London elections 2022: Labour wins Westminster for the first time

·5-min read
 (ES Composite)
(ES Composite)

Labour has won Westminster after taking all three Hyde Park council seats, and all three seats in the Bayswater ward.

A traditional Tory stronghold, Westminster had never been under the control of another party.

Labour won 31 seats, gaining 12 from the election in 2018, while the Conservatives won 23, 18 fewer seats than four years ago.

Westminster’s Labour leader Adam Hug tweeted: “The residents of Westminster have put their faith in Labour to lead the council. It is an honour and a privilege.

“We will work every day to build a fairer Westminster.”

Find our coverage leading up to the election results below.

Key Issues

Ahead of the 2022 local elections, Conservative peer and political analyst Lord Robert Hayward suggested that Westminster was one of four Conservative strongholds in London that was at risk of being won by Labour in the wake of the partygate scandal.

Labour will also be hoping to capitalise on the Marble Arch mound fiasco which drew widespread derision and made national and international headlines.

The project was designed to bring tourists back to the area following the Covid-19 pandemic but was widely mocked on social media and branded as “London’s worst tourist attraction”.

While the mound was the subject of numerous jokes, serious questions were raised when it emerged the cost of the project had reached £6 million, almost double the projected cost. This led to the resignation of deputy council leader Melvyn Caplan in August last year.

Labour is also looking to capitalise on recent revelations that Westminster Conservative groups have received £120,000 from Russian donors with links to Vladimir Putin. The Labour group on Westminster council has called on the Tories to donate the money to Ukrainian charities.

Despite the optimism surrounding Labour in Westminster ahead of May 5, an uneven distribution of core support in the borough could hamper the party’s chances of making substantial gains. With the majority of Labour’s support located in the northwest of the borough, very few seats appear to actually be marginal.

The future of the West End is also likely to be high on the agenda of many voters, with recent controversy surrounding the proposed demolition of the flagship Marks & Spencer’s store on Oxford Street.

Though Mayor of London Sadiq Khan gave Westminster Council permission to go ahead with the plan, Communities Secretary Michael Gove this week stepped in to block the plans so that they can be scrutinised by Government.

Details

Westminster City Council has been controlled by the Conservatives throughout its entire 58-year history, with no other party ever having gained a majority.

Following the Local Government Boundary Commission review in 2020, it was decided that the borough Westminster of Westminster should be divided into 18 wards with 54 seats on the council, six fewer than previously.

Though the Conservatives retained their majority on Westminster council at the last election, they lost four seats to Labour who saw a 7.6 per cent increase on the overall share of the vote compared to the last election.

Overall, the Conservatives won 41 seats while Labour won 19, with a turnout of 38 per cent.

Just months after the 2018 election, Conservative councillor Robert Davis resigned after an investigation found he had broken the councillors’ code of conduct for receiving a large number of gifts from property developers.

Mr Davis, formerly chair of the council’s planning committee, had received as many as 514 “freebies” in three years from property developers, including several trips abroad. The Conservatives retained the seat in the subsequent by-election.

A by-election in May 2021 for a seat in the Churchill ward following the resignation of Labour councillor Andrea Mann was retained by the party with an increased majority.

In August 2021, deputy council leader Melvyn Caplan resigned over his role in the Marble Arch mound fiasco.

Ahead of publishing its budget for 2022/23, Westminster council agreed a freeze to the general portion of council tax.

Demographics

The borough of Westminster has a population of around 253,137 according to estimates from 2019. This is an increase from 219,396 recorded in the 2011 Census.

According to figures from the 2011 Census, 61.6 per cent of Westminster’s population was recorded as White, including 32.25 per cent from White British backgrounds, 2.26 per cent from White Irish backgrounds and 24.14 per cent from other White backgrounds.

At the time, 14.52 per cent of the borough’s population was comprised of people from Asian or Asian British backgrounds while 7.51 per cent was made up of people from Black or Black British backgrounds.

Office for National Statistics estimates from 2016 suggest that around 70 per cent of Westminster’s population is aged between 18 and 64. Under-18s make up 18 per cent of the borough’s population while over-65s represent 12 per cent.

Westminster is home to the second highest average house price in London at £1,032,369, behind only Kensington and Chelsea.

Despite being one of the most affluent boroughs in London, Westminster also has one of the highest rates of violent crime in the capital.

In 2021, the Metropolitan Police recorded 50,962 violent crimes in Westminster, more than any other borough. This is in part because the borough is home to many of London’s most popular tourist attractions.

Westminster also has a worse than average unemployment rate at 7.2 per cent. Around 30 per cent of the borough’s population lives in poverty while the child poverty rate is slightly lower at 28 per cent.

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