UK local elections

The UK gears up for local, mayoral, and police elections

Photo by Harrow Council

3 minute read — By Madison Sutton

Whilst the devolved powers in Wales and Scotland will focus on their parliamentary elections to the Senedd and Holyrood on 6th May, England will have around 4,650 positions from 143 local councils to decide upon. Approximately 28 million people are eligible to vote in the upcoming elections.

The COVID-19 pandemic caused a delay to many of the votes due last year, so this May will see a larger number of positions up for election. Polling stations have been made COVID-secure and social distancing will be enforced to make the public feel safer when voting.

Local councils are responsible for a wide range of local matters, including bin collections and libraries. Whilst these positions might not be as influential or far reaching as those of general elections, decisions about services such as social care and road repairs are still important to the running of our everyday lives. Each voter can cast one vote for their available local seat or seats – depending on the size of their ward – with the winners receiving the most votes. The party with over half of the seats gains control of the local council, with a coalition often being formed in the absence of a majority.

These elections come at a time when the cost of living is increasing by less than 1%, and councils can choose to raise council tax by up to 5%, which is an issue that voters are concerned with. However, according to a survey conducted by the University of Exeter, the priority for many voters is COVID-19, rather than council tax – despite the latter being a more localised concern. Professor Paul Whitely said, “local issues will be pushed into the background” as 59% of the survey pool cited Covid-19 as their biggest concern. His survey also found that 37% of people in Britain had suffered minor problems with their mental health because of the pandemic, with 18% of the North West and London experiencing more serious mental health issues. Whitely warned that this could result in a lower voter turn out.

As well as local councils, there will be 39 police and crime commissioner positions up for election across England and Wales, determining the direction of policing priorities in their areas and setting the policing budget. First and second preference will be asked for to settle the winner, with the two candidates with the highest percentage going into a run-off if none receive 50% of the first preference vote. The same system of voting will also apply to the elections of 12 mayors from varying regions and cities throughout England.

The 6th May is a big moment for Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey and Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, as it will reveal the current popularity of their political parties – helping assess the success of their leadership.