Local Elections 2023: A view from former Council Leader Toby Savage

As the political dust continues to settle following the local election results in England last week, the Thirty4/7 team has been discussing the outcome across key areas in the West of England.

Longstanding South Gloucestershire Council Leader Toby Savage, who stepped down prior to these most recent elections, shares his thoughts and initial reaction to the results.

Cllr Savage next to Solar Panels

“This set of local elections was a strange one for me, as it was the first set for many years that didn’t have my name on the ballot. On the one hand I was relieved not to feel the pressure when the counting agents got to work, but when you have a passion for this stuff you are still interested in the outcomes, and ultimately what these mean for communities.

Taking the West of England for example, we know it was a good night for Labour and LibDems, a disappointing night for Independents and a bad night for the Conservatives. Will there be a new dawn for how we plan the future of new and existing communities and the important energy and transport infrastructure that goes alongside them?

In Bath & North East Somerset the LibDems increased their majority further still with Conservatives reduced to having representation in just Keynsham and Midsomer Norton. A larger majority usually means larger issues around group management, which will be important with the new Draft Local Plan consultation pencilled in for this autumn. Be careful not to overlook a return to the council for former leader Tim Warren.

In my former stomping ground of South Glos, the Conservatives lost ten seats, depriving them of a majority, but still leaving them as the largest group. A shared administration between the LibDems and Labour looks likely here, with an outside chance of a minority Conservative administration. This will change the dynamic for the Local Plan’s next stage this autumn.

And in North Somerset, the coalition involving all parties bar the Conservatives seems likely to remain, albeit with some changes under the bonnet. This is because the Independents and LibDem groups shrunk, whereas Labour and the Greens grew. Whilst the Conservative numbers remained static, their seat tally was redistributed away from Weston-super-Mare and towards places like Clevedon. Considering the advanced stage of their Local Plan, these results are unlikely to alter its course.

Elections inevitably lead to a “churn” of experienced councillors and this set is no different. Swindon’s council leader lost his seat and in South Glos, three of the councillors not re-elected included the Cabinet Member for Planning and the chairs of the planning committees. And in B&NES the long serving planning committee chair retired. There is a loss of experience that will be felt over the coming years that will only recover with the passage of time.

Across our South West region I wish all newly elected and re-elected members the very best in serving their districts and balancing the ever-growing needs of our communities.”


Keep an eye out for more political insight over coming weeks as Councils bed in and set their sights on achieving their objectives for the next Council term.

If you’d like to discuss a planning scheme in the South West or Wales, and how to navigate the political upheaval of recent weeks, get in touch with a member of the team.