London elections 2022: Conservatives retain Bexley with 33 seats

·5-min read
Conservative party candidate Louie French arrives at Christchurch Church Hall in Sidcup, Kent, to cast his vote in the by-election for the constituency of Old Bexley and Sidcup. Picture date: Thursday December 2, 2021. (PA Wire)
Conservative party candidate Louie French arrives at Christchurch Church Hall in Sidcup, Kent, to cast his vote in the by-election for the constituency of Old Bexley and Sidcup. Picture date: Thursday December 2, 2021. (PA Wire)

The Conservatives have retained the traditionally safe Tory council of Bexley.

Despite having been controlled by Labour three times, Bexley has generally otherwise always been a blue stronghold.

The Conservatives won 33 seats, while Labour won 12. Labour managed one more seat than in the 2018 election, with the Tories subsequently winning one less.

Labour Councillor Stefano Borella told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “I’m very happy. We were never going to win big. Our aim was to increase our vote.

“We won again tonight in Northumberland Heath and if you look at the results elsewhere—in Crayford and East Wickham—we pushed them close and we nearly won those seats as well so I’m absolutely delighted.

“We’ve pushed them close, we’ve got a good platform for next time, clearly the voters of Bexley don’t have confidence in the leadership of Boris Johnson and residents are realising more and more that they pay more and get less for their council tax.”

Find our coverage leading up to the election results below.

Key Issues

Bexley made national headlines in 2021 when a dispute between refuse collection workers and their employer Serco – which runs the borough’s waste disposal on behalf of the council – led to rubbish piling up in the streets.

Dubbed the “summer of stink”, the strike action was over low pay and poor working conditions.

The campaign by the Unite union, which drew a surge in local support, called on Bexley council to rethink its contract with Serco and to address what they called a “huge pay disparity”.

Following seven weeks of strike action which saw bins left overflowing, the union eventually achieved its goal of securing better pay, extra holiday and sick pay for its workers.

The council’s handling of the situation is likely to be a key campaigning issue for parties including Labour which are looking to win more seats on the council.

Other London-wide issues such as poor housing conditions, crime and council tax increases are also likely to factor into voters’ decisions, while Labour will be hoping to capitalise on national issues such as the ongoing partygate scandal and the wider cost of living crisis.

The Conservatives will be hoping that recent commitments outlined in the council’s budget, such as plans to invest in new libraries, improved highway maintenance and more street cleaning, will be enough to retain overall control of the council

Read more: Follow the Standard’s coverage of the 2022 local elections (ES)
Read more: Follow the Standard’s coverage of the 2022 local elections (ES)

Details

Since the borough’s formation in 1963, Bexley London Borough Council has changed hands between the Conservatives and Labour on several occasions.

While Labour enjoyed brief stints in control of the council in the early 1960’s, early 1970’s and early 2000’s, Bexley has largely remained under Conservative control, including for a 20-year period between 1974 and 1994.

Ahead of the 2018 local elections, the number of seats on Bexley council decreased from 63 to 45 following a review by the Local Government Boundary Commission for England. The number of wards decreased from 21 to 17.

The Conservatives, who have controlled the council since 2006, went on to win 34 seats while Labour won 11 in the 2018 election. The council has been led by Teresa O’Neill since 2008.

In 2019, Labour councillor Danny Hackett resigned from the party and changed his affiliation to independent, citing “a culture of bullying and toxicity” within the party. Later that year, Mr Hackett went on to deny allegations from several women who had accused him of sexual misconduct and harassment.

A parliamentary by-election was held in the constituency of Old Bexley and Sidcup in 2021 following the death of sitting MP James Brokenshire from cancer.

While the Conservatives would retain the seat, the party saw its share of the vote decrease with a 7.4 per cent swing to Labour, whose candidate Daniel Francis is a councillor in the Belvedere ward.

Demographics

Bexley’s population is estimated to be around 247,258 as of 2018, up from 231,997 in 2011. Around 60 per cent of the population is of working age, between 18 and 64, while 23 per cent is under the age of 18. Over 75s make up 8 per cent of Bexley’s population.

According to the Greater London Authority, the number of over 75s living in Bexley is expected to grow by 90 per cent by 2050.

The majority of Bexley’s population is White, making up 78 per cent overall according to 2017 estimates. Black and Minority Ethnic groups make up the remaining 22 per cent, with Black African residents making up the largest proportionate share at 9 per cent.

The most populous areas of the borough are in the north in wards such as Belvedere, Erith and Thamesmead East.

Bexley is one of only six London boroughs which have a poverty rate deemed better than average according to Trust for London. At 16 per cent, the borough has one of the lowest poverty rates in the capital. However, the child poverty rate is significantly higher at 32 per cent, which is around the average.

Unemployment in Bexley is at around 4.7 per cent, which is lower than the London average of 5 per cent but higher than the national average of 3.8 per cent.

Like many other councils in London, Bexley agreed a 1.99 per cent increase to council tax bills in March this year.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting