n May 5, voters across the UK will head to the polls to decide who will run their local authority.
Greenwich is a traditional Labour stronghold but strong showings for both the Conservatives and the Green Party in by-elections during the current council term may lead to optimism that some seats may swing their way.
While issues such as council tax and the cost of living crisis are likely to factor into voters’ decisions in Greenwich on May 5, other local issues may also have a significant role to play.
One local issue which may shape voting habits in Greenwich and neighbouring Newham is the construction of the controversial Silvertown Tunnel.
Labour’s Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has vowed to push ahead with the £2.2 billion project despite fierce opposition from locals and climate experts who argue the tunnel will contradict efforts to combat climate change and reduce air pollution.
Mr Khan and Transport for London argue the tunnel – which will link the Greenwich peninsula to west Silvertown – is needed to relieve congestion from the nearby Blackwall Tunnel and provide another river crossing for east London.
But critics, including several Labour politicians, argue that the evidence points to an increase in traffic and worsening air quality once the tunnel opens.
Labour-controlled councils including Hackney and Lewisham have previously passed motions opposing the tunnel, while Labour mayor of Newham Rokhsana Fiaz spoke out against the project as recently as March.
Greenwich Council had previously backed the scheme and refused to join cross-borough efforts to have it halted, until a motion was passed last month calling for a pause to the project to allow for a review to take place.
The Green Party will be looking to capitalise on the issue as a means of eating into Labour support in certain wards, while the Conservatives are campaigning to use the tunnel to extend the DLR to Kidbrooke and Eltham.
Like elsewhere in London, low traffic neighbourhoods (LTNs) may also be a pressing topic for some voters in Greenwich, with the Conservatives campaigning to halt the implementation of any more LTNs until proper consultations are carried out.
Other than one council term between 1968 and 1971 when the Conservatives had a majority, Labour has controlled Greenwich Council for the rest of its existence.
At the last elections in 2018, Labour maintained its grip on the borough albeit by a smaller majority than the previous election.
The Conservatives managed to snatch one seat from Labour in 2018, bringing their total number of seats on the council to nine. Labour would maintain a strong majority on Greenwich Council, winning 42 seats with 55.9 per cent of the popular vote.
Overall turnout in Greenwich was 36.1 per cent in 2018, slightly lower than the turnout for the 2014 elections.
Ahead of this year’s local elections, Greenwich was subject to a boundary review by the Local Government Boundary Commission, which determined the number of wards should increase from 17 to 23 while the number of seats on the council will increase from 51 to 55.
Four by-elections have been held in Greenwich since the 2018, one due to the death of a councillor and three due to resignations – including the resignation of Labour’s Tonia Ashikodi who was given a suspended sentence for property fraud in March 2020.
While Labour would retain all four seats in the by-elections which were all held in May 2021, both the Conservatives and Green Party saw significant swings in their favour.
In the Kidbrooke with Hornfair ward, Labour’s share of the vote fell by 9.5 per cent while the Conservatives saw an 11.9 per cent swing in their favour, while in Greenwich West, all parties saw swings against them other than the Greens, who saw a 5.3 per cent swing in their favour.
In February 2022, Greenwich Council agreed a 1.99 per cent increase to the general portion of council tax.
According to the Office for National Statistics, the population of Greenwich is estimated to be around 286,186 as of 2018. The borough’s population was recorded as 254,557 in the 2011 Census.
Census data from 2011 shows that around 52.3 per cent of the borough’s population is from a white British background, while other white backgrounds make up 8.3 per cent.
The single largest minority ethnic group in Greenwich is the black African community, which makes up 13.8 per cent of the borough’s population. People from black Caribbean backgrounds make up 3.2 per cent.
Residents of Asian or Asian British heritage make up 11.7 per cent of the borough’s population, including the Indian community which accounts for 3.1 per cent.
The age profile of Greenwich is similar to that of London as a whole, with a relatively young population.
Around 65.3 per cent of Greenwich residents are aged between 18 and 64, while under-18s account for 24 per cent of the borough’s population. Over-65s make up 10.6 per cent.
According to figures from Trust for London, around 26 per cent of the borough’s population lives in poverty, with the child poverty rate rising to 42 per cent. Unemployment in Greenwich stands at around 5.9 per cent.