What are local government elections?

In local government elections you are voting for between one and three councillors to represent your ward on the local council. There are 388 local councils in England and about 20,000 councillors.

There are different types of council, in the UK and the type of council you have depends on where you live. Unitary Authorities (usually found in urban areas and in Scotland and Wales) cover all local government functions in their area. Two-tier authorities (usually more rural areas) comprise of counties which are made up of districts. The counties and districts are responsible for different policy areas. You can find out more here.

How are councillors elected?

Local candidates can put themselves forward to be elected for a local council ward. Once all the votes have been counted on election day the candidate who has the highest number of votes will be declared the winner.

However, in large wards the 2nd placed candidate winning a council seat for that ward too, meaning that ward has two people representing it. In some rare cases there can even be three people representing one ward.

All candidates that put themselves forward to stand in a local council election must either live in the council catchment area or have a business premise they own and work from that falls within this catchment area.

Responsibilities of local government.

Why get involved in local politics?

  • Your local council has an impact on many of the services you see and use every day, including housing, transport and public spaces. Choices made by the council will have visible impacts on your community, make sure that you’ve been part of choosing who makes these decisions.
  • You can vote for candidates who have a similar vision for the future of your community as you do.
  • Local councils set the rates of Council Tax for your area, these rates have a direct impact on your income as well as the services in your area.
  • Councillors represent a much smaller group of people than MPs do, that means your single vote is more likely to make an impact on the result.

Council responsibilities.

Under the UK’s constitution the responsibilities and powers of local authorities are determined by the central government in Westminster, they include:

Who should I vote for?

It is completely up to you who you vote for.

If you don’t know where to start you can take a look at our quick summaries of the major political parties (here), but we recommend you take a look at each of the candidates’ manifestos when they are published a few weeks before the election.

Don’t want to read the full manifestos? Think about the issues you care about and compare candidates on these issues.

Don’t forget about minor parties and independent candidates! Although we have focused on the major political parties in the UK there are many candidates that represent smaller parties or even stand independently. It is always important to look into these candidates’ policies too.

Remember, a candidate’s political party isn’t always a solid indicator of their views. Most political parties have a broad spectrum of members within them so it is often worth working out where in the party your candidate stands.

How else can I get involved?

Voting on election day is not the only way to get involved in the local elections. There are plenty of things you can do to get involved in the democratic process!

Political parties are always encouraging their supporters and members to help campaign throughout the year, and especially at election time. Campaigning often involves delivering leaflets, talking to voters, and helping to spread the party’s message in the local area.

You can get involved by contacting the party, or their local branch. Often if you’re a member you’ll receive emails about getting involved too.

Campaigning is a vital part of elections, it connects ordinary voters with the political parties, plus being involved is usually pretty fun and is a great way to meet new people with similar ideas and outlooks!

What are local government elections?

In local government elections you are voting for between one and three councillors to represent your ward on the local council. There are 388 local councils in England and about 20,000 councillors.

There are different types of council, in the UK and the type of council you have depends on where you live. Unitary Authorities (usually found in urban areas and in Scotland and Wales) cover all local government functions in their area. Two-tier authorities (usually more rural areas) comprise of counties which are made up of districts. The counties and districts are responsible for different policy areas. You can find out more here.

How are councillors elected?

Local candidates can put themselves forward to be elected for a local council ward. Once all the votes have been counted on election day the candidate who has the highest number of votes will be declared the winner.

However, in large wards the 2nd placed candidate winning a council seat for that ward too, meaning that ward has two people representing it. In some rare cases there can even be three people representing one ward.

All candidates that put themselves forward to stand in a local council election must either live in the council catchment area or have a business premise they own and work from that falls within this catchment area.

Why get involved in local politics?

  • Your local council has an impact on many of the services you see and use every day, including housing, transport and public spaces. Choices made by the council will have visible impacts on your community, make sure that you’ve been part of choosing who makes these decisions.
  • You can vote for candidates who have a similar vision for the future of your community as you do.
  • Local councils set the rates of Council Tax for your area, these rates have a direct impact on your income as well as the services in your area.
  • Councillors represent a much smaller group of people than MPs do, that means your single vote is more likely to make an impact on the result.

Who should I vote for?

It is completely up to you who you vote for.

If you don’t know where to start you can take a look at our quick summaries of the major political parties (here), but we recommend you take a look at each of the candidates’ manifestos when they are published a few weeks before the election.

Don’t want to read the full manifestos? Think about the issues you care about and compare candidates on these issues.

Don’t forget about minor parties and independent candidates! Although we have focused on the major political parties in the UK there are many candidates that represent smaller parties or even stand independently. It is always important to look into these candidates’ policies too.

Remember, a candidate’s political party isn’t always a solid indicator of their views. Most political parties have a broad spectrum of members within them so it is often worth working out where in the party your candidate stands.

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