How far did National Issues affect recent Local Elections?
By Dr Alan Bullion
Now the dust has settled on May elections across the country we can start to see why the Liberal Democrats made gains. Sevenoaks had no local elections this year, but Tunbridge Wells and Maidstone did. The results were influenced by both local and national issues.
Brexit counts on the doorstep in Tunbridge Wells, which backed Remain 55% to 45%. Most Remain voters think the government is divided and incoherent. Those working in the City, and young people, said they were voting Lib Dem or Labour, and votes surged for both parties, especially in wards which were firmly Remain in 2016. This is likely to be seen in Sevenoaks town next May.
Housing, and the lack of affordable and social housing for younger people is crucial. The Conservative-run council allowed expensive blocks of retirement flats on former industrial or office sites. These don't help young people in the area, forcing them to move out. They need more affordable and social housing on brownfield sites.
There was a 'new kid on the block' -Tunbridge Wells Alliance, fighting a £90 million Civic Centre Development proposed for the Town Centre. Many local people support investment, but this expensive plan damages Calverley Park, and raises council tax for the next 50 years!.
Tunbridge Wells Conservatives lost two seats on May 3, one to the Lib Dems and one to the Alliance. There were surges to these parties elsewhere, while Labour and the Lib Dems comfortably held seats they were defending.
In Leave voting Maidstone, Conservatives did better, but despite an all-out assault they failed to oust the Lib Dem - Independent coalition leading the Council
Two thirds of people usually vote in general elections, but only one third in local polls. Many people vote differently in local and national contests - because they know a hardworking councillor, or there's a big issue that affests them. Talking to people regularly on issues that matter to them is what makes the difference.