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Exeter set for local elections

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2022 3:38pm

By Ollie Heptinstall, local democracy reporter

We highlight key battlegrounds

Political parties are making their last appeals to voters ahead of Thursday’s local election in Exeter, with extra focus likely in marginal wards where the result has been tight in recent years.

A total of 17 seats out of 39 are up for grabs: 13 in line with the usual cycle of a third every election year, as well as four others because of vacancies.

It means Labour, which occupies 14 of the seats not up for election this year, needs to win six to maintain control of the city.  The Conservatives have four councillors who are not up for re-election and could take charge if they win 16 of the contested seats.

Meanwhile, the Liberal Democrats and Green Party will be hoping to make gains and strengthen their opposition voices on the council. They currently have one and two seats respectively, all of which are not up for re-election.

In the lead-up to Thursday’s vote, where just a few votes could make all the difference to which councillors get elected, the Local Democracy Reporting Service predicts some of the key election battles.

Heavitree

As well as hoping to take another seat in St David’s after victories there in 2021 and 2019, the Greens will be targetting the two seats up for election in Heavitree on Thursday.

After the Liberal Democrats decided not to field a candidate in Heavitree last year as part of a pact with the Greens, Labour held its other seat by just 16 votes over the Greens.

Lib Dem candidates are standing again this year but, with Labour's share of the vote falling here in each election since 2018 and the Greens' share rising, the result is likely to be close.

Duryard & St James

Top of Labour's list of target seats is likely to be in Duryard and St James, where the Lib Dems currently occupy two of the three seats with small majorities. The smallest of these is up for election on Thursday.

Defending a margin of 61 votes from his election in 2018, Councillor Kevin Mitchell is likely to face a strong challenge again from Labour, which holds one of the seats in this ward already.

Alphington

In the face of negative headlines for the Conservatives nationally, local Tories may be content with defending their existing seats (St Loyes, Topsham) this week. But they will be encouraged by previous results in Alphington.

Katherine New ran Labour close in two of the previous three elections, including by fewer than 100 votes in 2021. Former city centre manager John Harvey, who has been a councillor for the area previously, is standing for the Conservatives again.

Newtown and St Leonard’s

The Greens will be targeting Newtown and St Leonard’s, which features bohemian Magdalen Road, after candidate Dan Grey secured just over 40 per cent of the vote here in last year’s election.

To win, the party will need to unseat Labour councillor Matthew Vizard who secured 56 per cent of the vote in 2018. The Greens also benefited in 2021 from the Liberal Democrats not standing in the poll – an arrangement not being repeated this time.

St Loyes

Labour will be looking to take advantage of the Tories’ national problems in one of their Exeter strongholds, St Loyes, although it will be one of the more surprising results were it to come off.

Labour boosted its share of the vote up to 37 per cent in St Loyes last time, but this time face former lord mayor Peter Holland. He won with 52 per cent in 2018.

Polling stations are open from 7 a.m. until 10 p.m. on Thursday. Counting takes place at the Riverside Leisure Centre when the polls close, meaning we will know the results in the early hours of Friday morning.

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