Local elections 2019: Gains for the Liberal Democrats across Hertfordshire

The Welwyn Hatfield Liberal Democrats had a good night winning five seats in the 2019 Welwyn Hatfiel

The Welwyn Hatfield Liberal Democrats had a good night winning five seats in the 2019 Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council elections, and it's been a similar story across much of Hertfordshire. Picture: Welwyn Hatfield Liberal Democrats - Credit: Welwyn Hatfield Liberal Democrats

The Liberal Democrats have made gains in local elections across Hertfordshire after counts were held overnight.

All 10 of the county’s district and borough councils held elections yesterday – with some electing a third of council members and some all.

All the results have yet to be declared in North Hertfordshire, Three Rivers and Watford – and there’s a recount pending for two seats in Hertsmere.

But, so far, the Lib Dems have been the clear winners of the night – picking up an additional 36 seats across six councils.

The party made their biggest gain of 14 seats in Dacorum, though that wasn’t enough to take control from the Conservatives.

But the nine seats they picked up in St Albans did take control away from the Conservatives and makes them the largest party on what is now a hung council.

Elsewhere, the Lib Dems picked up five seats in East Herts, three in Hertsmere, and four in Welwyn Hatfield which is also now in no overall control.

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Commenting on the party’s performance, Cllr Stephen Giles-Medhurst – who is leader of the Liberal Democrat group on Herts County Council and a member of Three Rivers District Council – pointed to the work candidates and campaigners had put in.

He said: “It’s down to our campaign teams who have been working very hard in these areas for residents, and won successfully as a result.

“It’s particularly impressive in St Albans, where we are now the largest party, and particularly good news in Dacorum, where now we have 19 councillors – when not that long ago we only had two.”

Cllr Giles-Medhurst said that, while national issues had come up on the doorstep, the election had been much more about local issues.

“By and large it’s due to hard work – communicating and taking up issues,” he said.

According to the results so far available, the Conservatives have lost the most seats in the county.

And – although they have retained control of Broxbourne, Dacorum, East Herts and Hertsmere – they no longer have a majority in St Albans or Welwyn Hatfield councils.

Conservative leader of the county council David Williams – who does not sit on a district or borough – said voting had reflected national issues, particularly the EU.

Pointing to Welwyn Hatfield and St Albans, he said: “In those areas where there is a concern among residents who want to remain in the EU or who are seeking a second referendum, then the Liberal Democrats did perform strongly.

“Conservatives in St Albans have a strong track record, which compares very well with the previous Liberal Democrat administration.”

Cllr Williams said high numbers of Conservative councillors had been elected in 2015 – coinciding with the General Election – which would make this year a challenge.

And he highlighted the party’s “strong position” in retaining Conservative control in Broxbourne, Hertsmere and Dacorum.

“We always knew it was going to be a difficult evening,” he said.

“To retain Broxbourne, Hertsmere and Dacorum is really strong.”

Meanwhile, results so far show that Labour has made a number of small gains and losses across the county – picking up two seats in East Herts, one in Hertsmere and one in Stevenage, but losing two seats in Welwyn Hatfield and two in Dacorum.

Cllr Judi Billing – leader of the Labour group on the county council and a member of North Herts District Council – accepts the results are “mixed”.

“Losing seats is always disappointing – and I’m terribly sorry that we now have no representation on Dacorum,” she said.

But she welcomed the different political results in different councils, suggesting it showed residents had based their voting on local issues.

“In Hertfordshire it seems people have been voting on local issues,” she said.

“That would be really great because that’s what local government is supposed to be about.”

Until last night seven of Hertfordshire’s 10 district and boroughs (Broxbourne, East Herts, North Herts, Welwyn Hatfield, St Albans, Dacorum and Hertsmere) were controlled by a Conservative leadership.

Watford and Three Rivers – where results have yet to be counted – were Lib Dem controlled, and Stevenage was the only council in Hertfordshire with a Labour majority.

In Hertsmere – which includes Borehamwood, Elstree and Potters Bar – there were 34 Conservative councillors, four Labour and one independent, which gave the Tories a majority of 29.

But after last night’s all-out election, the make-up of the council stands at 29 Conservative members, three Liberal Democrats and seven Labour.

In Dacorum – based around Hemel Hempsted – there were 43 Conservatives, five Lib Dems, two Labour and one independent – giving the Tories a 35-strong majority.

But after the count – where all seats had been up for election – that had changed to 31 Conservatives, 19 Liberal Democrats and one Independent, with both Labour councillors losing their seats.

In Broxbourne – where a third of the seats were up and one by-election – the Conservatives couldn’t lose control of the council.

Before the election the 30-strong Conservative controlled council had 27 Tory members, two Labour and one unaligned.

Even if they had lost all 11 of the seats up for grabs, they would still have had a majority. But, following the election, the status quo has remained.

In East Herts – which also had a strong Conservative majority – 48 of the 50 seats were up for re-election on May 2, with a further two uncontested.

The council had had a 37-strong majority, with 42 Conservatives, four independents and one Liberal Democrat. At the time the election was called a further three seats were vacant.

Following the election, the council now has 40 Conservative members, six Lib Dems, two Labour and two Green Party councillors.

In Welwyn Hatfield the Conservative majority had been much slimmer than in East Herts – with 25 Conservatives, 15 Labour and eight Lib Dems.

And, after the count on the 18 seats up for election, the council was left with no overall control – with the Conservatives dropping to 23 seats, Labour dropping to 13 and Lib Dems increasing to 12.

Meanwhile in St Albans the Conservative majority of two also disappeared – making it another council in ‘no overall control’.

The council is now made up of 25 Liberal Democrats, 23 Conservatives, six Labour and three independents – compared to the pre-election position of 30 Conservatives, 17 Lib Dems, six Labour, three independents and one Green, with one additional seat vacant.

In North Herts, despite picking up seven of the 16 seats available, the Conservative Party lost control of the council, which is now in no overall control.

The Conservative have 22 seats on the council, which is six lower than before. Labour councillors have 16 seats, after making two gains and the Lib Dems have four more than before, with 11.

Labour retained control of Stevenage – picking up one additional seat and increasing their majority to 15. Lib Dems also picked up an extra seat – with the Conservatives losing two.

Following the election the make-up of Watford Borough Council – where 13 seats had been up for grabs – remained the same, with 27 Lib Dems (including the elected mayor) and 10 Labour councillors.

In neighbouring Three Rivers – where 13 seats were in the election – the Lib Dem majority was increased, with the party taking four seats from the Conservatves.

The make-up of the 39-strong council now includes 24 Lib Dems, 12 Conservatives and three Labour councillors.