One of the West Midlands’ three principle cities, 18 of Coventry’s 54 councillors are facing election. Labour are defending 14 seats with the Conservatives hoping to retain their four. The city’s one Independent is not facing election.
The Labour Party has a tight grip on the Council, currently holding 40 of the 54 seats. Power in Coventry tends to run counter to the national picture – whilst the Conservatives hold power in Westminster, they have little influence in Coventry, and vice-versa.
Whilst it is theoretically possible for Labour to lose control of the Council, should the Conservatives take all of Labour’s current seats and retain their own, the chances are vanishingly small. Only real political nerds will be watching Coventry this week.
Labour, Conservative, UKIP, Green, Liberal Democrat and Socialist Alternative are all fielding candidates. There are also independent candidates fighting for votes in some wards.
The Conservative Party leader, Cllr Gary Ridley, has conceded that it will be a “challenge” to overturn the control of the Council. Even holding on to some seats may be too much of an ask, with Westwood firmly in Labour’s crosshairs.
Cllr Ridley has, however, highlighted the wards of Bablake and Cheylesmore as the most promising for the Conservatives. Cheylesmore is especially vulnerable to a Tory gain as Labour hold the seat by only 9 votes.
The Liberal Democrats are fielding four candidates, six less than last year. By concentrating their political energy on only four wards, the Party is hoping to build on their “natural support” (hmmm…) and return at least one Councillor this year.
For Labour, there is a lot to lose and not much to gain in this year’s election. With the Conservatives focusing their electoral energy on Bablake and the Liberal Democrats hoping to take Sherbourne and their only seat on the Council, Labour is on the defence.
The Party is not without its critics. The current administration has come under intense scrutiny, with the lengthy legal battle with SISU over the Ricoh Arena providing unwelcome headlines in recent months.
Nevertheless, Coventry continues to go from strength to strength. The city won the bid to become UK City of Culture and will be the home of UK battery technology after winning the Faraday Challenge. Even Homes England have agreed to create a ‘national centre’ in Coventry. The question is whether any of this has impacted ordinary Coventrarians, and whether credit – or blame – lies with the politicians.