Election preview 2021: Will the Tories strengthen grip on Staffordshire?

An in-depth look at the state of play in Staffordshire ahead of polling day on May 6.

Staffordshire Profile

Population: 874,190


The county council has been Conservative run for the past 12 years. There are still pockets of Labour support across Staffordshire, including in Cannock Chase where Labour has run a minority administration on the district council heading into this year's elections.

However, Staffordshire has swung massively towards the Conservatives for a sustained period of time now, and as of the 2019 general election all 12 of the county's MPs are Conservatives.


The historic boundaries of Staffordshire cover much of what is now the West Midlands. An administrative county of Staffordshire was first set up in 1889 under the Local Government Act 1888 covering the county, except the county boroughs of Wolverhampton, Walsall, and West Bromwich in the south, and Hanley in the north.

Tamworth and Burton upon Trent were also brought in. The county's boundaries changed again in 1974 when parts of the Black Country and the Aldridge-Brownhills Urban District of Staffordshire became – along with Birmingham, Solihull, and Coventry and other districts – the new metropolitan county of West Midlands.

Modern day Staffordshire consists of eight districts, including South Staffordshire, Cannock Chase, Lichfield and Stafford.

Claim to fame

The largest hoard of Anglo-Saxon gold ever found in Britain was discovered in a field near Lichfield in 2009. Known as The Staffordshire Hoard, the artefacts are on display at the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery.

The county is also home to Cannock Chase, an area of natural beauty which is considered one of the jewels in the region's crown. Parts of the National Forest and the Peak District national park are also in Staffordshire.

The county has a rich manufacturing tradition. Stoke-on-Trent and its surrounding areas are renowned all over the world for its pottery industry, while Burton is considered by some to be the beer brewing capital of the world.

The Staffordshire Bull Terrier is from there, while Cannock was once famous for coal mining. Staffordshire also boasts theme park Alton Towers.

The National Memorial Arboretum in Alrewas is one of the country's national focus points for remembrance. Lichfield is home to a triple spired medieval cathedral and was the birthplace of writer Samuel Johnson.

Other famous sons include actor Neil Morrissey, who was born in Stafford; Line of Duty writer Jed Mercurio, from Cannock; and Kidsgrove-born Reginald Joseph Mitchell, who designed the Spitfire.

Future prospects

Staffordshire is approaching the final year of a strategic plan, which builds on the county's bold ambitions to create new jobs and opportunities as part of a greener future for residents.

Any hopes of economic growth are likely to have been knocked off course by the pandemic, and council chiefs face a major challenge to get things back on track over the coming months.

In January a budget report acknowledged that Covid posed a threat to the county's finances, and council tax has been raised, mainly to pay for the spiralling cost of adult social care.

Bosses have committed to getting things back on track as soon as possible, and unveiled a £109m investment package as part of this year's budget, including £69m on roads and bridges and £26m for maintaining and extending schools.

Will blue surge continue in county?

All 62 seats on Staffordshire County Council are up for grabs next week, while voters will also have the chance to elect 13 councillors on Cannock Chase District Council.

As far as the county council goes, it is as sure as eggs is eggs that the Conservatives will maintain a vice-like grip on an authority they have now controlled for the past 12 years.

Cannock Chase District however, is a different kettle of fish.

Labour is currently in charge of a minority administration after a period of political turmoil centring around the formation of the Chase Community Independents (CCI).

The breakaway group, featuring four former Green Party councillors and one Labour defector, caused Labour to lose the slender majority it held from the 2018 local elections.

Council leader George Adamson wasn't happy, accusing CCI of playing political games in the midst of a pandemic.

CCI meanwhile, led by former Green Party group leader Councillor Paul Woodhead, said they wanted the authority to move away from national politics and be more community focused.

As things stand Labour holds 17 seats to the Conservatives 14. CCI hold five seats, the Lib Dems have two and the Greens one.

There is one independent councillor and one vacant seat in Hawks Green, after Conservative councillor Daniel Snape resigned, meaning it's all to play for when voters head to the polls on Thursday.

Tories across the whole county will take heart from the fact that Staffordshire has been getting bluer with each passing general election.

Charlotte Atkins

After the dual Corbyn/Brexit-inspired flop of 2019, Labour is now without any parliamentary representation there at all.

For a prime example of the sustained shift towards the Conservatives just look at Cannock Chase. Labour won the seat by more than 9,000 votes in 2005, but it now has a Tory majority under Amanda Milling of nearly 20,000.

It is a pattern that is mirrored all across the county, and will undoubtedly be a huge concern for Labour as the party heads in to these elections.

As things stand on the county council, the Conservatives have 50 seats to Labour's 10, and there are two independent councillors.

Labour does have its bases in parts of Cannock, Stafford and Burton-on-Trent, and while leader Charlotte Atkins will be looking to retain those seats, any hopes of making inroads into the Tories huge advantage seem slim this year.

On Cannock Chase District Council, it is not beyond the realms of possibly that Labour could even gain a seat or two.

That being said, the way the district has swung towards the Conservatives, Mr Adamson is likely to be extremely happy if his party is in a position to form a minority administration after the elections.

What to look out for

With things so tight on Cannock Chase District Council, it is the elected members not representing Labour or the Tories who could have a major say in who rules the roost after the elections.

If there is no overall majority, then both major parties will be set for some wheeling and dealing after the results are announced on May 8.

This is when things could get really interesting. CCI – whose leader Mr Woodhead is contesting the Hednesford South seat he won for the Greens, have candidates in eight wards.

The party has not ruled out siding with either the Tories or Labour to form an administration, and the other minority parties could also have a say.

It is hard to predict just how much of an impact CCI will have in these elections. The fact that they are a new party and have not been able to campaign on the doorstep due to Covid restrictions could well reduce their chances.

It is also worth remembering that when these seats were last contested in 2016 Ukip was a major force, coming second in eight wards and hovering up a quarter of the overall votes.

In subsequent district council elections their votes appear to have gone massively towards the Tories.

With Nigel Farage's old party now in the political wilderness, Opposition leader Councillor Olivia Lyons may well feel her party has a great chance of stealing a march on Labour.

This year's elections will also see one of the longest serving councillors in the country bid farewell to local politics.

Labour's Gordon Alcott, the council's deputy leader, is standing down in Cannock North after serving continuously for an incredible 51 years.

The 81-year-old started out on the Cannock Urban District Council in 1970 and has been a fixture in the district ever since.

Councillor Gordon Alcott.

Also set to retire is Cannock South's independent councillor Maureen Freeman, the former police officer who helped track down child killer Raymond Morris.

For CCI, former Labour parliamentary candidate Paul Dadge is contesting Hawks Green.

Meanwhile a total of 243 candidates are standing for election to Staffordshire County Council.

Tory council leader Councillor White will defend his Lichfield Rural East seat, while Labour opposition leader Councillor Atkins stands in Leek South.

Conservative cabinet member Johnny McMahon is moving over from Cannock Villages to stand in Hednesford and Rawnsley. He is also standing for election to Cannock Chase District Council in the Cannock East ward.

Aidan Godfrey, Labour group leader on Stafford Borough Council, is bidding to unseat Tory incumbent Carolyn Trowbridge in the marginal county council seat of Stafford West.

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