London party

London Elections 2022: Spotlight on Barnet

Keir Starmer and Sadiq Khan kick off Labour’s local election campaign in Barnet (Getty Images)

On May 5, voters across the UK will go to the polls to decide who will lead their local authority.

One of London’s most closely watched contests will be at Barnet, which is currently Tory-led but which Labor has high hopes of claiming control for the first time.

Key issues

Barnet has emerged as Labour’s main target in the upcoming local elections, ahead of other Tory strongholds such as Westminster and Wandsworth.

On April 8, Labor leader Keir Starmer was joined by London Mayor Sadiq Khan and local councilors and candidates for the party’s official campaign launch in Barnet.

Read more: Follow the Standard's coverage of the 2022 local elections (ES)

Read more: Follow the Standard’s coverage of the 2022 local elections (ES)

Mr Starmer took aim at the government’s handling of the cost of living crisis in the hope that voter unease will allow his party to capitalize on the gains made in 2018.

But much of the campaign launch was also focused on Labour’s handling of the anti-Semitism crisis within the party which continued the 2018 campaign. The issue was cited as one of the reasons why Labor councilor Jessica Brayne defected to the Lib Dems in 2019. Around 15% of Barnet’s population is estimated to be Jewish.

While Labor hopes to capitalize on national issues to make progress at Barnet in May, the Tories hope local issues such as council tax, rubbish collection and green belt land development will be enough to meet the challenge of the workers.

One issue the Tories will try to capitalize on is TfL’s plans to build houses in tube station car parks. One such development, in the parking lot of Cockfosters station, has angered locals and last month saw an intervention by Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, who blocked the plans.

Conservative MP for Chipping Barnet, Theresa Villiers, also spoke out against the plan.

Details

Barnet London Borough Council was established in 1963, replacing the five local authorities which previously had responsibility for the area.

In the council’s first election in 1964, the Tories took control winning 37 seats to Labor’s 13 and the Liberal Democrats’ 6. The Conservatives would retain control of the council until 1994, by which time no party had a large enough majority to take overall control.

The following election in 1998 again saw no party gain overall control, but the Conservatives took over the council in 2002 and have remained in control ever since.

Following last year’s Local Government Boundary Commission review, the number of wards in Barnet will be reduced from 21 to 24, although the borough will still be represented by 63 councillors. Fifteen wards will have three councilors each and the other nine wards will be represented by two councilors each.

In the last election of 2018, the Conservatives won 38 seats with 44.5% of the overall vote share, while Labor won 25 seats with 39% of the vote.

Despite increasing their overall vote share by 3% from the 2014 election, Labor lost five seats in 2018 while the Liberal Democrats lost their only seat, with all six seats won by the Conservatives.

However, in the years following the last election, a series of defections and one resignation changed the political makeup of Barnet’s council.

In 2019, Labor councilor Jessia Brayne left the party before eventually defecting to the Lib Dems, while Conservative councilor Gabriel Rozenberg also defected to the Lib Dems. Labour’s Jo Cooper stepped down as a councilor in April 2021 to focus on her work for the NHS, with the Conservatives winning the seat in the ensuing by-election. In May 2021, Conservative Councilor Shimon Ryde left the Conservatives to become an independent.

This month (April) Conservative Councilor Helene Richman defected to the Lib Dems citing the Tories’ record on living standards and inequality. Councilwoman Richman will defend her seat in the upcoming election for the Lib Dems.

Demography

Barnet is London’s most populous borough with an estimated population of 402,700 as of June 2021, representing a 12% increase since 2011.

Compared to London as a whole, Barnet has an older population with a larger share of people aged 60 or over. About 23.6% of Barnet’s population is under the age of 17, while 61.9% are of working age (between 18 and 64) and 14.5% are aged 65 or over.

According to 2011 census data, 64.13% of Barnet’s population is white, while 18.5% are Asian or Asian British, 7.7% are black or black British, and 4.82% are people are of mixed origin.

The poverty rate in Barnet is 28% while child poverty is 31%, according to analysis by Trust for London, while unemployment is 5.4%.

The average life expectancy in Barnet is 82.9 years for males and 86 for females.

As council tax has increased in neighboring boroughs, Barnet Council voted to freeze council tax at a meeting in March this year.