This series of briefings will cover the elections to be held across England, Scotland and Wales on 04 May, 2017.

There will be elections to much of the English shire authorities, the principal authorities of Scotland and Wales, the six mayoral contests in England and the Metropolitan Borough of Doncaster.

This part, of three, covers Wales.

Welsh Authorities

There will be 1,254 seats up for grabs on all 22 authorities of Wales. This is unlike 2012 when the Isle of Anglesey (Ynys Mon) was not up for election.

When analysing the coming results for Wales and what it might mean in a general election, it needs to be noted that in local elections independents play a major role. 24 per cent of the Welsh seats up for election this year for instance are held by independent candidates, higher than the share for the Conservatives and Plaid Cymru put together.

It also needs noting that a woeful number of these council seats in 2012 went uncontested, with a repeat in the more rural parts of the country likely this year. 98 seats in 2012 saw the candidate elected unopposed.

Labour will be defending the lion’s share of seats this year, at 46 per cent (581 seats). Plaid Cymru will be defending the second largest number (party-wise), at 14 per cent (170). The Conservatives 8 per cent (104), and the Liberal Democrats 6 per cent (73). UKIP’s performance in 2012, a time before their ‘surge’ to the teens in the opinion polls, was negligible. They won just two seats and as far as I’m aware have already lost both of them in a defection and council by-election.


Of the 22 councils, just 10 are majority run – all of which by Labour in the nation’s south. Were you to judge authorities based on largest party, however, Labour are the largest in 13 of the 22, Plaid Cymru 5 of the 22, independent groupings in 3 of the 22, and the Tories only one: Monmouthshire. Until 2012, though, the Tories had majorities in Monmouthshire and the Vale of Glamorgan. Plaid Cymru also previously had a majority in Gwynedd.

Map: Authorities up for election

Red indicates a Labour majority; grey an authority with no overall control.

It may be the case, though, that hung authorities will be run either by groupings of independents, a party in the minority, or a coalition between parties.

After netting over 200 seats in 2012 and gaining overall control of eight additional authorities, Labour seems to have hit its ceiling in Wales, with the only way being down.

Cardiff will be one to watch. The Tories, the Lib Dems and Plaid Cymru are all in contention to make gains in the city this year. While doubtful Labour are on course to lose the 33 seats they netted here in 2012, seat losses, regardless, are likely. Council by-elections in the city do show opposition parties are on a pretty successful war footing. 

If the Conservatives fancy a good night, they should expect to retake overall control of Monmouthshire and build on their numbers in Denbighshire, Conwy and Wrexham. The Vale of Glamorgan was Tory until 2012, but their collapse from 25 seats to just 11 in that election may seem a step too far for the blues to retake this time round.

I expect Plaid Cymru are targeting Gwynedd in the hope of re-taking the authority, but the strength of the local opposition in the area, Llais Gwynedd, may just deny them that desire. Local council by-elections in Gwynedd do suggest the local party is active (as in they’re… standing for election) though in decline, but we should wait to see whether they still have the organisation to put up a decent number of candidates before coming to conclusions here.

Following Leanne Wood’s constituency win in last year’s assembly elections, we should expect Rhondda Cynon Taf to produce some gains for Plaid, but it can’t be said for sure how much of Mrs Wood’s win was personal or partisan.

Ceredigion seems likely to go Plaid made with gains from independents, but a Lib Dem resurgence may offset a couple of these.

Gains for UKIP seem limited, but my knowledge of where their organisation is strong, relatively speaking, suggests we could see some surprises in Caerphilly and Torfaen. Then again, their national decline in the polls does raise the question as to whether they will win any seats in Wales at all.

The prominence of independents in Welsh local politics, as written earlier, is not to be dismissed, and their representation in some authorities such as Merthyr Tydfil and Flintshire, which in general elections would be some of UKIP’s stronger areas, may actually deny the purples the opportunity for gains. The presence of independents as the domineering blocs on Powys and Pembrokeshire councils will likely prevail this year.

Table: Council compositions as of the 2012 and 2013 local elections

Blaenau Gwent03300090
Merthyr Tydfil02300172
Neath Port Talbot05208031
Rhondda Cynon Taf16019040
Vale of Glamorgan112206134
Isle of Anglesey031120140

Map: Authorities up for election

Red indicates an authority with Labour the largest party; green Plaid Cymru; blue the Tories and pink an independent grouping.

Hung authorities can produce interesting coalitions. Norfolk in 2013 for instance saw the council run by a rainbow coalition of Labour, the Greens, the Liberal Democrats and UKIP!

Polls will be open on 04 May from 0700hrs to 2200hrs. Results will be filtered through as the night progresses and the day after. If you would like to help with providing election results to our sheets on the night, do get in touch!

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