Birmingham: 3 Things Property Needs To Know About Next Week's Council Election
Yawn, yawn, here come the council elections? Think again. This year, it might be a good idea to stifle those yawns because big change is coming to the way Birmingham City Council works, and it could have substantial political implications.
The stakes are high: at least one commentator has said that if Birmingham goes badly for the Conservative government it could prompt the resignation of Prime Minister Theresa May.
With a week to go until Birmingham's electors chose the 101-member city council, here are three reasons why property should watch the results with care.
1. Literally Everything Could Change
Until now only a third of councillors were elected each year, meaning the political colour of the council tended to change slowly over time.
After 2018 everything changes. Instead of having council elections each year — with a third of the council up for election — Birmingham is moving to a new system of all-out elections every four years. So, after this year, the next chance to change the political colour of the council comes in 2022. So the mood of the electorate on 3 May will determine policy for the next four years.
2. Birmingham Is Unpredictable
Today the city council has a comfortable Labour majority (Labour 80, Conservative 29, Liberal Democrat 10). However, the Conservatives (under Mike Whitby) had control as recently as 2012, and the recent election of Conservative West Midlands Metro Mayor Andy Street may have changed the dynamics. On the other hand, some observers predict the Conservatives could drop to single-figure seats as they suffer a mid-term wipeout.
Either way, expect trouble, Kent University research Jack Bridgewater said.
“The city was narrowly split on Brexit, and divided almost down the middle again on whether to have a Labour or Conservative mayor. Labour will expect to make gains, but with all seats up for election the result in Britain’s second city is worth watching,” he told Democratic Audit UK.
3. Somebody Will Get Blamed For The Bins
Birmingham City Council has had a bruising few years: a government-backed review by Lord Kerslake was intended to end its “dysfunctional” problems, and this year’s change to electoral arrangements is one of the outcomes.
But one symptom of the council’s dysfunction — summer 2017’s long-running crisis over the city’s rubbish collections — will not be easily forgotten. All parties are promising weekly collections, but somebody will take the blame: will it be the council’s Labour administration? Or will the blame shift to the Conservative government?
A Conservative win will strengthen the hand of Street, who has encountered resistance from Labour controlled-councils one some issues, and would tip the balance on the seven-member West Midlands Combined Authority. A Labour win and a Conservative wipeout could narrow his room for action.