Background to Council Elections: Lisburn and Castlereagh…

There are 40 seats on this council.

The DUP, UUP and Alliance elected councillors in all seven District Electoral Areas (DEA’s) at the last election, while SF and the SDLP gained representation in 2 each. The Greens were successful in one.

Unionist parties retain a large but depleted majority of the votes, with many having moved to ‘others’.

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That 8% fall in vote share cost the DUP and TUV six seats between them.

In all, nine seats changed hands. The DUP lost 5. In Downshire East and Lisburn South they suffered straight losses to the UUP. They also were on the losing end of contests in three DEA’s which saw a double change. In Castlereagh South both the DUP and SDLP lost out to Green and SF. The same combination of DUP and SDLP also dropped a seat each in Killultagh to Alliance and SF. And in Lisburn North the losing pair were DUP and NI21 passing a seat each to Alliance and SDLP. (In the latter case the NI21 councillor had switched to the SDLP shortly after the 2014 election and retained the seat in 2019 under his new party colours.) Finally, the TUV lost the only seat they held on the Council, in Castlereagh East, to Alliance.

The full make-up of the council in 2014 and 2019 can be seen in the chart below.

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The outstanding change in vote share was the 12% point jump in Alliance support. This only resulted in a modest increase of two seats. A large part of the reason is that Alliance had succeeded in converting into first preferences many votes which had come to it as second or third preferences in 2014.

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Conversely a 2% point increase in the UUP vote was rewarded with three extra seats. However, it does leave the UUP in a position which we also see in some other councils, with its vote spread thinly across a wide geographical area, highly vulnerable to a small shift against it. The sweet spot which enabled the UUP to win 28% of the vote from 18% of the votes becomes a bitter pill if it lets slip a handful of votes here and there.

During the course of the 4-year council term only one councillor changed parties. Castlereagh South councillor Lee Simon, who was elected in 2019 as a Green, switched to the SDLP and will be contesting this election for them.

Four DEA’s, and most of a fifth, fall within the constituency of Lagan Valley. One is contained in South Belfast and most of the last is in East Belfast. The Assembly election in LV showed that the total unionist vote had declined by 4% points since the 2019 council elections, the nationalist was down 1% and others up 5%. The DUP and UUP were both down 4% points and the SDLP down 2%. Alliance was up 6%. What these movements would look like if repeated in each of the individual DEA’s is shown below, together with the various possibilities for how it could affect the outcome.

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Outlook by DEA

As well as giving the historical data for the last election in 2019, each table contains two projections.

The first, headed ‘Based on Ass’22’, shows an estimate for the change in the party quota based on the change in its vote between 2019 and 2022 in the relevant constituency or constituencies. I then show where this might put a seat under threat or present a possible gain.

The second projection is changed in the light of the headline figures in the latest Lucid Talk poll. However, since the detailed tables are not published until later, I have been unable to use some of the information I normally rely on.

I have departed from the Assembly vote and the Lucid Talk poll in one respect. I have assumed that Independents who were elected in 2019 will hold onto all or most of their vote in this election, based on the tendency for this to happen in previous council elections.

Please remember that this is not intended to be a prediction. In contrast to my conservative treatment of Independents seeking re-election, I have included party gains and losses which are a long shot, as well as those which are more likely. This is to reflect the degree of uncertainty inherent in making these estimates. Treat them as a guide as to what to look out for, or for making your own judgements.

My Best bet for each DEA is just a bit of fun. It is too simplified to capture all the possibilities and may therefore be wrong as often as it is right.

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Description automatically generated with low confidenceCastlereagh East

Five of the six outgoing councillors are standing again. The exception is one Alliance.

Like last time, the DUP is running four candidates in the hope of taking the UUP seat – but the UUP would need to drop votes for that to happen whereas they put them on in the Assembly election. If the UUP stumbles the TUV would also be in contention for their seat.

Greens did not stand last time. Based on their Assembly election results I have estimated their likely vote at about 3%. They will probably take the majority of their votes from Alliance but give them back again in transfers.

Alliance will need a good ‘get the vote out’ operation to avoid the risk they would face if unionists reach five full quotas.

Best bet: No change

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Description automatically generated with low confidenceCastlereagh South

Two of the seven outgoing councillors are not contesting this election, the DUP and one Alliance. The former Green councillor switched and is going forward as an SDLP candidate.

The DUP has reduced their number of candidates from 3 last time to 2 in order to provide a more focused attack on the UUP seat, but unless they can reverse the decline in their vote the prospects are small.

Alliance has increased its candidates to 3 with its eyes fixed on either the UUP or Green seat. The Green looks more vulnerable.

The SDLP had little choice but continue running 2 candidates when the Green councillor joined them. Although, having only been on the council for four years, it is unlikely that their new recruit will bring a substantial part of his old vote with him.

Sinn Feín are running 2 candidates and it is hard to see a reason why.

I have not found any information on the Independent candidate Andrew Miller.

Best bet: Alliance gain from Green

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Description automatically generated with low confidenceDownshire East

The five outgoing councillors are all up for re-election.

The DUP decision to run only two candidates looks distinctly odd. The second UUP seat appears wobbly, and you would expect the DUP to have it in their sights. The only explanation I can think of is that the DUP believe the potential TUV vote will be much greater than I have estimated and that 3 candidates could have put the second DUP seat at risk. This could well be true since the TUV were absent from the contest last time and thus have no local history on which to base the estimate. The DUP will have local knowledge.

If the UUP seat falls it will be either to the TUV or Alliance. The latter looks a long-shot, but they obviously think it is worth trying.

For my best bet I am going to trust the DUP.

Best bet: TUV gain from UUP.

Downshire West

Of the five outgoing councillors only the two UUP are not standing again. The party’s second seat was looking vulnerable anyway, and this will probably not help.

The DUP are making a bid for it – but it is by no means certain that there will still be four unionist seats after the count.

Alliance look better placed to benefit from a UUP loss.

Best bet: Alliance gain from UUP

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Description automatically generated with medium confidenceKillultagh

All five outgoing councillors are standing again, apart from Alliance.

There seems to be little room for any change here. The UUP might just have damaged its chances by running two candidates for around one quota but the DUP and Alliance, both running conservatively, have put them out danger.

Best bet: No change

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Description automatically generated with medium confidenceLisburn North

The SDLP and one of the UUP outgoing councillors are not running again, but the other four are.

Independent Gary Hynds was the Conservative candidate at the last election winning 423 votes. He also stood as an Independent in Lagan Valley at the 2022 Assembly election taking 735 votes. I have estimated him at a third of a quota.

The UUP appears to be running one more candidate than it should, while the DUP is running one too few. On the face of it the DUP have chosen to ignore what might have been an open goal.

The UUP remains slightly exposed to Alliance, which could be strong enough to take a second seat, especially if the SDLP drops behind and releases transfers in both directions. However the SDLP/Sinn Fein battle could be on a knife’s edge.

It could all be extremely close, and my ‘best bet’ could well be a poor bet. Nevertheless,

Best bet: Alliance gain from UUP.

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Description automatically generated with low confidenceLisburn South

All the outgoing councillors are on the ballot paper again.

Neither the UUP nor DUP can feel comfortable in the face of the TUV challenge. The DUP have wisely cut their number of candidates down to 3 to fight a purely defensive campaign. Last time out their top three candidates were balanced to perfection. If they can repeat that trick, all 3 DUP will be safe while the second UUP and TUV fight it out.

There is a possibility that neither the second UUP nor the TUV would emerge triumphant. With Sinn Feín now entering the contest, Alliance will be attempting to keep both of its candidates in the count long enough to pick up nationalist transfers. If it succeeds it could snatch the second UUP seat for itself.

Best bet: TUV gain from UUP

 


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