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  • Writer's pictureDavid Marlow

What do the 2024 local election results mean for economic development?

Updated: May 10

In the first LEDC Espresso Shot episode of May 2024, David and Mike discuss the outcomes of that month's local elections. These took place for 107 councils, 10 Mayoral Combined Authorities, and all Police & Crime (and sometimes Fire) Commissioners in England and Wales. The national media tended to interpret the results in national and binary (Conservative/Labour) terms, and as a forerunner of the General Election expected later this year. Mike and David try to provide more of a local economic development lens on what transpired.

Voter casting a vote into a ballot box

The ‘did not vote’ (DNV) turnout illustrates how far UK local democracy is from enthusing and engaging local residents in the decisions that affect their lives

With average turnout not much above 30% and sometimes below 20% there is a huge amount of work to do to reengage local people in the institutions that lead their community. Transformational LED needs legitimacy and consent. Good leadership teams benefit from enthusiastic followership. If this is not provided by the electoral process, then other channels for participation and engagement increase in importance. And the turnout trends were not encouraging. Even London, which exceeded 40%, showed a drop from 2021 and 2016 contests – as did several of the high profile Mayors.

London and the nine Northern and Midlands Combined Authority Mayors have a major opportunity to shape national and regional economic agendas

The re-election of the London, Liverpool, Greater Manchester and West Yorkshire Mayors, and the new Directly Elected Mayors (DEMs) for North East, East Midlands, and York & North Yorkshire can potentially shape new agendas for national and regional development – especially if there is a Labour government after the General Election. Doing this well locally and collaborating nationally is a significant challenge for economic policy makers and analysts as well as political decision makers. The change of control at West Midlands will be interesting in terms of any fresh approaches to strategy and ways of working. Were there to be a change of government, Teeside will also need to change significantly if it is to progress whilst no longer being the Conservative poster-boy operating a highly personalised and sometimes loose governance regime.

It is worth reflecting on how this potentially powerful cohort of mainly Labour DEMs, and the increasing number of labour councils and councillors, might pressure an incoming labour government for deeper and broader devolution. Non-mayoral and non-devo geographies in England and possibly sub-national leadership teams in the devolved nations should also consider how they ensure their voice is heard in this process.

Don’t over-estimate the importance to economic development and degrees of change following these elections

Despite the national media reporting, the elections were only in clusters of council geographies (107/360 LAs), and there was no change of control in around 80% of the councils that did vote. Yes – practitioners in new mayoralities or in councils that changed control will be expected to respond to and even influence new agendas. And this might be a helpful learning exercise if there is a change in National Government later this year. But there will be a lot of continuity alongside the change.


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