United Kingdom local elections, 1973

United Kingdom local elections, 1973

The first elections to the new local authorities established by the Local Government Act 1972 in England and Wales and the new Northern Ireland district councils created by the Local Government Act (Northern Ireland) 1972 took place in 1973. Elections to the existing Greater London Council also took place.

England and Wales

The elections took place on three dates:
*Metropolitan County Councils, Non-Metropolitan County Councils, Welsh County Councils and the Greater London Council on 12 April
*Metropolitan Districts and Welsh Districts on 10 May
*Non-Metropolitan Districts on 7 June

Elections took place for all the seats on the councils. In the case of the new councils, they became shadow authorities, taking over from the existing local authorities on 1 April 1974. The elections for the new councils had been brought forward from an originally planned date in November 1973, to allow the councils more time to act as shadow authorities - the final dates were set in May 1972. ["Councils offered five more months before changes." The Times. February 18, 1972.] ["Election dates in 1973 for new local councils." The Times. May 26, 1972.]

The April elections

The elections held on 12 April saw a very good performance by the Labour Party, which regained contol of the Greater London Council and took control of all six of the new metropolitan county councils. In the rest of England, they won seven county councils, including two of the new "estuary" counties: Cleveland and Humberside. The party also won Gwent and the three Glamorgan county councils in Wales.

The poor Conservative vote in London and the metropolitan counties was somewhat compensated by winning thirteen of the non-metropolitan counties. Failure to gain Essex or Hertfordshire were disappointments to the party, but taking control of Gloucestershire was a success. The party also failed to gain its only realistic Welsh prospect, South Glamorgan.

There were no great successes for the Liberal party, which found itself in third place in all the metropolitan counties. They did however regain representation on the GLC winning two seats at Sutton and Cheam and Richmond on Thames. This followed the previous year's by-election success in winning the Sutton and Cheam parliamentary seat from the Conservatives.

Independents won two English counties outright: Cornwall and the Isle of Wight. They also formed the largest grouping on a number of other councils, and entered agreements with the Conservatives in the running of some of these. In Wales, Independents controlled three mainly rural counties. ["Labour sweep to victory in London and all six of the metropolitan counties", The Times, April 13, 1973] ["Labour take over metropolitan counties and 11 other councils", The Times, April 14 1973]

The May elections

The results of the elections in May saw an improvement in the performance by the Conservatives since the county council elections, and a slight fall back in the Labour vote. The Liberals had a notable success, becoming the largest group on Liverpool council.

The Conservatives took control of five metropolitan districts, gaining seats in areas where they had been beaten in the elections to the county councils. They also gained one Welsh district, Monmouth.

The Labour party declared it was pleased with the results, especially as opinion polls had shown them losing support. They took control of most of the metropolitan districts, making a clean sweep of councils in Tyne and Wear and South Yorkshire and important councils such as Birmingham, Coventry and Manchester. Labour also took control of most districts in South Wales including Cardiff. The party's organiser for Wales also pointed to the fact that official Labour candidates won rural seats in north and west Wales for the first time.

Apart from forming a minority administration in Liverpool, the Liberals were able to hold the balance of power at Leeds, Stockport and Wirral. They were however disappointed with their performance at Calderdale which was won by Labour. ["Three major parties find cause for satisfaction in local election results despite low poll", The Times, 12 May, 1973]

The June elections

In the June elections for 296 non-metropolitan districts, Labour won control of 71, the Conservatives 59, the Liberals 1, Democratic Labour 1, and Independents 67. 97 councils were under no overall control: in many of these councils Conservative and Independent groups formed an administration.

The Labour party won 4,327 seats, the Conservatives 4,286, Independents 3,534, and the Liberals 919; with the remaining 449 seats going to various other groupings.

It was a good result for the Liberal party who took control of Eastbourne and became the largest group on Adur, Newbury, Pendle and Waverley councils. The other two main parties also had notable successes: Labour considered control of Cambridge, Dacorum, Ipswich and Oxford to be good results; while the Conservatives celebrated taking Gloucester, Great Yarmouth, Lewes and Warrington councils. ["Final poll result may lie with Independents", June 8, 1973] ["Liberals capture Eastbourne and exceed ambition to win 1,000 local government seats", June 8, 1973]

The break-away Democratic Labour Association won twenty of the thirty seats on Lincoln district council. The group were supporters of Dick Taverne, member of parliament for Lincoln who had been expelled from the Labour Party. Taverne had earlier in the year resigned his seat to force a by-election in protest against his expulsion, which he won against the official Labour candidate.

The Results

Metropolitan county councils

Greater London Council

Non-metropolitan Districts









Future elections

The next county council elections took place in 1977.

Future elections to Metropolitan District councils were to be by thirds, with the one third of seats being elected in 1975.

The next election of non-metropolitan district councils and Welsh district councils was to in 1976. [Local Government Act 1972, sections 7 and 26]

Northern Ireland

Local government in Northern Ireland was reorganised in 1973 by the Local Government (Boundaries) Act (Northern Ireland) 1971 and the Local Government Act (Northern Ireland) 1972. The county councils, county borough and municipal borough corporations and urban and rural district councils were replaced by twenty-six Local Government districts.

Elections took place for all the seats on the district councils on 30 May. Elections were by proportional representation, using the single transferable vote system. The district councils came into their powers on 1 October. [Local Government Elections 1973 (Ark Social & Political Archive) [http://www.ark.ac.uk/elections/flg73.htm] ] ["Big Roman Catholic turnout in poll despite threats", The Times, May 31, 1973] ["Party accused over Ulster poll", The Times, May 31, 1973] ["Unionist supporters elect many hard-line men in Ulster local government poll", The Times, June 2, 1973]


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