Local elections 2022: What results to watch out for across the North West

  • Will wider issues will affect how people vote?

The local elections are looming - and there are many reasons to watch closely.

Why? Because this set of results are likely to give us the clearest picture of the national mood, better than any opinion poll.

This year's polling day involves 24 councils across the North West, with nearly 500 council seats up for grabs - that's a lot of voters, and can tell us a lot about the state of the parties.

The last time most of these seats were up for election was in 2018 - four years and a political lifetime ago.

Back then, Theresa May ran a Conservative government locked in internal battles over Brexit, Jeremy Corbyn led a Labour party uncertain of its direction, and no one had ever heard of Covid-19.

The world has changed since then. So with this being the first local election which is more or less free from the shadow of the pandemic, it's a major test for both Boris Johnson and Keir Starmer.

Professor Jon Tonge, from the Department of Politics at the University of Liverpool, says these results could tell us who is likely to be the Prime Minister after the next General Election:

"Never, ever underestimate local elections in terms of their importance. Parties set their store by them, and tailor their messages to what they're told by voters come 5 May."

Battleground 2022: ones to watch

  • BURY

This is an all-out election, meaning every seat on Bury Council is up for grabs, and politically it's a hugely exciting patch.

Bury kept Labour in control of its council for more than a decade (they held 28 out of 51 seats after last year's elections ) but in 2019, the area elected two Conservative MPs.

One has since staged a dramatic defection to Labour - and the big question is, will more voters follow in Christian Wakeford's footsteps, or could there be a backlash?

Both Labour and the Conservatives will see everything to play for here. Bury was one key beneficiary of the Levelling Up fund, and a centre of the row over the Greater Manchester clean air zone.

People we spoke to also felt a great deal of anger about the partygate scandal and the cost of living crisis. It's no surprise that Sir Keir Starmer launched his local election campaign in the area - expect other political leaders to follow in the coming weeks.


Bolton Council mirrored the general fates of the parties in 2019, where Labour lost overall control and a total of 12 seats.

The Conservatives have run a minority administration since then and by the end of 2021 it was tight - they held 21 out of 60 seats, Labour close behind with 18.

Like Bury, it's an interesting check in point for political trends: voters here elected two Conservative and one Labour MP. Even if no party gains overall control, the vote share in such a crucial red wall area will be a good clue to how the parties are doing in places where they'll need to maintain strong support for the next General Election.


Pendle is the Conservative's only majority held council in the North West, after a few years of swinging fortunes which saw them gain administrative control in 2018, to lose it the following year.

It's been described as a "barometer council" - and with the Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal Democrats all looking to defend seats, likely to be one of the most fought over in the country.


This is one of the North West's yellow/red battlegrounds, and an interesting place to see whether the Liberal Democrats' hopes of a post-coalition revival at the next General Election are justified.

There hasn't been a majority party here since 2011 - it's currently under no overall control, with a third of its seats up for election this year.

The Lib Dems held the most seats after May 2021 - but Labour stayed at the helm to lead a minority administration, with the support of the Conservatives.

These are narrow margins, so even if no party wins enough seats to gain majority control, there's still uncertainty about who could end up leading a minority administration here.


Trafford is one of Labour's success stories in recent years, taking minority control from the Conservatives in 2018 and building their support into a majority by the following year.

2021 wasn't great for Labour nationally, but Trafford bucked the trend, where the party gained four seats from the Conservatives and consolidated their control. It's a trend they'd need to continue across the region to call the 2022 election campaign a success.


While we might not necessarily see huge political shift in Cumbria, these elections are worth a closer look because they are effectively creating two entirely new councils.

The old system (Cumbria County Council with six district councils operating underneath it) is due to be scrapped and replaced with two unitary councils to provide all services, from social care to bin collections.

So this year Cumbrian residents will elect councillors to "Cumberland Council" in the east (covering the current districts of Allerdale, Carlisle and Copeland) and "Westmorland & Furness Council" in the west (covering Barrow, Eden and South Lakeland).

The elected councillors will sit on "shadow authorities" to oversee the transition, and take over on 1 April 2023.

This shakeup could eventually lead to the introduction of a directly-elected mayor for Cumbria, with significant local powers, so vote shares will be interesting here.


Labour have counted on Merseyside as a stronghold of support on both the national and local agenda - so losing overall control in 2019 was a surprise.

The party continued to run the council as a minority administration but lost further seats in 2021. They'd now need to gain seven to resume overall control, and whether they can do that or not will be a clue as to the success of Labour's messaging in a traditional heartland, and the broader appeal of the party leader.

"If Labour can start recapturing councils like this, they're very much back in business. If they remain under NOC, you're likely looking at a second term of a Conservative Government" - Professor Jon Tonge.

What does 'victory' look like?

Most politicians tend to find something to shout about in their local election results, but what would make a "good" polling day for the various political parties across the North West?

Labour will be looking to gain control of councils as a mark of success, and seeing off that challenge to keep councils under no overall control would be a result for the Conservatives in many areas.

Whereas the Liberal Democrats and the Green party will be looking more at overall vote share and seat numbers to measure how they're doing on the national stage.

Why should we care?

Local elections aren't just a Westminster temperature check.

Councils and unitary authorities are responsible for delivering services that pretty much all of us rely on every day - including social services, bin collections, recycling, housing, education, and planning.

Coronavirus brought us all even closer, with councils at the heart of emergency measures like the track and trace programmes.

Professor Jon Tonge explains why he thinks "it's crazy to ignore local elections":