Falkirk Council: District prepares to go to the polls

Tomorrow, voters across the Falkirk Council area will elect 30 people to represent them for the next five years, overseeing vital services that include everything from bin collections and road repairs to education and social care.

By Kirsty Paterson, Local Democracy Reporter
Wednesday, 4th May 2022, 4:27 pm
Updated Wednesday, 4th May 2022, 5:00 pm

At the last election, in 2017, the SNP were comfortably the biggest party with 12 councillors elected – rising to 13 after the Falkirk South by-election.

With Independent Robert Spears to support them they were able to form an administration. Without a majority, however, they were often frustrated as the opposition groups used their combined strength to block SNP proposals, even passing an alternative budget.

This time, the SNP are campaigning furiously for a majority that would allow them to press ahead with their manifesto pledges – including a new HQ and arts centre on Falkirk High Street.

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The big story of 2017 in Falkirk – as in many other councils – was how well the Conservatives did. Locally, they went from two to seven councillors, transforming the council into a three-party system.

Nationally, recent polls are suggesting that support for the Conservatives has ebbed as the row over “Partygate” has rumbled on, allowing Labour to return to second place.

Whether that will be true in Falkirk is unclear as local issues can often obscure any national voting patterns, and the Conservatives hope that local concerns over issues such as uncut grass and potholes will transform into votes.

Labour won nine seats in 2017, although high profile resignations saw that reduced to just six by the end of the five-year term. In fact, of the nine elected last time, just three of them are standing again under the Labour banner.

Their manifesto shows that they will continue to oppose funding cuts to councils, which they lay firmly at the door of the SNP government. With three candidates in their 20s, the party also has a youth manifesto that it hopes will inspire younger voters to get out and vote.

So much has changed since 2017, when the prospect of a pandemic causing businesses, schools and care homes to close seemed like the stuff of science fiction.

The ongoing saga of plans to build new headquarters for Falkirk Council revealed a deeply divided council, often unable to make decisions or reach compromise where necessary.

The Single Transferable Vote system used in council elections means that it is very difficult for any one party to get a majority – indeed only the SNP is fielding enough candidates to do so.

This time around, there are other political parties on the horizon – the Scottish Greens are standing in every ward, the Scottish Liberal Party have four candidates and ALBA for Independence Party has three candidates looking for votes, while there is one UKIP candidate.

With several high profile councillors stepping down there is no doubt that things will change – exactly what that change will look like, however, remains to be seen.

Polling will take place between the hours of 7am and 10pm on Thursday, May 5, 2022.