Labour retain control of Enfield Council but Tories gain ground

James Cracknell reports from the local election count at Lee Valley Athletics Centre

Council leader Nesil Caliskan delivers her victory speech
Council leader Nesil Caliskan delivers her victory speech

The Labour Party has retained control of Enfield Council despite losing eight seats to the opposition Conservatives compared with its 2018 result.

The win for Labour, by 38 seats to 25, is the fourth consecutive victory for the party in Enfield and means it will enjoy its longest-ever spell in control of the civic centre.

But on a night when Labour made big gains elsewhere in London – picking up three previously solid Conservative boroughs in Barnet, Westminster and Wandsworth – in Enfield the party instead lost support, with its majority reduced from 29 seats at the 2018 election to 13 now.

Labour group leader Nesil Caliskan said she was “deeply proud” of what the council had achieved under her leadership and dismissed the party’s declining local support in Enfield as being caused solely by “boundary changes”.

Tory group leader Joanne Laban claimed that voters in the borough had “bucked the trend” to send a message to the council about some of its recent policies, including their opposition to “building on the Green Belt”.

The Liberal Democrats and Greens, meanwhile, failed to defend the seats they had gained in recent years from the defections of three former Labour councillors. This was despite both parties substantially increasing their share of the vote across Enfield borough.

The election count at Lee Valley Athletics Centre got underway shortly after 10pm on Thursday night and it took just under four hours for the first result to be declared, in the newly-created Arnos Grove ward, where the Conservatives won both seats on offer. It signalled that the Tories would likely be making gains elsewhere, with the former Southgate Green ward that Arnos Grove replaced previously being held by Labour.

Adrian Grumi, one of the new Conservative councillors for Arnos Grove, told the count: “I would like to thank the residents of Arnos Grove, who saw fit to elect me and Paul [Pratt] and ensure their voices are heard at every meeting.”

To stand any hope of winning a majority, however, the Conservatives needed to win every single ward west of the A10. It became clear that this wouldn’t happen when the fifth ward to declare a result on the night, Palmers Green, was won convincingly by Labour.

Doug Taylor, the ex-council leader who had previously represented Ponders End, was one of the two Labour victors in Palmers Green. He said: “I want to thank the best Labour team we have had for delivering this fantastic result.

“We look forward to doing our best to repay the trust of residents in Palmers Green.”

Cockfosters ward, always likely to be an easy win for the Conservatives, saw Ruby Sampson become one of the youngest councillors in the entire country. She said: “It shows you can be a young 21-year-old and be aligned with Conservative values.”

Joanne Laban said the Tories had "made progress" in Enfield
Joanne Laban said the Tories had “made progress” in Enfield

Ridgeway, another newly-formed ward, saw Tory group leader Joanne Laban comfortably re-elected. In her acceptance speech, she appeared to acknowledge that the Conservatives had lost the election overall, but insisted: “I am very pleased the Conservatives are progressing in Enfield and it is something we should all be proud of.

“The people of Enfield have spoken – they have said they don’t want the Green Belt built on [and] don’t support low-traffic neighbourhood [LTN] schemes.

“We have bucked the trend.”

However, the verdict from voters on the borough’s two new LTNs did not appear to be conclusive either way. While the Conservatives won clean sweeps in Southgate and Winchmore Hill – both wards impacted by the Fox Lane LTN and both wards that had elected Labour councillors in 2018 – Labour were triumphant in Palmers Green, another ward affected by the Fox Lane LTN, and in Bowes, which has its own LTN scheme.

Whitewebbs, a new ward occupying half of the former Chase ward in the borough’s far north, saw a keenly-contested battle between three different parties. The council’s controversial closure of Whitewebbs Park Golf Course and its proposal to de-designate parts of the Green Belt helped the opposition Conservatives come out on top, taking all three available seats. The Lib Dems had also targeted the ward, but finished behind Labour in third place. David Skelton, one of the triumphant Tories, said: “I think we have heard a strong and emphatic message [from voters], which the council must heed.”

Cllr Caliskan was easily re-elected in Jubilee ward. She said in her victory speech that Enfield voters had shown a desire for “decent investment in public services” and that it was “only Labour” which could protect them. She added: “I am deeply proud of what we have done in four years.

“Voters have delivered a Labour council that will be on the side of Enfield residents – we will work hard for all of you.”

The most closely contested ward of the night was Highfield ward, which had taken a chunk out of Palmers Green in the boundary review. Labour won both the two seats available, but only after a recount, with just 29 votes ultimately separating Labour’s Nia Stevens and Jacqueline Campbell of the Conservatives.

Andy Milne, a Tory victor in Grange Park ward, gave a scathing verdict on the night’s results in his speech when he said it showed the Labour-run council was “a tired administration that has frankly limped home”.

But following the final ward declaration just before 6am, Cllr Caliskan told the Dispatch: “I am delighted and really pleased we have got a strong majority, and I’m really pleased we are able to serve the residents of Enfield as a Labour group which is diverse and vibrant.”

Asked why she believed Labour had lost eight seats in the election, at a time when the Conservatives were losing support nationally and particularly in London, Cllr Caliskan said: “It was very clear it was boundary changes – we won more seats than we expected to, to be honest. And if you look at the wards we didn’t win, the majorities were not that big.”

Update:

The vote share for each party, compared with the 2018 local election, is as follows:

  • Labour: 45.4% (-9.5)
  • Conservative: 36.8% (+1.6)
  • Liberal Democrat: 9.5% (+5.5)
  • Green: 6.9% (+2.4)
  • Other: 1.4% (0)

For a full list of the ward results:
Visit
enfielddispatch.co.uk/local-election-results-as-they-come-in/