What does No Overall Control mean? Local equivalent of hung parliament explained and how many are there

Despite sounding unstable, administrations in these types of councils have a ‘good track record of getting business done’

With the local elections taking place on Thursday (5 May) it remains to be seen how the politicial landscape at a council level will change across the UK.

While there will be clear winners in some councils, otherss may move to a situation of No Overall Control (NOC).

In England there are 24 councils currently in No Overall Control that are holding elections this year.

Here we explain what No Overall Control means, how many councils have this type of administration and how it is run.

What does No Overall Control mean?

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The term No Overall Control refers to a situation where no single political group achieves a majority of seats.

It is the local equivalent of a “hung parliament” at Westminster.

Some councils have a minority administration often because one party has half or close to half of the seats and they are the largest party.

In other places coalitions are formed where the votes are a little more evenly distributed.

However in some councils the largest political party is unable to form a minority administration because a coalition of smaller parties has banded together.

England’s “first past the post” system tends to favour bigger parties so it’s often easier for one party to have the overall majority.

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Where alternative voting systems are used, such as in Scotland or Northern Ireland, multiple parties often win considerable numbers of seats.

In Scotland it’s very difficult for any single party to have a majority administration.

How are NOC administrations run?

Typically, if no party achieves overall control of a council, the largest group with the most votes will form alliances to create a governing coalition.

Local authorities often have larger proportions of smaller party and independent members than the House of Commons, so when there is no overall control in the local elections it often results in minor groups having more influence.

Jonathan Carr-West, chief cxecutive of the Local Government Information Unit explained: “Councils in No Overall Control is a quirk of local authority governance that can be confusing for citizens.

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“But it doesn’t mean that no one’s making decisions.”

He added: “In most cases one party will be able to form a cabinet, either with support from other parties or because the other parties do not agree on enough to effectively oppose them.

“That might sound unstable but in reality NOC councils have a pretty good track record of getting business done effectively.”

How many No Overall Control councils are there?

Of those councils holding elections in England this year there are 24 currently in No Overall Control.

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Labour and Conservatives both run six councils each as minority administrations, Liberal Democrats only one.

Labour is in coalition with independents in one council, with the Greens in another and with the Liberal Democrats in three.

Conservatives are in coalition with independents in three councils and share power with Liberal Democrats and Independents in a multi-party coalition in one council.

Of those councils holding elections in Scotland this year, 29 currently operate under No Overall Control.

Labour-SNP coalitions are in power in five councils, while the Conservatives have two party coalitions with the Liberal Democrats and independents in one council each - and with both in three councils.

Labour is also in a multi party coalition in three other councils and SNP in one.

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Of those councils holding elections in Wales this year there are 11 currently in No Overall Control.