Last updated 10 May 2022 at 05:55.
In terms of councils won, lost and retained, the 2022 London borough elections saw almost no overall change compared with the last such elections in 2018.
It that year, Labour won 21 of the capital’s 32 local councils, the Conservatives won seven, the Liberal Democrats won three and one council, Havering, came under no overall control (NOC).
In 2022 Labour and the Lib Dems have ended up on the same tallies. Havering has, reliably, remained NOC. A local party, Aspire, has won both the mayoralty and a council seat majority in Tower Hamlets. And, confusingly, the Conservatives won the mayoralty in Croydon while no party has won a council seat majority there and Labour has the largest number of seats.
Despite this, the constitution under mayoral systems appears to ensure that the Conservative Mayor will ultimately be in command of council policy, so Croydon is effectively a Tory gain – albeit an incomplete one – meaning the Tories can be seen as just one council worse off than in 2018 overall.
However, that appearance of not much net change across capital masks both considerable dramas, with control – of six boroughs – including in Croydon – changing hands, and a broader underlying story about the shares of council seats won by different national parties, local groupings and Independents.
As results came in during the night following polling day, there was initial euphoria for Labour as they captured Barnet (as strongly expected), Wandsworth (also expected) and Westminster (hardly expected at all) from the Conservatives. But by Friday (6 May) late afternoon some of the shine came off for the party, as it lost control of Harrow to the Tories and Tower Hamlets to Aspire.
Then, in the small hours of Saturday morning (7 May), the Conservative candidate won the first ever mayoral election in Croydon. On Sunday evening (8 May), after a delayed count, it emerged that Labour had, nonetheless, secured the largest number of councillors. However, a two-thirds majority of councillors will ultimately be required to prevent the Croydon Mayor setting the budget and linked policy framework he wants.
So Labour has gained three councils and lost three others, while the Tories have lost three and gained two. Meanwhile, the Lib Dems have held on to Richmond, Kingston and Sutton, and Havering’s NOC status has been maintained.
When it comes to overall numbers of council seats, the stories for the four Londonwide parties are rather different from the headline figures about councils controlled.
There were 1,817 seats up for grabs this year – 16 fewer than the 1,833 in 2018. Of these, six had to be left vacant – three in both Redbridge and Kingston – as campaigning was stopped due to the deaths of candidates. One seat in Croydon has become instantly vacant because mayoral victor Jason Perry also stood successfully as a councillor but had to step down from that role as he can’t be a councillor and the Mayor at the same time. For the purposes of this article it will still be counted as a Tory win.
The 1,811 results declared have been distributed as follows:
- Labour 1,153.
- Conservatives 404.
- Lib Dems 177.
- Greens 18.
- All “Others” 59.
A comparison with 2018 is not exact, because of that small overall reduction in the number of seats, which itself is just one aspect of Boundary Commission changes that affected 25 of the 32 boroughs with varying effects on party fortunes. It is nonetheless significant that the 2020 seat totals show increases compared with 2018 of 30 seats for Labour, 23 for the Lib Dems and seven for the Greens, while the Conservatives have slumped by 107. Of the “Others”, 24 are Aspire Party councillors.
The Tories lost seats almost everywhere, most notably in Bromley (14) and Richmond (10), and they have no councillors at all in seven boroughs, with Lambeth added to the zero list this time. Labour’s biggest increases were in Barnet (16) and Westminster (13) followed by Wandsworth (eight), Greenwich (seven) and Redbridge (seven). Their largest falls were in Enfield (eight), Harrow (eight), Croydon (seven) and Brent (five).
The Lib Dems advanced from the south, trouncing the Tories in Richmond, where they picked up nine seats, though their biggest seat increase was in Merton, where they gained 12. The Greens had a setback in Lambeth, falling from five seats to two, but boosted their presence in Islington and Richmond and won seats in Newham, Croydon and Tower Hamlets for the first time.
Here are the results by borough.
Barking & Dagenham. Lab 51 (-).
As in 2018, Labour won all 51 seats and the party’s vote share rose from 75.1% to 79.7%. Labour dominance is intriguing in this Leave borough.
Barnet. Lab 41 (+16), Con 22 (-16).
Bexley. Con 33 (-1), Lab 12 (+1).
This Conservatives stronghold remained one, despite slipping by one seat.
One of the few boroughs where Labour lost ground.
Significant losses here for the Tories in one of London’s bluest boroughs, with the Lib Dems gaining their seats in Beckenham Town & Copers Cope, and Bromley Town, Independents winning both seats in Biggin Hill, and local Chislehurst Matters group comfortably taking all three in Chislehurst. There were two fewer seats than in 2018.
Labour slightly strengthened its already dominant position, the Tories slid, the Lib Dems advanced.
Croydon. Mayoral election (after second preferences): Con 50.4%, Lab 49.6%. Council seats: Lab 34 (-7), Con 33 (+4), Green 2 (+2), Lib Dem 1 (+1) though plus one vacant seat.
The Tories’ Jason Perry narrowly prevailed in the borough’s inaugural mayoral contest (votes for all all other mayoral candidates here), yet Labour has emerged with the largest number of council seats, albeit not a majority. This is a constitutional peculiarity, but it appears unlikely to greatly inhibit Mayor Perry and his cabinet because under the mayoral model the budget and policy framework linked to it can ultimately only be defeated by a two-thirds majority of councillors (as with the London Mayor). The vacancy is due to Perry also being elected as a councillor. As he cannot hold both posts simultaneously, a by-election will have to be held.
Labour and Lib Dems a little bit stronger, the Tories a little bit weaker.
Enfield. Lab 38 (-8), Con 25 (+8).
The Tories looked likely to make up some ground here, and they have – with Harrow, the most seats the party gained anywhere and all at Labour’s expense.
Greenwich. Lab 52 (+7), Con 3 (-7).
Labour strengthened its position here more than in any other borough.
Phil Glanville retained the mayoralty with ease, after securing 36,049 first preference votes. Green Party candidate Zoe Garbett was second with 10,373, and the Greens won two council seats at Labour’s expense. Hackney, like Islington, is a good example of the type of borough where voters who think Labour should be more to the left turn to the Greens instead.
Hammersmith & Fulham. Lab 40 (+5), Con 10 (-1).
There were four more seats here than in 2018, when Labour won 35 and the Conservatives 11, so the Tories have gone significantly backwards. Hard to believe they were in firm control form 2006 until 2014.
Haringey. Lab 50 (+6), Lib Dem 7 (-6).
Labour lost more seats in Haringey in 2018 than anywhere else (including Barnet), but this time it has been one of the party’s top gainers. Lib Dems will be disappointed by this reverse.
Harrow. Con 31 (+8), Lab 24 (-8).
As both Lewis Baston and Joshua Neicho described in preview pieces for On London, Harrow is unpredictable and a variety of local factors can decide outcomes in particular wards. One the Tories two gains in 2022.
Havering. Residents’ Associations 23 (+4), Con 23 (-3), Lab 9 (+4).
The extraordinary effectiveness of Havering’s residents’ association candidates has now increased to the point where they are the joint largest grouping on the council. Labour too have advanced compared with 2018, perhaps reflecting demographic change – the fall in Conservative representation may be a sign of more to come. Despite the very slow count in Croydon, Havering was the last borough to complete it declarations due to a recounting in the three-seat Rainham & Wennington ward on the evening of 9 May. The Tories won a clean sweep to bring them up to parity with the Residents’ Assoications.
Hillingdon. Con 30 (-4), Lab 23 (+4).
Labour has crept a little closer but, as expected, the Tories remain in control.
Hounslow. Lab 52 (-1), Con (10 (+1).
Another towering Labour majority, but also one of the few seats where the Tory position has improved, albeit only by a single seat.
Islington. Lab 48 (-2), Green 3 (+2).
As in neighbouring Hackney, a small Green erosion of the Labour edifice.
Kensington & Chelsea. Con 35 (-1), Lab 13 (-), Lib Dem 2 (+1).
This Tory stronghold stayed solid, while losing one seat to the Lib Dems.
Kingston-upon-Thames. Lib Dem 41 (+5), Con 3 (-6), Independent 1 (+1) with three seats temporarily vacant due to the postponement of the election in one ward following the death of one of the candidates.
Lib Dem advances have mostly been in the south-west suburbs where they are at their strongest. Tories suffer again.
The Greens will be disappointed – they had been the main opposition group – and Lib Dems pleased. The Tories used to have two seats here. Not any more.
As in 2018, a clean sweep for Labour.
Another big advance in the south west by the Lib Dems, again at Tory expense but also, to a lesser extent, Labour’s. The almost traditional Residents’ Association presence here continues.
Newham. Mayoral Election:Labour win on first preferences with 56.2%. Council seats: Lab 64 (-2), Green 2 (+2).
Another stroll to re-elected for a Labour Mayor, this time Rokshana Fiaz, but no repeat of 2018’s clean sweep as the Greens get on the scoresheet here for the first time.
Redbridge. Lab 55 (+7), Con 5 (-7) and three seats vacant due to the death of a candidate during campaign period.
A healthy advance for Labour, further decline for the Tories.
Richmond. Lib Dem 48 (+9), Green 5 (+1), Con 1 (-10).
A terrible result for the Tories, who ran this council as recently as 2018. Lib Dems rampant. Greens consolidate and a little bit more.
Southwark. Lab 52 (+3), Lib Dem 11 (-3).
As in Haringey, some Lib Dem slippage here to the benefit of Labour.
For years now we’ve wondered if this Lib Dem redoubt would turn blue. And yet again it hasn’t.
Tower Hamlets. Mayoral election: Aspire beats Labour by 54.9% to 45.1% after second preferences. Council seats: Aspire 24 (+23), Lab 19 (-23), Con 1 (-1), Green 1 (+1).
Lutfur Rahman’s comeback seems to demonstrate that his previous wins in 2010 and the later voided election of 2014 cannot be explained away by voter fraud, and the rise of his Aspire party to take a small council majority is remarkable.
Waltham Forest. Lab 47 (+2), Con 13 (-2).
Another example of Labour showing that it hadn’t quite peaked in 2018.
Wandsworth. Lab 35 (+8), Con 22 (-8), Independent 1 (-).
There were good reasons for thinking Labour might not make it, but in the end the Tory flagship was convincingly boarded. Independent Malcom Grimston again topped the borough poll.
Westminster. Lab 31 (+13), Con 23 (-13).
The Tories had grounds for anxiety about a council they had controlled throughout its existence, but it was still going to take an earthquake to shift them. Well, it happened – and it was a big one. Labour gained more seats here than anywhere else and they are utterly exultant.
This article will be updated and augmented with further details over the coming days.
On London is a small but influential website which strives to provide more of the kind of journalism the capital city needs. Become a supporter for £5 a month or £50 a year and receive an action-packed weekly newsletter and free entry to online events. Details here.