Between 1985 and 1989 half the county councils were hung authorities. For most of those counties used to the certainties of majority control, this was a new experience; many expected that 1989 would see a return to normality, and so it was in some but by no means all the counties. Despite a better than expected performance from the Democrats (compared with the national opinion poll figures of the time), and the fact that the number and proportion of seats changing hands — 443 or 13 per cent of seats contested — was relatively small compared with previous county council elections, the familiar two-party system appeared to have reasserted itself in about half the counties. The normality of ‘Conservative control’ reappeared in counties such as Cambridgeshire, Hertfordshire, Devon, Essex, Somerset and Warwickshire, after four years of aberration. Majority control by Labour returned to Lancashire, Humberside and Northumberland. All these gains in control were not at the expense of another party, but arose from a situation of ‘no overall control’. However, although the number of hung — or balanced — county councils was reduced from 23 by nine (at one stage in the 1985–9 period 25 — or 53 per cent — of the 47 county councils had been hung), 14 hung counties remained, including Cheshire, Cumbria, Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire and Wiltshire. The mould which had been well and truly broken in 1985 appeared to have been reconstituted in 1989 in some counties, but not all.
KeywordsChief Executive County Council Political Behaviour Majority Control District Council
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