Greenwich Council election 2022: What to watch for as counting begins

Polling Station sign
Polling was yesterday, counting is today with results expected by 6pm

Looking for the result? The story’s here. Read on for Friday morning’s story, written before the results came in…

Ballot papers will be counted today at the Waterfront Leisure Centre in Woolwich after yesterday’s Greenwich Council election.

Results for each ward are due to arrive from the early afternoon onwards, and the final counts should be completed by 6pm.

853 will be at the count. There will be updates during the day on Twitter – just take a look at @853london. Greenwich Council’s official feed is likely to be carrying the official results as they happen – see @Royal_Greenwich.

This website will carry a full report from the count either late on Friday evening or on Saturday morning.

Counting is also taking place in Lewisham, where voters have also been choosing an elected mayor, and Bromley.

Bexley counted its votes overnight, and the Conservatives have maintained their grip on the borough. Labour won just won new seat, in Northumberland Heath ward, meaning the Tories now have 33 seats to Labour’s 12. However, the Tories were run much closer elsewhere – in East Wickham, Labour were just 41 votes short. (See a breakdown of Bexley results.)

In stunning results in the rest of London, Labour took Westminster and Wandsworth councils and is reported to be on the verge of taking Barnet.

Who’s going to win?

Labour will win the election. The party has run Greenwich Council since 1971, and there is no sign of that stopping any time soon.

However, the margin of victory and where those victories are could decide the future of the council.

By London standards, Greenwich Labour actually underperformed at the last election. It had hoped for a wipeout – winning every single seat. It actually went slightly backwards, winning 42 out of 51 seats – one down compared with last time.

The Tories won the rest – mostly around Eltham, with a sole councillor in Blackheath Westcombe ward. So this does give Labour room to move forward. And Labour hopes of a stellar night will be buoyed by results in Bexley, where they ran the Conservatives far closer in the wards that border Greenwich seats.

Danny Thorpe, Ivis Williams and Jackie Smith lead Labour canvassers – and local MP Clive Efford – in New Eltham last night

What’s at stake?

Boundary changes mean a whole new map – there will be 55 councillors representing 23 wards. There will be a flood of new faces too, with 16 old councillors standing down – and others could well be kicked out by the voters.

New and recent housing developments in the north of the borough are finally recognised with their own wards: Greenwich Creekside, Greenwich Peninsula, Woolwich Arsenal and West Thamesead.

Each councillor gets a basic allowance of £10,415 each year – it is basically a part-time job – while many are paid more for taking on special responsibilities such as chairing committees or sitting on the cabinet, which makes most of the decisions.

The next leader of the council won’t be chosen today – that will be next week, when the Labour group has its annual general meeting.

Nigel Fletcher, Pat Greenwell and Malcolm Reid
Nigel Fletcher, Pat Greenwell and Malcolm Reid are hoping to keep Eltham town centre blue

Where to watch?

Labour will be targeting a full wipeout – winning all 55 seats. So the seats to watch will be the ones that roughly cover where the Tories are now. If your letterbox has been untroubled by a Labour leaflet, this is where the effort’s going.

Eltham Park & Progress. The old Eltham North ward, shorn of a lot of Tory-voting streets. Labour will be very confident of taking this from Conservatives Spencer Drury and Charlie Davis.

Mottingham, Coldharbour and New Eltham. Tory-leaning suburbia paired with the huge Coldharbour housing estate, right at the borough’s southern tip. Labour were just 95 votes away from success last time (when this was a slightly smaller ward) and actually got a councillor in the equivalent Bromley seat over the border. It will be a bad result for Labour if they fail to do better this time.

Eltham Town and Avery Hill. The equivalent of Labour winning the City of Westminster – not least because this is opposition leader Nigel Fletcher’s seat. Covering both sides of Eltham High Street and stretching to the Bexley border, this is Tory Central; and home to a host of leading figures in Greenwich politics. Labour have come close here before when Ukip have split the vote; Reform UK could do the same this time and let them in.

Blackheath Westcombe. Split between Tory and Labour councillors for 20 years, this seat now includes all of the posh Cator Estate. The Johnson factor could, though, reverse this Tory advantage.

Old Woolwich Road placard
Greens are hoping their time has come in East Greenwich

That’s not to say Labour aren’t under threat in other places.

East Greenwich. The traffic-choked stretch along Trafalgar Road and Woolwich Road is split from Peninsula ward and becomes the Greens’ number 1 target. Both Labour and the Greens are throwing the kitchen sink here – is this the Greens’ time?

Greenwich Park is also one to watch following the low-traffic neighbourhood fiasco. The Tories have campaigned in Greenwich Peninsula but the Greens will also fancy making an impact here too. Middle Park & Horn Park could see a backwash from opposition to low-traffic neighbourhoods in neighbouring Lewisham, although that is unlikely to change who wins.

What could happen?

It doesn’t take much to cause an earthquake at council election time, so events elsewhere could mean the Tories are really in trouble. That said, the party has deep roots in Eltham, and its candidates have emphasised their roles as champions of an area that often feels forgotten about compared with the changing north of the borough.

If the Tories go down below four councillors, they will really be in trouble as they will lose their status as a group on the council – meaning they will not be entitled to briefings from council officers or an allowance for their leader, severely hampering their chances of scrutinising Labour. (Update: Turns out this is wrong, at least as far as allowances go – the minimum is two. Council documents contradict each other on this point.)

Similarly, if the Greens were to win East Greenwich and claim one other seat, it would transform their standing in the borough. One or two councillors, though, would be a giant step forward.

Labour success in Eltham could also boost Danny Thorpe’s chances of re-election as leader next week, strengthening his power base in the south of the borough.

A Labour wipeout would be unprecedented – in Greenwich, at least – and would present its own challenges; what do you do with a heap of councillors with very little to do and no opposition to rally against?

Whisper it, but there may well be some wearing red rosettes today quietly willing a few Tories and Greens over the line to keep things interesting.

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