Who runs the Councils in No Overall Control?

Before the  local elections on 2 May over 30 councils are in “No Overall Control”.  After the results were in there was much more grey on the map. LGiU’s Ingrid Koehler looks at what that means in practice. 

Council control maps show red for Labour run councils, yellow for Liberal Democrat, Blue for Conservatives and grey for “No Overall Control”.

England’s “first past the post” system for individual wards tends to favour bigger parties so it’s often easier for local party machinery to get out candidates in all wards and depending on the flavour of local politics have one party or another in charge. Most of England’s councils are majority run and some councils are or nearly are a one party state, for example Lewisham in London (not having elections this year) or Manchester which is having elections in 2019 currently had 93 Labour councillors and only a few Liberal Democrats.

Where alternative voting systems are used, such as in Scotland or Northern Ireland, multiple parties often win considerable numbers of seats. All of the councils in Northern Ireland which were having elections in 2019 are – by design – “No Overall Control” and remained so, with only a slight shift in which parties had the most numbers of seats.

As we headed into the elections just over 30 councils in England  were No Overall Control and now it’s 77. At the LGiU we define a council as NOC if no single party holds 50%+1 of the seats. But the vast majority of councils are controlled by a single party.

What does NOC mean in practice?

So what does it mean to be a NOC council? As you might expect, it’s a little different in each council area. Some councils have a minority administration often because one party has close to 50% of the seats and they are the largest party, in other places coalitions are formed where the political flavour is a little more evenly distributed. In some councils, the largest political party is unable to form a minority administration because a coalition of smaller parties has banded together. Across these different possibilities we see a range of governance options.

In practice, NOC councils can work really well and help politicians come together about local issues without spending too much time on party political issues. In other NOC councils, there is constant political jostling.

When councils mainly operated under committee systems, some councils had rotating chairs and power was genuinely shared. Most councils now have Cabinet systems and decisions are made by the executive rather than in committees. And this is why councils with a Leader and Cabinet model want clear majorities and there can be a scramble for power when the political balance is fine. Effectively, though, once the leader has been chosen he or she can form a cabinet and get on with running the council, with only occasional need to go to the full council on things like budget setting.

Jonathan Carr-West, Chief Executive of LGiU, states:

Councils in No Overall Control is a quirk of local authority governance that can be confusing for citizens. But it doesn’t mean that no one’s making decisions. In most cases one party will be able to form a cabinet, either with support from other parties or because the other parties do not agree on enough to effectively oppose them. That might sound unstable but in reality NOC councils have a pretty good track record of getting business done effectively.

May 2019 elections and No Overall Control

These are the councils with elections in May 2019 that either were NOC or became NOC. We’ve also included the independent gains as ‘independent’ can either mean a local grouping with a similar mandate or it can mean a group of truly independent councillors who do not wish to go into administration as a political group.

Council Political Control
Allerdale Borough Council NOC no change
Arun District Council CON lose to NOC
Ashfield District Council IND gain from NOC
Babergh District Council CON lose to NOC
Basildon Borough Council CON lose to NOC
Bedford Borough Council NOC no change
Bolsover District Council LAB lose to NOC
Bolton Council NOC no change
Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council NOC
Brighton & Hove City Council NOC no change
Broxtowe Borough Council CON lose to NOC
Burnley Borough Council LAB lose to NOC
Calderdale Council LAB gain from NOC
Cannock Chase District Council LAB lose to NOC
Carlisle City Council NOC no change
Cheshire East Council CON lose to NOC
Cheshire West and Chester Council LAB lose to NOC
Chichester District Council CON lose to NOC
City of York Council NOC no change
Colchester Borough Council NOC no change
Craven District Council CON lose to NOC
Darlington Borough Council LAB lose to NOC
Derby City Council NOC no change
Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council NOC no change
East Devon District Council IND gain from CON
Eden District Council CON lose to NOC
Elmbridge Borough Council NOC no change
Epsom and Ewell Borough Council RA hold
Folkestone & Hythe District Council CON lose to NOC
Forest of Dean District Council NOC no change
Gravesham Borough Council LAB gain from NOC
Guildford Borough Council CON lose to NOC
Hart District Council NOC no change
Hartlepool Borough Council LAB lose to NOC
Herefordshire Council CON lose to NOC
Lancaster City Council LAB lose to NOC
Lewes District Council NOC no change
Maidstone Borough Council NOC no change
Malvern Hills District Council CON lose to NOC
Mansfield District Council NOC no change
Mendip District Council CON lose to NOC
Mid Devon District Council CON lose to NOC
Mid Suffolk District Council CON lose to NOC
Middlesbrough Council LAB lose to NOC
Milton Keynes Council NOC no change
North Devon Council LD gain from NOC
North East Lincolnshire Council CON gain from NOC
North Hertfordshire District Council CON lose to NOC
North Kesteven District Council IND gain from CON
North Somerset Council CON lose to NOC
Pendle Borough Council CON lose to NOC
Peterborough City Council CON lose to NOC
Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council NOC no change
Richmondshire District Council CON lose to NOC
Rother District Council CON lose to NOC
Ryedale District Council NOC no change
Scarborough Borough Council NOC no change
South Oxfordshire District Council CON lose to NOC
South Ribble Borough Council CON lose to NOC
Southend-on-Sea Borough Council CON lose to NOC
St Albans City & District Council CON lose to NOC
Staffordshire Moorlands District Council  CON lose to NOC
Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council NOC no change
Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council LAB lose to NOC
Stoke-on-Trent City Council NOC no change
Swale Borough Council CON lose to NOC
Tandridge District Council CON lose to NOC
Teignbridge District Council LD gain from NOC
Tendring District Council  CON lose to NOC
Thanet District Council NOC no change
Thurrock Council NOC no change
Torbay Council NOC no change
Torridge District Council CON lose to NOC
Trafford Council LAB gain from NOC
Uttlesford District Council RA gain from CON
Walsall Council CON gain from NOC
Warwick District Council CON lose to NOC
Waverley Borough Council  CON lose to NOC
Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council CON lose to NOC
Wirral Council LAB lose to NOC
Woking Borough Council  CON lose to NOC
Worcester City Council NOC no change
Wyre Forest District Council CON lose to NOC