ANALYSIS  ⁄  DEMOCRACY & GOVERNANCE

Greens take three seats from Labour so Progressive Group replaces Conservatives as official opposition

Conservative loss in Topsham among significant vote share changes in 2022 Exeter City Council elections suggesting city's political landscape in flux.

EXETER CITY COUNCIL   LOCAL ELECTIONS   ALPHINGTON   DURYARD & ST. JAMES   ST. DAVID'S   EXWICK   HEAVITREE   MINCINGLAKE & WHIPTON   PENNSYLVANIA   NEWTOWN & ST. LEONARD'S   PINHOE   PRIORY   ST. DAVID'S   ST. LOYE'S   ST. THOMAS   TOPSHAM  

Exeter Green Party has taken three seats from Labour in the 2022 city council elections, reducing the ruling party majority as its eleventh year in power begins.

The Conservative Party lost Topsham to Labour despite possessing a 23% vote share majority after increasing its share in the previous two elections. Newly-elected Labour councillor Joshua Ellis-Jones won by more than 250 votes, to the surprise of all involved.

The Labour gain offset the party’s losses to the Greens to leave it with a reduced majority of thirteen seats.

Liberal Democrat Kevin Mitchell held his Duryard & St. James seat, increasing the party vote share by more than 10% to frustrate Labour hopes of repeating its 2021 victory in the ward.

The Green Party now holds the same number of seats on the council as the Conservatives.

The Progressive Group, formed by the Greens, Liberal Democrats and Independent Jemima Moore in 2019, has replaced the Conservatives as the official opposition on the city council.

Tess Read won in St. David’s for the Green Party, increasing its majority in the ward, which has now elected three Green councillors in three years.

St. David’s, which covers most of the city centre and is witness to extremes of wealth with poverty, has borne the brunt of a range of unpopular council policies.

These include allowing unbridled university expansion to affect housing availability and affordability and promoting city centre vehicle use despite air quality and public realm impacts.

The ward is also at the centre of the council’s controversial Liveable Exeter property development scheme.

Both Catherine Rees and Carol Bennett won for the Greens in Heavitree, which elected two councillors following the resignation of Labour’s Chris Buswell.

It was the city’s closest contest in 2021, when Catherine Rees lost by just sixteen votes.

This year both polled 200 votes more than the third-place Labour candidate.

Turnout in the ward was again highest in the city, at 47%, nearly 17% greater than in Labour stronghold Mincinglake & Whipton.

Labour’s Matt Vizard, who had appeared vulnerable in Newtown & St. Leonard’s after the Green Party came close to ousting incumbent Richard Branston last year, slightly increased his party’s majority to hold on to the seat.

There were much larger vote share changes elsewhere in the city, with big swings both for and against Labour as well as the 10% Duryard & St. James vote share change that meant Kevin Mitchell kept his seat.

Naima Allock consolidated her 2021 election victory in Mincinglake & Whipton by increasing her party’s vote share by more than 16% to the highest in the city at nearly 62%, 800 votes ahead of the Conservative in second place.

But deputy council leader Laura Wright came close to losing in St. Thomas, where she was defending the largest Labour majority in the city, when Liberal Democrat Adrian Fullam increased his party’s vote share by nearly 15% to come within 44 votes of unseating her.

And while Labour increased its vote share in Exwick, also electing two councillors following a Labour resignation, ex-deputy council leader Rachel Sutton, who was first elected in 2010 and is executive member with responsibility for Exeter decarbonisation, will only serve a one year term after coming second in the ballot behind newcomer Paul Knott.

She will have to stand again next year if she wants to stay on the council.

It isn’t clear whether this result is a reflection of her constituent’s views of the council’s net zero policies or simply a consequence of her name appearing at the bottom of ballot papers which present candidates in alphabetical surname order.

In Priory Labour incumbent Tony Wardle, who has been on the council for fourteen years, also came second.

He was beaten by party colleague Marina Asvachin, who is also county councillor for Wonford & St. Loye’s.

Her name appeared first and his last on the ballot papers. She has been elected for a four year term, he for two years.

There were also vote share swings against the Conservatives of more than 9% in Alphington, Heavitree and St. Thomas, nearly 10% in Pennsylvania and nearly 13% in Exwick and Topsham.

Despite these, the party still received 23% of the ballots cast, just over half Labour’s nearly 46%. Labour nevertheless won twelve seats and the Conservatives just one.

The Greens received a slightly lower ballot share than the Conservatives yet won three seats, and the Liberal Democrat’s 13% ballot share was 10% less than the Conservative’s but the two parties both won a single seat.

Other vote share swings across the city significantly favoured the Greens, Labour and the Liberal Democrats in ways that are not reflected in the results, as well as in ways which are.

Notwithstanding the extent to which the First Past the Post electoral system encourages electoral strategies which amplify such effects, this year’s Exeter local election results suggest the city’s political landscape is in flux, with more change to come.

Methodology note

Exeter City Council elections in wards in which more than one seat is being elected are held using the multiple non-transferable vote system.

In such wards each voter is allowed to cast up to the number of votes which equals the number of seats being elected.

These votes are not ranked in any order of preference.

In such circumstances, because not all voters cast all of their votes, and because previous ward elections typically involve only a single seat, comparing vote shares over time is misleading.

In 2016 all the council’s seats were exceptionally elected at the same time, following boundary changes. Then in Priory in 2019 and in Mincinglake & Whipton last year voters were invited to cast up to two votes to elect two councillors at the same time.

This year four wards elected two councillors, with voters in Exwick, Heavitree, Pennsylvania and Priory each allowed to cast up to two votes.

Comparing party performance in Exeter City Council elections over time is further complicated because not all the main parties stand candidates in all wards at every election.

In particular, the Green Party and the Liberal Democrats stood aside for each other in six wards last year, after the Green Party and the Liberal Democrats stood aside for independent candidate Jemima Moore in Newtown & St. Leonard’s in 2019.

In wards electing more than one councillor we therefore calculate a proportional share of the ballots cast for the leading candidate in each party to compare party support between each year and the preceding year or years in which they stood at least one candidate in that ward.

We believe this is the best way to make statistically meaningful comparisons between the major parties in the city.

The chart above compares this ballot share approach with a similar approach which also factors in the size of the electorate each year, and the more typical all votes share approach which produces results whose accuracy fluctuates as a function of the number of wards in which more than one councillor being elected.

As three councillors were elected in each of thirteen wards in 2016, then one each in 2018, then more than one each in 2019, 2021 and 2022, the all votes share has been equal to the ballot share in only one of the past five elections.

Candidates from other parties, as well as independent candidates, have also stood in each of these elections.

UKIP contested most, but not all, of the city’s wards in 2016 and again in 2019, but not in 2018. The Women’s Equality Party also stood in Duryard & St. James in 2018, 2019 and 2021. And an independent candidate stood in St. Thomas this year and in the previous two years.

These candidates are grouped together to simplify comparison. Where more than one non-major party stands in a multiple non-transferable vote election the best performing candidate is included in the analysis.

Mid-year by-elections are excluded altogether.


 is editor of Exeter Observer and a director of its publisher Exeter Observer Limited.

Recent stories
Exeter 2020 net internal migration by age group bar chart

Exeter beset by unaffordable housing, low graduate retention and economically inactive over 50's

Church Road traffic congestions

Alphington "enhancements" will not mitigate traffic impact from massive South West Exeter extension

Exeter Statement of Community Involvement cover

Council rejects calls for greater community involvement in Exeter planning policy and decisions

Magdalen Road public consultation results option preferences bar chart

£900,000 to keep Magdalen Road one-way system despite decisive public support for low traffic street

Flowerpot Playing Fields

Will Exeter College fence off Exwick community playing fields?


Help power our public interest journalism

More Analysis
Exeter 2020 net internal migration by age group bar chart

ECONOMY & ENTERPRISE

Exeter beset by unaffordable housing, low graduate retention and economically inactive over 50's

Exeter City Council executive ignores key challenges flagged in major council-commissioned employment and skills research report.

Church Road traffic congestions

TRANSPORT & MOBILITY

Alphington "enhancements" will not mitigate traffic impact from massive South West Exeter extension

County council manipulates public consultation and allocates just 1% of £55 million grant to pedestrian scheme while spending 75% on new roads and increased road capacity for 3,500 new cars expected on greenfield housing estate.

Magdalen Road public consultation results option preferences bar chart

TRANSPORT & MOBILITY

£900,000 to keep Magdalen Road one-way system despite decisive public support for low traffic street

County council misrepresented and omitted key public consultation findings in report and did not publish results until after decision taken in favour of option with only 18% public support. Exeter Observer snapshot survey finds 90%+ motor vehicles passing shops are through traffic.

All Analysis
News
Exeter Statement of Community Involvement cover

PLANNING & PLACE

Council rejects calls for greater community involvement in Exeter planning policy and decisions

Council defends existing approach despite Statement of Community Involvement consultation producing just 17 responses, and won't do more to promote neighbourhood planning despite prospect of enhanced community powers.

Net Zero Exeter 2030 plan cover edit

CLIMATE & ENVIRONMENT

Exeter City Council abandons city 2030 decarbonisation "ambition"

Unannounced decision to exclude scope 3 emissions constituting around 43% of Exeter's carbon footprint from "net zero" plans effectively ensures city will not meet its decarbonisation goals.

Exeter Ukrainian refugee support hub Conversation Café

COMMUNITY & SOCIETY

Ukrainian refugee support hub opens in Exeter city centre

Conversation Café pop-up offers information, resources, events and meeting space to help cut through the confusion surrounding the Homes for Ukraine scheme and enable Devon's response to the crisis.

All News
Comment
Cargo bike carrying kids in Exeter

TRANSPORT & MOBILITY

If you think electric vehicles are the answer, you're asking the wrong question

Mike Walton of Exeter Cycling Campaign says we shouldn't be seduced by the motoring lobby into believing that electric cars can create the future we and our children need.

Net Zero Exeter logo

CLIMATE & ENVIRONMENT

Is Exeter City Council going to abandon its Net Zero 2030 target?

Review suggests alignment with Devon Carbon Plan, currently aimed at 50% reduction in carbon emissions by 2030 and net zero by 2050, citing "technical and financial challenges ahead", although change in policy would require decision by councillors after 6 May local elections.

Centre for Cities Exeter City Monitor graphic

ECONOMY & ENTERPRISE

Selective use of statistics presents an unbalanced account of Exeter's economic & environmental status

Exeter City Council's Chief Executive uses statistics to show the city in a good light, but in doing so presents a picture which omits important information about the city's true position.

All Comment
The Exeter Digest

Exeter Digest #14: Exeter beset - Alphington impacts - Magdalen Road - Community involvement?

Our essential newsletter also covers continuing Exeter Development Fund scrutiny, missing meetings minutes from Exeter City Futures and Devon Climate Emergency Response Group, Liveable Exeter confusion and local design code reforms.

Exeter Digest #13: Flowerpot Playing Fields under threat - Scrutiny circumvention continues - Kidical Mass rides into town

Our thirteenth newsletter also covers city council spending on Instagram influencers, museum-fronted property development promotion, reports on local democracy and the role of councils in climate action and a government inquiry into the sustainability of local journalism.

Exeter Digest #12: Local elections special

Our twelfth newsletter also covers Devon Carbon Plan procrastination, hot air on the buses, county council transport insights and the continuing Exeter Development Fund scrutiny saga.

All Exeter Digest
All topics

ACCOUNTABILITY & TRANSPARENCY ACCOUNTABILITY & TRANSPARENCY ACCOUNTABILITY & TRANSPARENCY   AFFORDABILITY AFFORDABILITY AFFORDABILITY   AIR QUALITY AIR QUALITY AIR QUALITY   ALPHINGTON & COWICK ALPHINGTON & COWICK ALPHINGTON & COWICK   ALPHINGTON ALPHINGTON ALPHINGTON   BONHAY MEADOWS BONHAY MEADOWS BONHAY MEADOWS   CLIFTON HILL SPORTS CENTRE CLIFTON HILL SPORTS CENTRE CLIFTON HILL SPORTS CENTRE   COP26 COP26 COP26   COVID-19 COVID-19 COVID-19   CITYPOINT CITYPOINT CITYPOINT   CLIFTON HILL SPORTS CENTRE CLIFTON HILL SPORTS CENTRE CLIFTON HILL SPORTS CENTRE   CLIMATE CRISIS CLIMATE CRISIS CLIMATE CRISIS   CO-LIVING CO-LIVING CO-LIVING   CONGESTION CONGESTION CONGESTION   COUNCIL TAX COUNCIL TAX COUNCIL TAX   COVERING CLIMATE NOW COVERING CLIMATE NOW COVERING CLIMATE NOW   CROWN ESTATE CROWN ESTATE CROWN ESTATE   CYCLING & WALKING CYCLING & WALKING CYCLING & WALKING   DEMOCRATIC DEFICIT DEMOCRATIC DEFICIT DEMOCRATIC DEFICIT   DEVON & CORNWALL POLICE & CRIME COMMISSIONER DEVON & CORNWALL POLICE & CRIME COMMISSIONER DEVON & CORNWALL POLICE & CRIME COMMISSIONER   DEVON CARBON PLAN DEVON CARBON PLAN DEVON CARBON PLAN   DEVON COUNTY COUNCIL DEVON COUNTY COUNCIL DEVON COUNTY COUNCIL   DEVON GREEN NEW DEAL DEVON GREEN NEW DEAL DEVON GREEN NEW DEAL   DEVON PENSION FUND DEVON PENSION FUND DEVON PENSION FUND   DURYARD & ST. JAMES DURYARD & ST. JAMES DURYARD & ST. JAMES   EAST DEVON DISTRICT COUNCIL EAST DEVON DISTRICT COUNCIL EAST DEVON DISTRICT COUNCIL   ELECTRIC VEHICLES ELECTRIC VEHICLES ELECTRIC VEHICLES   EXE ESTUARY EXE ESTUARY EXE ESTUARY   EXETER AIRPORT EXETER AIRPORT EXETER AIRPORT   EXETER CANAL AND QUAY TRUST EXETER CANAL AND QUAY TRUST EXETER CANAL AND QUAY TRUST   EXETER CATHEDRAL EXETER CATHEDRAL EXETER CATHEDRAL   EXETER CITY COUNCIL EXETER CITY COUNCIL EXETER CITY COUNCIL   EXETER CITY FUTURES EXETER CITY FUTURES EXETER CITY FUTURES   EXETER CITY LIVING EXETER CITY LIVING EXETER CITY LIVING   EXETER CIVIC SOCIETY EXETER CIVIC SOCIETY EXETER CIVIC SOCIETY   EXETER COLLEGE EXETER COLLEGE EXETER COLLEGE   EXETER CULTURE EXETER CULTURE EXETER CULTURE   EXETER CUSTOM HOUSE EXETER CUSTOM HOUSE EXETER CUSTOM HOUSE   EXETER DEVELOPMENT FUND EXETER DEVELOPMENT FUND EXETER DEVELOPMENT FUND   EXETER EXTINCTION REBELLION EXETER EXTINCTION REBELLION EXETER EXTINCTION REBELLION   EXETER LIVE BETTER EXETER LIVE BETTER EXETER LIVE BETTER   EXETER LOCAL PLAN EXETER LOCAL PLAN EXETER LOCAL PLAN   EXETER PHOENIX EXETER PHOENIX EXETER PHOENIX   EXETER PRIDE EXETER PRIDE EXETER PRIDE   EXETER SCIENCE PARK EXETER SCIENCE PARK EXETER SCIENCE PARK   EXETER SHIP CANAL EXETER SHIP CANAL EXETER SHIP CANAL   EXETER ST. DAVID'S EXETER ST. DAVID'S EXETER ST. DAVID'S   EXETER TRANSPORT STRATEGY EXETER TRANSPORT STRATEGY EXETER TRANSPORT STRATEGY   EXETER UCU EXETER UCU EXETER UCU   EXETER CITY CENTRE EXETER CITY CENTRE EXETER CITY CENTRE   EXWICK EXWICK EXWICK   FOSSIL FUEL DIVESTMENT FOSSIL FUEL DIVESTMENT FOSSIL FUEL DIVESTMENT   FREEDOM OF INFORMATION FREEDOM OF INFORMATION FREEDOM OF INFORMATION   FRIDAYS FOR FUTURE EXETER FRIDAYS FOR FUTURE EXETER FRIDAYS FOR FUTURE EXETER   GENERAL ELECTIONS GENERAL ELECTIONS GENERAL ELECTIONS   GUILDHALL GUILDHALL GUILDHALL   HARLEQUINS HARLEQUINS HARLEQUINS   HEART OF THE SOUTH WEST LEP HEART OF THE SOUTH WEST LEP HEART OF THE SOUTH WEST LEP   HEAVITREE & WHIPTON BARTON HEAVITREE & WHIPTON BARTON HEAVITREE & WHIPTON BARTON   HEAVITREE HEAVITREE HEAVITREE   HOUSES IN MULTIPLE OCCUPATION HOUSES IN MULTIPLE OCCUPATION HOUSES IN MULTIPLE OCCUPATION   HOUSING HOUSING HOUSING   LGBTQIA+ LGBTQIA+ LGBTQIA+   LIVEABLE EXETER PLACE BOARD LIVEABLE EXETER PLACE BOARD LIVEABLE EXETER PLACE BOARD   LIVEABLE EXETER LIVEABLE EXETER LIVEABLE EXETER   LOCAL INDUSTRIAL STRATEGY LOCAL INDUSTRIAL STRATEGY LOCAL INDUSTRIAL STRATEGY   LOCAL ELECTIONS LOCAL ELECTIONS LOCAL ELECTIONS   MAKETANK MAKETANK MAKETANK   MARSH BARTON MARSH BARTON MARSH BARTON   MET OFFICE MET OFFICE MET OFFICE   MID DEVON DISTRICT COUNCIL MID DEVON DISTRICT COUNCIL MID DEVON DISTRICT COUNCIL   MINCINGLAKE & WHIPTON MINCINGLAKE & WHIPTON MINCINGLAKE & WHIPTON   MOUNT RADFORD LAWN MOUNT RADFORD LAWN MOUNT RADFORD LAWN   NET ZERO EXETER NET ZERO EXETER NET ZERO EXETER   NEWTOWN & ST. LEONARD'S NEWTOWN & ST. LEONARD'S NEWTOWN & ST. LEONARD'S   NORTHERNHAY GARDENS NORTHERNHAY GARDENS NORTHERNHAY GARDENS   OXYGEN HOUSE OXYGEN HOUSE OXYGEN HOUSE   PARIS STREET PARIS STREET PARIS STREET   PARKING PARKING PARKING   PASSIVHAUS PASSIVHAUS PASSIVHAUS   PENINSULA TRANSPORT PENINSULA TRANSPORT PENINSULA TRANSPORT   PENNSYLVANIA PENNSYLVANIA PENNSYLVANIA   PINHOE PINHOE PINHOE   PLANNING POLICY PLANNING POLICY PLANNING POLICY   PRINCESSHAY PRINCESSHAY PRINCESSHAY   PRIORY PRIORY PRIORY   PROPERTY DEVELOPMENT PROPERTY DEVELOPMENT PROPERTY DEVELOPMENT   PUBLIC CONSULTATION PUBLIC CONSULTATION PUBLIC CONSULTATION   PUBLIC HEALTH PUBLIC HEALTH PUBLIC HEALTH   PUBLIC REALM PUBLIC REALM PUBLIC REALM   PUBLIC TOILETS PUBLIC TOILETS PUBLIC TOILETS   PURPOSE BUILT STUDENT ACCOMMODATION PURPOSE BUILT STUDENT ACCOMMODATION PURPOSE BUILT STUDENT ACCOMMODATION   RAMM RAMM RAMM   REFUSE & RECYCLING REFUSE & RECYCLING REFUSE & RECYCLING   RETROFIT RETROFIT RETROFIT   RIVERSIDE VALLEY PARK RIVERSIDE VALLEY PARK RIVERSIDE VALLEY PARK   ROYAL DEVON & EXETER NHS TRUST ROYAL DEVON & EXETER NHS TRUST ROYAL DEVON & EXETER NHS TRUST   SIDWELL STREET SIDWELL STREET SIDWELL STREET   SOUTH WEST EXETER EXTENSION SOUTH WEST EXETER EXTENSION SOUTH WEST EXETER EXTENSION   SOUTH WEST WATER SOUTH WEST WATER SOUTH WEST WATER   SOUTHERNHAY SOUTHERNHAY SOUTHERNHAY   SPORT ENGLAND LOCAL DELIVERY PILOT SPORT ENGLAND LOCAL DELIVERY PILOT SPORT ENGLAND LOCAL DELIVERY PILOT   ST. DAVID'S & HAVEN BANKS ST. DAVID'S & HAVEN BANKS ST. DAVID'S & HAVEN BANKS   ST. DAVID'S ST. DAVID'S ST. DAVID'S   ST. LOYE'S ST. LOYE'S ST. LOYE'S   ST. SIDWELL'S COMMUNITY CENTRE ST. SIDWELL'S COMMUNITY CENTRE ST. SIDWELL'S COMMUNITY CENTRE   ST. SIDWELL'S POINT ST. SIDWELL'S POINT ST. SIDWELL'S POINT   ST. THOMAS ST. THOMAS ST. THOMAS   STAGECOACH SOUTH WEST STAGECOACH SOUTH WEST STAGECOACH SOUTH WEST   TEIGNBRIDGE DISTRICT COUNCIL TEIGNBRIDGE DISTRICT COUNCIL TEIGNBRIDGE DISTRICT COUNCIL   TOPSHAM TOPSHAM TOPSHAM   UNESCO CITY OF LITERATURE UNESCO CITY OF LITERATURE UNESCO CITY OF LITERATURE   UNIVERSITY OF EXETER UNIVERSITY OF EXETER UNIVERSITY OF EXETER   YOUTH STRIKE 4 CLIMATE YOUTH STRIKE 4 CLIMATE YOUTH STRIKE 4 CLIMATE  

More stories