Getting Greens in the room

Despite the focus of media attention centering on the two main parties, Greens once again made gains all over the country. Chris Williams, Green Party Elections Co- ordinator, looks back on a successful round of elections for the party

Chris Williams

The local elections on 3 May saw a brilliant set of results for Greens in many of the cities and urban districts across England in which the party stood candidates. We now have a record 173 councillors on a record 66 different councils. We made a net gain of eight seats with particularly impressive gains in the North West, London and the West Midlands. We gained ten seats from the Conservatives, nine from Labour and one from UKIP. But with a stronger Labour Party than four years ago, some of the many impressive wins were against Labour in places where there has been a strong Labour revival. There is absolutely no doubt that our campaigns were better than ever before so we actually saw some even stronger majorities over Labour than the last time the seats were contested, representing a great step forward for our party.

We saw really exciting results on the six new councils we are represented on - in Birmingham, Peterborough, Burnley, Trafford, Richmond and Knowsley. In Knowsley, our youngest Green councillor was elected - 20-year-old Kai Taylor - and we made more than a modest entrance onto Richmond Council, netting four wins. In Trafford, we won in the 'true blue' Altrincham ward and in Burnley, in one of the most deprived areas in England.

Many of our existing councillors saw their majorities increase significantly - James Burn in Solihull reached

a record 78 per cent of the vote. Alison Teal in Sheffield, who famously was taken to court by her own council for protesting against its destruction of street trees, increased her majority from just eight to nearly 1,400. Labour have been left in no doubt what the people of Sheffield think of their street trees now. And London Assembly Member Caroline Russell also increased her majority, from eight to over 600.

These results have shown us that when Green councillors are elected, communities like what they see. We are successfully communicating the message that Green councillors in the room change the whole debate, hold complacent councils to account and make a difference in our communities that is unrivalled.

2018 saw a massive increase in the Green Party's organisation and approach to local elections, and we are optimistic for even more significant gains in 2019. Our local parties with prospects in 2019 are starting their campaigns right now. Get involved and let's get a Green in every room of every council.

Three of our new councillors tell us their objectives following the local election

Daniel Jerrome, Trafford Council

One of the main parts of the job is speaking to people and listening. I think we've done that incredibly well in the Altrincham ward; the more we've listened to people, the more we've understood their concerns.

Now that we're councilors, we have more access to try and address issues closest to residents. Sometimes it's about potholes, sometimes it's about protecting green spaces and environment. Now we're in a position to put forward some of our own ideas and maybe get the council to listen on things like climate change and air pollution.

Cheryl Buxton-Sait, Solihull Council

I was delighted with the result. It's a real honour to be elected to represent Castle Bromwich on Solihull Council. I believe politics is something that should be done with people, not to people, and that's what has been missing for some time in my ward. Residents felt ignored and many had never seen their sitting councillors before. I've been listening to what matters to local people and working on those issues and that's what wins people's trust.

Andree Frieze, Richmond Upon Thames Council

We're thrilled that we now have four Green councillors in Richmond Borough, where previously we had none. Our strategy of working with the Lib Dems to target specific wards and stand joint candidates has been more successful than we ever hoped.

People liked the 'grown-up' politics we ordered and responded positively to being able to vote for a Green candidate knowing it would count. We appreciate that our strategy was unusual and unique to Richmond and that it will not work everywhere.

Richard Bennett and myself are both on the busy planning committee, with Richard also scrutinising Business and Economic policy while I take on Children's Services. Monica Saunders will focus on Adult Social Care, with Dylan Baxendale covering Transport and Air Pollution.

As councillors we are already making an impact on residents lives through our case work, but we look forward to influencing policy via our committees. Our campaign to bring in borough-wide 20mph speed limits has already paid off, as the first initiative announced by the new Lib Dem Council is to fast track the consultation on this.