Four years after its first election, Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council (BCP) faces another day of reckoning on May 4, 2023. Since the 2019 poll that formed this new, unitary authority, BCP has had two administrations, three leaders, three votes of no confidence, racked up record debts, achieved national infamy, flirted with insolvency, and even attracted a public petition calling for its leaders to resign.
Much of the chaos revolved around BCP’s Conservative former leader Drew Mellor (you can read more about him here). But with his deputy Phil Broadhead now at the helm, and his Conservatives preparing to continue Mellor’s work, BCP voters face a tough question.
Do we want to go through all this again?
This article assumes that you don’t. It’s a simple guide for BCP residents who are interested in tactical voting. You can take or leave this advice; it’s up to you.
Why vote tactically?
After May, BCP Council will either be run by the same Conservative group or by a coalition of alternative parties. Long-suffering residents already know what a Conservative-run BCP Council looks like (see above).
What does the alternative look like? A Unity Alliance led BCP for the first difficult year, in a period distracted first by the establishment of a new council, and then by Covid and lockdown. But it didn’t have a big enough majority to survive the death of two councillors, and the Conservatives took advantage and seized power as soon as possible.
This means we don’t really know what the alternative would be like. But a coalition with a larger majority, with policies that actually reflect the needs of residents, and with more space and time to enact those policies, would surely do better than anything we’ve seen so far.
How to vote tactically [and DON’T FORGET YOUR PHOTO ID!]
There are 33 electoral wards within BCP. Each ward has its own candidates, across a range of parties and independents. Depending on which ward you’re in, you can choose either two or three candidates when you vote.
The full list is here.
Your mission (if you choose to accept it!) is to select whichever candidates can defeat the Conservatives. Remember these are local elections, not parliamentary elections, so in your ward the target candidates might be different from the party you usually vote for. BCP has a mixed electorate and every ward is different.
So, vote smart. Vote tactically. And vote for a better BCP.
Here are the recommendations.
There are five wards in the Christchurch area, which is dominated by the Christchurch Independents group.
Warning: there’s controversy in the Highcliffe ward, where incumbent Nigel Brooks is running as a solo independent, despite being part of the Conservative administration for the last few years.
- Burton and Grange – Christchurch Independents. They’re defending both seats.
- Christchurch Town – Very competitive between Christchurch Independents and Liberal Democrats.
- Commons – Christchurch Independents. They’re defending both seats.
- Highcliffe and Walkford – Christchurch Independents. They’re defending one seat and looking to take the other (see above).
- Mudeford, Stanpit and West Highcliffe – Christchurch Independents. They’re defending both seats here too.
There’s a lot of variation in the 16 Bournemouth wards. Labour have campaigned heavily across the centre and east of the town. The Liberal Democrats (Lib Dems) and Greens are best placed in other wards. The Conservatives are close to winning many of these, but a tactical vote could make a huge difference.
- Boscombe East and Pokesdown – Labour: currently holding one seat and targeting the second.
- Boscombe West – Labour: currently holding one seat and targeting the second.
- Bournemouth Central – Labour are close here. Greens might also have a chance.
- East Cliff and Springbourne – Labour. Very close last time, and a key target ward.
- East Southbourne and Tuckton – Lib Dems and Greens have a slight chance.
- Kinson – Labour. A major target ward for all three seats here.
- Littledown and Iford – Lib Dems with a slight chance.
- Moordown – Greens. They were very close last time and are heavily targeting both seats.
- Muscliff and Strouden Park – Independent councillors Northover and Wilson are looking to keep their seats. The third seat is wide open and could go to Labour, Lib Dems or Greens.
- Queen’s Park – A chance for the Greens, who are targeting a seat, or even a Labour or Lib Dem runner.
- Redhill and Northbourne – Independent councillor Bartlett is favourite here. The second seat could go to his indie running mate Edwards, Lib Dems, Greens or even Labour.
- Talbot and Branksome Woods – Lib Dems. A chance against Conservative leader Phil Broadhead.
- Wallisdown and Winton West – Lib Dems are targeting a win here.
- West Southbourne – Labour are defending one of two seats, and targeting the second seat here.
- Westbourne and East Cliff – Lib Dems with a chance.
- Winton East – Greens. They hold both seats and are looking to keep them.
There is an incredible fight ahead in Poole, where half of its 12 wards are split up to six ways. Yes, six! The Lib Dems and the Poole People’s Party will be looking to consolidate or grow their seats, but face strong challenges from the Conservative wing.
Another warning! As well as the Conservatives, there’s also the small matter of the ex-Conservatives. Poole Engage was formed last year after a number of Poole Conservative councillors lost their internal selection bids. But two of them remain in the Conservative cabinet, and many of their new candidates are former Conservative councillors.
[Remember: don’t confuse Poole People with Poole Engage!]
- Alderney and Bourne Valley – Lib Dems. They won three seats in 2019 and are looking for the same result this time.
- Bearwood and Merley – Lib Dems. Currently holding all three seats.
- Broadstone – Lib Dems. Currently holding both seats.
- Canford Cliffs – A slight chance for the Lib Dems.
- Canford Heath – Lib Dems. Currently holding two seats and looking to win the third.
- Creekmoor – Lib Dems with a good chance in a tough three-way fight.
- Hamworthy – Impossible to call, with six parties in with a chance. The Lib Dems have candidates for all three seats. Labour, Greens and Poole People each have one candidate. Pick three of these and hope for the best!
- Newtown and Heatherlands – Lib Dems. Currently holding all three seats.
- Oakdale – Poole People. Currently holding both seats.
- Parkstone – Another impossible-to-call six-way split. The Lib Dems and Poole People both have two candidates. The Greens and Labour are fielding one each. It might come down to which of these have campaigned best.
- Penn Hill – Lib Dems. They were close to the Conservatives last time and will be looking to win both seats.
- Poole Town – Poole People. They won all three seats last time and are looking to hold.
Editor’s note: West Country Voices is party blind, so we do not promote or endorse any particular political party. But voters can hold local politicians to account on May 4, and we have published many articles suggesting that accountability is long overdue. Remember the death of scrutiny, when we wondered if the BCP is the most corruptible council in England? What about the long Beach Huts saga? And the continuing concerns about financial management (or lack of it)? Not to mention the lack of clear democratic principles leading to a public petition and the general chaos around the former BCP council leader?
We hope local residents will be as concerned as we have been about these revelations, sent in by a number of different residents, and will use this guide to decide how best to cast their votes on election day.