Britons are set to head to the polls on the 5th of May to cast votes for local Mayors and Councillors.
Council elections will take place in over 140 English councils, all of Scotland’s 32 councils, and Wales’ 22 councils.
Polling station’s will be open from 07:00 to 22:00 for those registered to vote.
Local Council’s in the UK have various powers over their administrative area, including:
- Arts and recreation
- Births, deaths and marriage registration
- Building regulations
- Children’s services
- Coastal protection
- Community safety
- Concessionary travel
- Consumer protection
- Council tax and business rates
- Economic development
- Education and skills
- Elections and electoral registration
- Emergency planning
- Environmental Health
- Highways and roads
- Markets and fairs
- Museums and galleries
- Public conveniences
- Public health
- Social care
- Sports centres and parks
- Street cleaning
- Tracking standards
- Waste collection and recycling
- Waste disposal
However, many analysts and political commentators consider local elections to be more than just people voting on who will determine the bin collection schedule; framing it instead as a gauge of the popularity of the parties in government and opposition.
This means that, depending on the results, Boris Johnson could be facing a dire situation as he receives his first proper test of public support since being elected in 2019. Up until now the main measurements of public support for the government have been through voting intention polls, which currently are putting the government 6% behind the largest opposition party, Labour.
Johnson’s term in office has been filled with large hurdles and tainted with controversies, originally gaining popularity as the covid pandemic began, decreasing to about equal support with Labour in late 2021 before picking up again coinciding with the government’s impressive rollout of covid vaccinations and boosters.
However, the Conservative party has been plagued by scandals in recent months, from Johnson using party donor money to pay for extravagant renovations to his flat, questions being raised about Rishi Sunak’s tax payments, to the notorious Partygate scandal, not to mention the recent passing of a three wildly unpopular bills in the form of the Police, Crime and Courts Bill, the Nationality and Borders Bill, and the Elections Bill. Even the boost in support the Conservatives have received in light of their support for Ukraine in the face of Russian invasion has not been enough to claw their no.1 polling position back from the Labour party.
The government will not be the only party under the lens at this election, the Labour party will also be receiving great scrutiny as Starmer also faces his first electoral test as leader. Starmer does not have quite so motivated a core voter base as his predecessor, but will hope that his more moderate positions will be able to win back some disaffected voters that moved away from Labour in the general election. Starmer has gone through considerable efforts to purge the left-wing of the party’s representatives and membership in order to win back those disaffected voters, but will be dependent upon many of the members kicked from the party to swallow their pride and vote for Labour anyway as a tactical, ‘lesser-evil’ vote if he hopes to make significant gains in the local elections.
Ultimately, polls suggest one of the following outcomes will probably happen, depending on which way the most disputed councils swing.
- The Conservatives experience only a small change in their number of held seats, Johnson uses it as evidence that the population doesn’t care about Partygate and wants him to “get on with the job”. Starmer will be criticised for not being able to do better against a government marred with so many controversies.
- Labour win a decent number of seats, the Conservatives will lose some but the current government may be able to survive, with Johnson carrying on in his current tenuous position. Starmer will be criticised for not being able to do better, but at the same time Starmer will likely claim it to be evidence that his party is making headway.
- Labour win many seats, Starmer will call it a victory for his more moderate positions over that of Corbyn and Johnson may be forced to resign, with Foreign Secretary Liz Truss the favourite to replace him if he goes.
Talking of most disputed councils, perhaps the most hotly watched council is going to be Wandsworth Borough council. A Conservative stronghold for the past 40 years, and supposedly Thatcher’s favourite council, Wandsworth is now being identified as a council more likely to change hands than not.
Another council that analysts are eyeing is that of Westminster. A Conservative stronghold that Labour has never held, Westminster is likely to remain in Conservative hands, but some are predicting an upset on the cards that Johnson would struggle to recover from.
Both of the above seats are expected to be announced by 5 am on Friday, and will likely set the tone for the rest of the election results.