Partygate ‘bigger factor’ than LTNs in local elections

Low-traffic neighbourhoods less likely to be a deciding factor according to polling data, reports Joe Talora, Local Democracy Reporter

Ballot box

National issues are likely to be a deciding factor in the upcoming local council elections in London – ahead of things such as low-traffic neighbourhoods (LTNs), according to a new survey.

Polling conducted by Savanta and the Centre for London thinktank found that 46% of those surveyed in the capital ranked council tax as their top local election priority, closely followed by national issues such as the ‘partygate’ scandal (36%) and the quality of local social care services (30%).

More than half of London’s borough councils raised their share of council tax by 2.99% earlier this year – the maximum increase allowed by the government without requiring a referendum. But Enfield was not one of them, having frozen its share of council tax, while still allowing a 1% rise of the adult social care precept. Combined with a rise in the Mayor of London’s portion of the tax, Enfield taxpayers are paying an extra £46 on average this year.

Partygate, meanwhile, again hit the headlines this week after both Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak were handed fines by the police for breaching lockdown rules during the first few months of the Covid-19 pandemic. Conservative councillors in Enfield have so far back the PM, and earlier refused to back a motion by Labour calling on him to resign.

Centre for London’s survey also found that controversial issues such as LTNs were less likely to be a top priority. Just 12% of those surveyed ranked traffic control measures as a key priority likely to sway their vote.

LTNs have proved controversial in Enfield where the council recently made two trial schemes permanent despite a majority of residents saying they had a negative impact on them in the council’s consultations.

But Nick Bowes, chief executive of Centre for London, said that while the issue of LTNs is a “polarising” one, it “doesn’t appear to hold much overall sway on how people will be voting”.

Nick said: “However hard local parties campaign on local issues, council elections have never just been about bin collections, parking, schools and potholes. Often, they become a proxy for a referendum on the party in government nationally. That’s why our polling is fascinating, as it shows Londoners place the most significance on how much council tax they pay when it comes to who they’ll vote for in the coming elections in May.

“It is also a stark reminder of how many people are feeling the squeeze on their incomes because of the sharp rise in the cost of living. London’s poorest households already face the increasing cost of heating their homes and travelling around the city, with rising council tax clearly at the forefront of people’s minds.”