London party

London Elections 2022: Spotlight on Brent – the key facts, big issues and political makeup

O

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

One council Labor has traditionally held is Brent, although resignations and controversy in recent years may lead to a trickier election this time around.

Key issues

Across London, Labor is hoping to capitalize on voter unease over issues such as partygate and the cost of living crisis.

But despite a strong performance by Labor in the 2018 election, which saw the party win 60 of Brent’s 63 council seats, a series of resignations and subsequent by-elections saw a significant share of the vote shift to others gone.

Four by-elections have taken place in 2020 following the resignation of four Labor councilors – one of which occurred under controversial circumstances. One of the seats would be lost to the Liberal Democrats while the other three would be retained, although Labor recorded swings of between 12 and 25% against him.

Other parties hoping to gain ground in Brent this time around could try to capitalize on the council’s decision to raise council tax by 2.99%. Along with the Mayor of London’s increase in his share of council tax, the average Band B bill will have risen by around £70 a year.

Sadiq Khan’s decision to expand the Ultra-Low Emissions Zone to include parts of Brent may also factor into voters’ decisions as they head to the polls.

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

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Details

Brent London Borough Council has remained largely under Labor control since its formation in the mid-1960s. The Conservatives had a majority for one term from 1968 to 1971 and no party had a majority large enough to take overall control at three times: from 1982 to 1986, from 1990 to 1998 and from 2006 to 2010.

The borough has been named a London Borough of Culture in 2020, receiving a £1.35 million grant from City Hall to run a year of cultural events and initiatives.

Labor has controlled the council since 2010, winning 60 seats in the 2018 election while the Conservatives won three. Labour’s overall vote share rose nearly 11% from the previous election, while the Conservatives also saw 1.9% headed their way. The Lib Dems, Greens and UKIP all saw their share of votes drop significantly.

Like many other London boroughs, Brent was the subject of a review by the Local Government Boundary Commission last year. As a result of this review, the number of Brent wards will increase to 22, but the total number of council seats will be reduced to 57.

At the end of 2019, three Labor councilors from two wards all resigned within a week of each other, all citing personal reasons.

Just days after the third resignation, a fourth Labor councilor – barrister James Allie – also resigned amid controversy he allegedly bought a £500,000 house using money from the estate of a deceased wife of whom he had been named executor. Mr. Allie was reportedly suspended from the party.

By-elections for all four seats were held in January 2020. Mr Allie’s seat was lost to Liberal Democrat candidate Anton Georgiou, while Labor retained the other three, but with reduced majorities.

In February 2022, Brent Council agreed to a 2.99% increase in council tax bills – the maximum allowed by the government before a referendum was held.

Demography

Brent has a population of around 327,800 according to 2020 estimates from the Office for National Statistics.

The borough is home to one of the most ethnically diverse populations in the capital. City Hall estimated in 2020 that around 34% of Brent’s population was Asian or Asian British. Black British, African and Caribbean residents make up 17% of the population, while white minority groups make up 16%. The white British population of Brent is estimated at around 16%.

Brent’s population is relatively young, with a median average age of 36, below the English average of 40.

People of working age between the ages of 18 and 64 make up 63% of Brent’s total population. Children aged 17 and under make up 23.8%, while those above retirement age make up 12.8%.

According to Trust for London, the poverty rate in Brent is worse than average, with around 33% of the population living in poverty. Child poverty is around 40%. The unemployment rate in the borough is around 5.9%, which is considered average.