party is asking their potential voters to back the Lib Dems.

In wards where each party has one candidate they are encouraging residents to vote both Green and Lib Dem. Dez Dell said:

“As we are currently one of the smaller parties in North Northamptonshire, it makes sense for us not to try and split the vote of those who may wish to vote Green or Lib Dem. The Liberal Democrats have impressed us with their work on the environment, the Climate Emergency and working towards a sustainable future.”

There have been some complaints from residents in parts of the North that the parties haven’t done enough to reach them in the lead up to the election. NN Journal has heard from many local people that they haven’t had a knock on the door or any leaflets at all. The parties’ manifestos haven’t always been as thorough or easy to find as some people would like.

Whoever wins, talk will quickly turn to who will be leader of each council. In the West a Conservative win is likely to see Jonathan Nunn (former leader of Northampton Borough Council), Ian McCord (former leader of South Northants Council) or Lizzie Bowen (former deputy leader of Northants County Council) take charge. Candidate for Bugbrooke Adam Brown is one of names rumoured to be in line for the deputy position. In the North, Conservative Jason Smithers (former cabinet member at Northants County Council) is thought to be the front runner if the party gets a majority.

For Labour Danielle Stone (leader of the group) is likely to be in charge if the party wins in the West. In the North, Jean Addison, Corby’s former deputy leader is currently leader of the North Northamptonshire group but it’s unclear whether she will be installed as unitary leader if the party wins. A Labour insider told NN Journal that the decision will be taken once the results are in.

Voters will also be able to vote in the town and parish council elections as well for the police and crime commissioner. Results are expected on Saturday.

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