Labour Party wins outright control of Barnet Council for first time

Big swing of votes away from ruling Conservative Party secures historic win for Labour
By Simon Allin, Local Democracy Reporter

The triumphant Labour group at the election count in Barnet
The triumphant Labour group at the election count in Barnet

Labour has scored a historic victory in Barnet, taking overall control of the council for the first time since the borough’s creation in 1964.

Group leader Barry Rawlings pledged to work with residents to “make big changes to the borough” as he celebrated winning a 19-seat majority on the council.

It came on a bruising night for the Conservatives in London, with Wandsworth and Westminster also falling to Labour as voters delivered their verdict on national as well as local issues.

In Barnet, the Labour group won 41 seats to the Tories’ 22. Key gains for Labour included High Barnet and Childs Hill, where Conservative group chair Peter Zinkin lost his seat. West Hendon, which turned blue four years ago, returned to Labour.

Cllr Rawlings described the result as “a great victory” and thanked residents “for putting their trust” in the Labour group. He added: “I know we had the right message with the right team at the right time, and Barnet deserves the changes we will bring.”

Labour governed Barnet in coalition with the Liberal Democrats between 1994 and 2002 but had never won the borough outright. They were two seats behind the Tories in 2014 before suffering a setback in 2018 amid controversy over the Labour leadership’s handling of antisemitism within the party.

Cllr Rawlings promised “a new relationship with the people of Barnet”. “It is about having people as our partners, and not as cash machines,” he explained. “Working with local people, we will have a safer, brighter, cleaner Barnet. It is about people taking responsibility, but also working with them.”

One of the first priorities for the Labour group will be to refund £2million raised through a 1% increase in the adult social care precept. Cllr Rawlings has also pledged to declare a climate emergency and carry out ward safety audits with residents.

The Conservatives suffered their worst-ever defeat in Barnet. Leader Dan Thomas said: “We’ve lost some great councillors this morning, and I am really disappointed for them personally.

“They have lost through no fault of their own. I think they are victims of a national set of circumstances – the cost of living crisis and ‘partygate’.”

Cllr Thomas also claimed that ward boundary changes in Barnet “favour Labour more than us”.

Speaking before the election, Cllr Thomas came out in support of Boris Johnson. After this morning’s result, he said it was for his colleagues in Westminster to decide on Johnson’s leadership, adding: “It has been a bad night for the Conservatives in London, but now those colleagues will look at the national situation and consider the message sent to the government, and I hope the government listens.”

It was also a disappointing night for the Lib Dems, who failed to win any seats despite holding out hopes of a resurgence in Barnet.

Leader Gabriel Rozenberg said: “It has been Labour’s night in Barnet. I think we all congratulate them and wish them well in their control of the council in their own right for the first time.

“I am proud of the campaign we ran. It was a positive campaign in the wards we targeted, and we offered voters a fresh alternative. But the voters’ decision is final, and we respect it and look forward to playing our part in the future of the borough.”

The Green Party, Women’s Equality Party, The Rejoin EU Party and four independent candidates also stood for election but failed to win seats.

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