Coverage of local council elections understandably focus on local stories, but this can make it hard to get a broad perspective on how an election has gone. A poor result in one high-profile council doesn’t necessarily mean that party has done poorly in most places they have run, and it’s always possible to focus on success stories over failures. Most frustratingly, council stories are rarely in proportion to the sizes of councils. I’ve tried to remedy this by focusing on the eight most populous councils, most of which are in Western Sydney.
I’ve been working on pulling together booth-level and ward-level data for the 2012 council election. It’s not quite finished, but later this year I’ll be publishing data for this election, along with a few other elections where data is hard to access.
This has allowed me to run a comparison of the election results for the areas that went to the polls on Saturday, looking at the same areas in 2012.
In this post I’ll run through the statewide totals for each party, note some unusual trends and talk about the difference between the councils up for election this year and next year.
A few things should be noted. Firstly, most regional councils are not contested by any parties. Only in Sydney do you find councils where independents are not one of the main power blocs on the council.
Seven wards in western NSW were uncontested, so there are no votes from these areas. Sixteen wards were uncontested in 2012 in areas up for election this year, so these areas were excluded when calculating the swing. We also don’t have any results from Tweed council (where the election has been postponed until October 29) or Bland council (where some voting has been postponed until this weekend).
Overall, the result was a good one for Labor, with a swing of 5.9%. The result was also a bad one for independents, whose vote has dropped substantially. The Liberal Party vote dropped very slightly, while the Greens vote increased slightly.
16.8% of all Liberal votes in this election were cast in Fairfield and Penrith councils, two large councils which the party chose not to contest in 2012. If you exclude these two councils, the swing against the Liberal Party in the rest of the state was 3.7%. Likewise, excluding these two councils, the swing against independents drops from 5.7% to 2.7%.
The statewide trend for Labor can be seen in individual councils, with Labor’s position strengthening across Sutherland, Cessnock, Lake Macquarie and most of western Sydney.
There’s a big divergence in the Greens performance between urban NSW and regional areas. If you look at the councils in urban areas (which I count as Sydney as far as Wollondilly and the Blue Mountains, as well as Cessnock and Lake Macquarie), the Greens suffered a 0.4% swing against them. This compares to a swing of 1.8% to the Greens in regional areas.
The Greens look likely to win council seats in places like Albury and Glen Innes where they’ve never run before, and have performed very strongly in Byron, Bellingen and Shoalhaven, but they’ve been let down by their performance in urban NSW. Admittedly most of these urban councils are not the best areas for the Greens in urban NSW, with most of inner Sydney along with Wollongong and Newcastle having elections postponed, but even in the few good areas the Greens underperformed.
The Greens vote in the City of Sydney dropped by 3.5%, after falling in 2012. The Greens vote in the City is now roughly half of what it was in 2008, and the party looks unlikely to win any seats. The Greens won three seats, and almost won a fourth, in the Blue Mountains in 2008, before dropping to one seat in 2012. The party only managed a 0.4% swing this time and looks likely to only win one seat.
The Greens swing in urban NSW would have been a positive one if not for the Greens stuffing up nominations for Lake Macquarie council, which is one of the biggest in the state and one where the Greens have managed to win multiple seats in the past.
Roughly half of the state will vote in council elections this year, once Tweed’s election is conducted. My last table shows the differences in vote between the two halves voting in 2016 and 2017.
|Party||2016 councils||2017 councils|
|Total formal votes||1,655,251||1,784,485|
The councils up for election this year were relatively strong for independents, thanks to the large numbers of rural councils holding elections: places where no parties run. In terms of balance between the major parties, the areas up for election were relatively good for Labor (thanks to western Sydney) and bad for the Liberal Party and the Greens. Those independent votes cast for councils up for election next year include a lot of people voting for independents in parts of the north shore where the Liberal Party traditionally hasn’t stood, but could be gained by the Liberal Party if they run for new amalgamated councils.
Finally, I’ve included a map of the state. You can click on each council to see the vote for the major parties, their percentage and the swing.