TODAY marks one year until residents across Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole will head to polling booths across the conurbation to vote for their councillors.

Thursday, May 4, 2023, will see all 76 seats across 33 wards up for grabs for BCP Council.

It will be the first time all eligible residents across the majority of the area will be able to exercise their democratic right on election day.

The first ever BCP Council elections took place on Thursday, May 2, 2019 – a month after local government reorganisation in Dorset.

Since then it has been an extremely eventful start to life for the unitary authority.

The leadership of the council has also changed hands after two votes of no confidence, one not successful and one successful, from the Conservatives – while a third from the Christchurch Independents in Tory leader Cllr Drew Mellor is just days away.

Hundreds of councils are up for grabs at local elections tomorrow (May 5, 2022) but residents in the BCP Council area will have to wait another 12 months with councillors serving four-year terms.

Below we take a look through what happened on election day in 2019 as well as the by-elections and changes in allegiances since then.

Inaugural election

BCP Council came into being on April 1, 2019, through the merger of Bournemouth Borough Council, Borough of Poole and Christchurch Borough Council.

The rest of the county’s district and borough councils merged to form Dorset Council.

In the year prior to the council forming, a shadow authority with all members from the three boroughs – 125 councillors – held regular meetings in a transition period for local government in Dorset.

BCP Council has 76 councillors – a reduction in 49 from the three boroughs – and all of these seats were filled following residents’ votes on May 2, 2019.

A total of 97,768 verified votes were cast equating to a turnout of 33.13 per cent.

The results left no single political group with a majority – there were 36 Conservative councillors, 15 Liberal Democrats, 11 independents (including eight Christchurch Independents), eight Poole People and Alliance for Local Living (ALL), three Labour, two Green and one UKIP.

Eight councillors secured their seats by fewer than 50 seats – including Conservative Peter Hall by a single vote in Christchurch Town ward.

Other close wards included Conservative Jackie Edwards by six votes in Redhill and UKIP candidate Diana Butler by seven votes in Creekmoor and Conservative Bob Lawton by 13 votes in West Southbourne.

Alliance control

With the Conservatives three councillors short of a majority, an administration was formed called the Unity Alliance – featuring the Liberal Democrats, Christchurch Independents, Poole People and ALL, Bournemouth Independent & Greens, Labour and an unaligned independent.

The Unity Alliance was just able to take a majority from its combination of groups totalling 39 members - all councillors except the Conservatives and single UKIP elected member.

Changing balance

Within the first 14 months of the council, several councillors left their respective groups and/or political parties.

In September 2019, councillor Nigel Brooks left the Christchurch Independents to sit as an unaligned independent member.

The following month the two Poole People councillors for Hamworthy, Daniel Butt and Julie Bagwell, both left the party, with Cllr Butt also leaving the Unity Alliance.

Long-standing Christchurch independent councillor Colin Bungey died in April 2020.

The first vote of no confidence in Liberal Democrat Vikki Slade took place two months later. This motion failed due to a casting vote from then council chair Cllr David Flagg - a Christchurch Independent and part of the Unity Alliance.

Poole Liberal Democrat councillor Peter Parrish died in July 2020.

Councillor Bagwell decided to leave the Unity Alliance in September 2020, sitting as an unaligned independent.

A second vote of no confidence took place in the same month and on this occasion it was successful for the Conservatives.

Councillor Slade was removed as leader and Cllr Mellor was voted in as leader at a meeting on October 1, 2020.

By-elections for the Canford Heath and Commons wards following the deaths of Cllr Parrish and Cllr Bungey did not take place until May 6, 2021.

Sean Gabriel (Conservative) was elected for Canford Heath and Vanessa Ricketts (Christchurch Independents) was elected for Commons.

In September last year four councillors – Steve Baron (Poole People), Daniel Butt (independent), Toby Johnson (Liberal Democrat) and Nigel Brooks (independent) – joined the Conservative administration creating its first majority administration since the council was formed.

At present the Conservatives have 41 councillors - an increase in five since the last whole council election, with this including the by-election win for Cllr Gabriel.

A long 12 months

At present it feels as though a lot can change in a week in politics, let alone a whole year.

Just over a week ago there was little talk of a vote of no confidence motion in Cllr Mellor.

However, following the scenes at full council on Tuesday, April 26, Christchurch Independents have tabled a motion which will be debated at an extraordinary council meeting on Tuesday, May 10.

This will be after the conclusion of the adjourned meeting from April 26 and the scheduled annual meeting.