The Conservatives will continue to lead Oxfordshire County Council’s administration, despite losing their majority last Thursday.
After the local elections there was speculation that Labour would gain control, by forming a coalition with the Liberal Democrats, Greens and Independents. However, on Sunday it emerged that Labour have refused to enter a coalition, and the Conservatives will remain in power.
Ian Hudspeth, Conservative council leader, has not ruled out forming a coalition with the Liberal Democrats or independents. He previously told the BBC he was “disappointed” by results in Oxfordshire.
Stephanie Cherrill, President of Oxford University Conservative Association, told Cherwell, “Whilst it is obviously disappointing that – despite the efforts of CF and local party members across Oxfordshire – we lost overall control of the County Council, we are still the largest party in the county and Karl [sic.] Hudspeth will be looking to form a coalition to continue his good work.
“Where we did lose they were often quite narrow losses, and as a mid-term election, the results were neither surprising nor too damaging.”
In the elections, Conservatives lost councillors in 14 wards, meaning they are one councillor short of a majority. Labour remain Oxfordshire’s second largest party, gaining eight councillors so rising to a total of 15. Liberal Democrats gained three seats and now have 11 councillors, and the Green Party kept their councillors in two wards.
All 63 seats in the County Council were contested, and the turnout was 32%.
The results mean that no party now has overall control, for the first time since the Conservatives gained power of the council in 2005. This division means that it will be harder for the council to pass policies on issues like primary and secondary education, social services, libraries, and town planning unless a coalition is formed.
The results were announced on Friday afternoon at Oxford Town Hall, after voting closed at 10’o’clock on Thursday night.
Most Oxford students live in one of four wards. Jericho & Osney and St Clements & Cowley both remained Labour controlled, while Iffley Fields & St Mary’s and University Parks both kept Green Party councillors. Overall, Oxford City Council remained controlled by Labour councillors.
A surprise result in Oxfordshire was Witney Central, in David Cameron’s constituency, where a Labour councillor gained control from the Tories.
The Conservative Party also lost councillors nationally. The party lost control of ten county councils, meaning they now only have majorities in fifteen.
Commentators have noted the sudden rise of UKIP, who rose from having eight to 147 county councillors. The Labour Party gained control of two councils, and now have the largest share of voters in the country, at 29%. 34 councils were up for election across England in Wales.
There were also two mayoral elections in Doncaster and North Tyneside, both gained by Labour from an Independent and a Conservative mayor respectively.
After the results, UKIP leader Nigel Farage described their success as “game changing.” David Cameron vowed to “work hard to win back voters” who had gone over to UKIP.
Helena Dollimore, Co-Chair Elect of Oxford University Labour Club, told Cherwell, “We’re delighted with the results in Oxfordshire, which show the public is growing tired of the coalition parties’ record in Government and their track record on the county council.”
She continued, “Labour’s brilliant victory in Witney shows the one nation message resonates even on Cameron’s doorstep.”
Oxford students’ responses to the results were mixed. Verity Bridge, a first year classicist, opined, “It’s not surprising the Tories are losing control, considering the massive cuts which have been affecting everybody in the UK.”
But one St Hilda’s student commented, “There have been some losses, but the recent performance of the economy means things should improve a lot for the Conservatives before the election in 2015.”