Taking Control of a Town Council: What a difference in just 7 years

Up and down England and Wales, Liberal Democrat teams are doing amazing work running (and contributing to) Town, Parish and Community Councils. With strong campaigning and good leadership we can achieve stunning election results in town and parish elections.

Here is a great example from Hereford City Councillor Kevin Tillet of how they went from having no councillors to taking control of the council in just 7 years.

In May I am due to be Mayor of Hereford, I am the Leader of Hereford City Council Liberal Democrat group and last May when Liberal Democrats took control of the City Council – the agent said to me “Hey Kevin – did you think we would be in control of the City when you first got elected – the answer is clearly, No, September 2017 Hereford City Council was a bleak place for Liberal Democrats. After decades of control, including when it had been a District Council, there was not a single Lib Dem left on the 18 member council. Defeated after being in control for so long, with some councillors who had joined purely in order to get elected and then outflanked completely by a new independent party (“It’s Our County”) which took most of our seats, our final councillors lost in 2015. What had been a stronghold was now a Lib Dem-free zone. But…the darkest hour is just before the dawn.

In September 2017, a resignation caused a by-election. We had committed local activists, classic ALDC campaign tactics ensued and we gained the seat. With a small team led by the then agent we delivered countless numbers of leaflets, and I knocked on every postal voters’ door – I would have done everyone else but work took me abroad to Qatar! I returned on the afternoon of polling day. Whilst away I had to rely on the team to maintain the campaign momentum. As the only Lib Dem Councillor I received a mixed reception from my new colleagues and one advised me “We really need to work together because, let’s face it, there’s never going to be a Lib Dem revival in the city again”. Others were less polite – refusing to speak to me and generally making life difficult.

In May 2019, we held the seat comfortably and gained three more – 2 regaining their old seats plus our youngest ever councillor taking a seat from the Tories. The following year, an Independent joined us – she had been a Lib Dem in the past and missed the support of the Liberal Democrat family. In 2021, two more by-elections saw us gain and then, last year, two more defections brought our numbers to nine. This included the mayor, which gave us control once more. Finally, in May last year, we held all our seats and gained three more bringing our grand total at present to twelve councillors.

How have we achieved this turnaround in under seven years? No magic tricks – just good ALDC campaign basics – Surveys, Focuses, lots of door knocking, good use of Connect and miniVAN with well-organised campaign team working with everyone sharing the same goals, committed candidates who were already involved in their local communities.

And the motto of this tale? Don’t tell me Lib Dems are finished; it will just make us more determined to prove the nay-sayers wrong!

If you have Town / Parish or Community Council elections this year you can use ALDC’s resources to help you win:

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