The 2022 local elections are an opportunity for voters across the country to make their opinions known on how they want their local issues to be managed.
However, this year, after the drama of the ‘partygate’ scandal, the invasion of Ukraine, and the spiraling cost-of-living crisis, voters will also be expressing their opinions on the overall performance of the man at the very top: Boris Johnson.
Local elections take place every year during the month of May with different seats, positions and bodies up for grabs.
In the 2021 local elections, the nation’s biggest parties competed for 5,000 seats in 145 English local councils, plus 20,000 seats on 2,000 parish and town councils, 13 mayoralties and 39 police and crime commissioners. Not to mention the coinciding elections for the Scottish Parliament, Senedd and London Assembly.
Whilst these local elections may not attract the pageantry and fanfare of a general election, they are incredibly important events in the political cycle.
Local elections are, as you might have guessed, vital to the way your council deals with local issues such as planning permission, community transport and crime. Local elections also give a good indication of the general mood of the country towards the current government and the Prime Minister.
You can rest assured that Boris Johnson will anxiously await the results of the local elections to see how his party is performing at a grassroots level.
When are the local elections?
This year, the local elections will take place on Thursday the 5th of May 2022. Polls will open at 7am and close at 10pm.
How many councils are taking part in this year’s local elections?
The big litmus test for Boris Johnson this year will be the London borough council elections. Every borough will be contested this year, and the Tories, Lib Dems and Labour will be looking to improve upon their performances in 2018.
There are 32 borough councils, 7 of which are currently held by the Tories, 3 by the Liberal Democrats, 1 under no overall control and the rest held by Labour.
In addition to the London elections, every local authority in Scotland and Wales will go to the vote and the elections will coincide with the 2022 Northern Ireland Assembly election. Plaid Cymru and the SNP will be looking to increase their grassroots representation in Wales and Scotland respectively.
Away from Scotland and Wales, there will be an array of confusing but important elections around England including mayoral elections, new councillors to the City of London Corporation, elections for unitary authorities, district councils and 1,100 parish and town councils.
If you love elections of all shapes and sizes, there will be a lot to sink your teeth into come May.
What are the different types of council?
There are four different types of local council in the UK: parish/town councils, district councils, county councils, and unitary authorities.
Parish councils, or town councils as they are sometimes known, are the smallest kind of council. Many parish council elections are uncontested and party political affiliations are rare. Parish councils have the power to raise money through the council tax. They are also in charge of community spaces such as allotments, open spaces and play areas.
District councils, county councils and unitary authorities are what’s known as ‘principal authorities’. They have more powers than parish councils and are contested by the nation’s biggest parties. District councils take care of matters such as bin collection and council housing. County councils cover areas such as schools, social services and transportation.
Unitary authorities are an amalgamation of smaller councils and are responsible for all aspects of local governance.
How can I vote?
Anyone can vote in a local election providing they have registered and are 18 years or over on polling day. Postal voting is also an option, although applications for both voting in-person and through the post close in April.
Additionally, to be eligible, you must also be a British citizen, qualifying Commonwealth citizen or an EU resident in the UK and not subject to a legal incapacity to vote, such as serving prisoners.
How do I register to vote?
If you are eligible to vote, and have not already registered, you must register on the government website to vote. The window to register to vote in May usually closes in April.
After registering you will receive a polling card which will contain all the necessary information you need to cast your vote. This will include the name and address of your designated polling station.
You cannot vote at just any polling station. You do not need to bring your polling card with you to the polling station.
If you do not receive a polling card, it is worth contacting your local authority by email or by post.
If you intend to complete a postal vote, it needs to be with your local council by 10pm on polling day to be counted.
What happens if I’ve lost my polling card?
You do not need your polling card to vote. If you have registered to vote then you can just turn up at the polling station, give your name, and vote.
However, if you are not sure whether you have registered or not, and have not received your polling card, it may be worth getting in contact with your local authority by email or post.
What happened in the 2021 local elections?
As local elections go, last year was a big one. Polling day was affectionately referred to as ‘Super Thursday’ because, owing to the cancellation of the 2020 local elections, there was a lot up for grabs.
It was a disappointing day for Labour who lost control of some key councils – Durham, Harlow and Southampton – whilst also losing the Hartlepool by-election.
Keir Starmer said it was a “bitterly disappointing” performance and that Labour had “lost the trust of working people”.
The result sparked a huge inquest within the Labour party which embarked upon some serious soul-searching in a bid to vanquish any remnants of the Corbyn era from their ranks.
What could happen in 2022?
The main talking point for the 2022 local elections is Boris Johnson and the partygate saga. How much damage has the whole fiasco, which we must not forget is still ongoing, done to the Conservative party’s electability?
London has not been a happy hunting ground for the Tories for a long time now but there are a few boroughs that Boris Johnson will be devastated to lose. Thatcherite Wandsworth, glitzy Kensington and Chelsea, and Westminster would all be politically significant losses for the Conservatives.
Labour may not currently captivate the hearts and minds of working class voters in the North but their brand of woke politics may be received well by voters in North London, where they already perform well.
The Liberal Democrats will hope for a strong performance in May. In 2018, they retook control over the London borough of Richmond upon Thames from the Conservatives and they will be hoping to slip in under the radar and claim a few more boroughs for their own.
What are the latest local election polls?
As of May 3rd, the Conservatives trail Labour by 6 percentage points. According to the Politico poll of polls, 40% of voters intend to vote Labour whilst 34% intend to vote Conservative.
The recent fines for both Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak over the Downing Street parties have dented the Conservatives position, which had been steadily improving since the Russian invasion.
The Conservatives held a comfortable lead for most of 2021 but the fallout from the partygate saga saw the parties neck-and-neck in November before Labour pulled ahead in December.
Another important poll in the lead up to the local elections will be the Prime Minister’s approval rating. It reached an all-time low of 28% in January but has improved since then.
He will be hoping that partygate is a distant memory among voters on Thursday.
Scottish local elections 2022
This year in Scotland, all 1,219 seats from 32 Scottish local councils will be contested. This means that the topsy-turvy world of Scottish local politics will start from a fresh slate this Spring.
The last election saw the SNP claim 431 seats and take control of 14 of the 32 councils. We saw the Conservatives become the second biggest party in Scotland, overtaking Labour for the first time.
However, in Scottish local politics, the numbers do not tell the whole story. A closer look reveals a world of alliances, coalitions, rogue independent representatives and a whole slew of defections and by-elections.
This year promises to bring more of the same.
All registered voters above the age of 16 are eligible to vote. Furthermore, people with two addresses (such as students who have a home address and term-time address) can register to vote in both provided they are not the same.
Welsh local elections 2022
In Wales, there are 1,254 local councillors across 22 different councils. However, this year due to boundary changes, the number will reduce to 1,231 council seats.
In 2017, Labour were the dominant party in Wales with Mark Drakeford’s team winning 408 of the seats. Plaid Cymru were second with 208, followed by the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats with 184 and 63 respectively.
Political allegiance in Wales is finely spread. 11 of the 22 councils are not controlled by any one party which shows the range of allegiances in these areas.
Of the remaining 11 councils, Labour control 7, Independents control 2 and the Conservatives and Plaid Cymru have 1 each.
This guide is kept updated with the latest information for 2022