So Kent continues with 61 Conservative county councillors out of 81 and with 9 of 13 borough councils dictated to by Conservative cabinets. It continues as a one-party council that doesn’t reflect the fact that 60-80% of Kent doesn’t vote Conservative.
Where opposition parties won
Conservatives went into the 2021 Kent County Council (KCC) elections defending 63 council seats, with a record of voting themselves very large councillor allowances, and of delaying Kent’s zero carbon target to 2050. Campaigning, essential for challenger parties to change opinions, was very tough under lockdown.
The opposition at KCC now consists of seven Labour, six LibDems, four Greens and two or three Independents. And the surprises were the four gains by hardworking Green candidates in divisions where four years ago the Green Party was unknown.
In the rural seat of Swale East the Green, Rich Lehmann, won comfortably with 51% of the vote, Libdems didn’t stand; in Faversham, Libdem Antony Hook held the seat he won in 2017, Greens didn’t stand.
In Ashford East Green, Steve Campkin, was one of two Greens winning a seat on Ashford Borough Council in 2019, and in 2021 he won by over 400 votes to now become a Green double-hatter in a seat contested by all four national parties.
Again, in the double seat of Tonbridge Green, Mark Hood, was one of two Greens winning a Borough council seat in 2019 and he too becomes a Green double-hatter. His running mate in the KCC elections Green, Paul Stepto, was also elected very comfortably in 2021.
Libdems did not stand in Tonbridge; whilst Greens didn’t stand in the single seats of Malling North and Malling Central.
Greens had hopes of winning more KCC seats, but in Thanet with Becky Wing for example was not to be. But Green, Tricia Austin, did gain another Thanet district council seat. In Dover there were hopes of winning Dover North where the ill-judged location of the Dover IBF had upset many but Greens had to content themselves with coming a strong third in all five Dover district divisions.
Shepway Greens didn’t stand in Folkestone East where Jackie Meade had a good chance and gained a seat for Labour. Nor did Greens stand in Cheriton and Sandgate where Libdem Tim Prater had a decent chance but lost by 21 votes. LibDems, but not Labour, returned the favour by not standing in Hythe West where a new Green district councillor, Georgina Treloar, worked hard to hold the seat that Green, Martin Whybrow, had held for eight years, but alas she lost to a Conservative male. The story of Oxfordshire County Council in 2021 where Conservatives lost control after 132 years to a Labour/LibDem/Green coalition was not repeated in Kent.
Electoral Reform needed
So although the vote for opposition parties is growing in Kent, this has not yet dented the dominance of the Conservatives. A fair proportional voting system would deliver a very different county council, increase voter participation, and provide Kent with accountable regional government. The Electoral Reform Society in 2015, published a report, ‘The cost of one-party councils; lack of electoral accountability and public procurement corruption’.