The political world has felt like somewhat of a ~wild ride~ over the past 12 months (to say the least), and sometimes the overwhelming amount of Instagram infographics, 5pm press conferences and Twitter threads can make it difficult to get down to the facts. But as the local elections in England approach, it’s important to get clued up on the who, what, where and when, and prepare to vote in the interests of what matters to you. Keep reading for the details and let’s get ready for dogs at polling stations!
What are the local elections?
Local elections decide who is in charge of local public services and how these are run, and usually involve voting for between one to three councillors to represent your area in local council. There are 388 local councils in England and about 20,000 councillors in total. This year’s elections will see a record number of by-elections for a single day, as 2020’s voting was postponed last year due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
Local councils are responsible for public services and issues such as recycling, council housing, transport, education, planning, parks, roads and social care and impact those from every walk of life and circumstance in your local area.
When and where?
Local elections will be taking place on the 6th May between 07:00 to 22:00 across England, however not in all parts. If you are registered to vote you should have received a polling card in the post detailing your nearest polling station (these are normally schools or community centres) however don’t panic if not as you can find your polling station details via The Electoral Commission website.
If you have not signed up for a postal vote and intend to cast your vote in person but develop Covid-19 symptoms in the lead up to the elections, you are able to sign up for an emergency proxy vote until 17:00 on polling day.
The above information applies to English local councils, however there are various different types of local election taking place on May 6. Depending on where you live, you may be asked to vote for:
- English local councils
- Police and Crime Commissioners
- London Assembly
- Scottish Parliament
- Welsh Senedd
- Directly-elected mayors
You may be feeling slightly disillusioned by politics and the rollercoaster ride (hi Ronan Keating) that this world has felt like in recent years, but don’t lose faith in the power of your vote and the impact this can have. Councillors represent a much smaller group of people than MPs do, meaning your single vote is more likely to make an impact on the result- we love to see it!
Even though you may not know or regularly see the inner workings and impact of your local council, their decisions likely affect more of your day to day life than you realise. Councils spend a lot of our money- about 25% of all public spending to be exact and how this money is used and which services you value most all come into your decision on who to vote for. The future of your local area is in your hands (no pressure), and envisioning how you hope your town or city will look in the next 1, 5 or 10 years time is part of the process of getting involved in voting this May.
Deciding who to vote for…
So you’re registered to vote, now it’s time to decide who for. This decision is a really personal one and completely rides on your priorities, values and vision for how you think your local area should be run, but it’s important to remember to prioritise policies over party names or existing prejudices.
To find out who is standing for vote in your local area, head to Who Can I Vote For and enter your postcode for a breakdown of the candidates in your ward.
How to support minority groups
Deciding who to vote for in the local elections is a personal choice only you can make, but when thinking about the greater good of your community and neighbours, it’s always important to consider those who will benefit from potential change most. Many members of local council have public social media profiles, and it may be worth checking out their pages, the issues they are vocal about and if they publicly take a stand on subjects and issues you value, such as Black Lives Matter, women’s rights and tackling inequality in our society.
A 2018 report showed that only 3.7% of senior positions in councils were filled by black, Asian and minority ethnic individuals (BAME) meaning we still have a long way to go in even representing members of our community in positions of power, but change occurs in voting, and this opportunity is not one to be passed up on.
Politics really can be a confusing one, but whether this is your first or tenth time voting, the opportunity to have your say never gets old.