A very simple guide to the 2022 local elections

Every council seat in Scotland, Wales, London and several parts of England is up for grabs, while Northern Ireland will elect its Assembly.

04 May 2022

People around the UK will go to the polls on Thursday for the 2022 local elections.

Voters will be choosing local representatives in England, Scotland and Wales. The elections will coincide with the 2022 Northern Ireland Assembly election.

– When are the local elections?

The local elections take place on Thursday May 5.

Polling stations will open at 7am and close at 10pm.

– When will the results be announced?

After polls close at 10pm, ballot boxes are taken from all the polling stations to local or regional counting centres where staff open them and start counting votes.

Once all the votes in an area are counted, the official in charge – the returning officer – takes the stage and announces the results.

The first batch of results is likely to be announced at midnight, with locations such as Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Essex, Greater Manchester and Bolton traditionally announced around this time. The latest is likely to be around 5pm on Saturday from Tower Hamlets.

– What seats are up for grabs?

Local council elections are happening in England, but not in all areas. More than 4,000 councillors in 146 councils will be standing for election in major cities including Leeds, Manchester, Birmingham and all 32 London boroughs.

South Yorkshire will also be voting for a regional mayor and 1,000 parish councils will be electing around 10,000 councillors.

All 32 councils in Scotland and all 22 in Wales will be holding elections, with residents able to vote from the age of 16.

In Northern Ireland, voters will be electing 90 members, representing 18 constituencies, to the Northern Ireland Assembly.

– In a nutshell, what will voters be voting for?

– Every local authority in Scotland, Wales and London.
– South Yorkshire’s regional mayor and the borough councils of Barnsley and Sheffield.
– 60 district councils, 31 Metropolitan boroughs and 19 unitary authorities across the rest of England.
– County councils in North Yorkshire and Somerset.
– Local mayors in Croydon, Hackney, Lewisham, Newham, Tower Hamlets and Watford.
– All 90 seats in the Northern Ireland assembly.
– There is also a referendum in Bristol on whether to keep the city’s elected mayor.

– Why do local elections matter?

Local elections do not enjoy the same prominence as general elections, with turnout always low, rarely reaching above 40%.

However, these elections will decide who is responsible in an individual’s local area for planning issues, housing and rubbish collections, public transport and road maintenance.

They will also be an opportunity for voters to have their say on national issues including the cost of living, lockdown breaches in Downing Street and the Government’s response to the war in Ukraine, therefore providing a wider picture on the performance of the main political parties.

– What are the key battlegrounds?

The councils in England that will receive most attention are in London, where Wandsworth could swing to Labour after 44 years of being in the hands of the Tories.

Recently, the area has been drifting to the left, with all three of the borough’s MPs now Labour, including Fleur Anderson in Putney, which was the only seat the party gained from the Tories in 2019.

POLITICS Elections Councils
(PA Graphics)

The Conservatives also face challenges in Westminster, with their large majority diminishing over the years, and Barnet, where Labour’s poor performance in 2018 has been associated with concerns about Jeremy Corbyn among the Jewish community.

In Tower Hamlets, while there are unlikely to be too many upsets in the council elections, the race to become mayor will be one to watch, with controversial former mayor Lutfur Rahman standing again.

He was forced to step down after an election court found him guilty of corrupt and illegal practices, but he has faced no criminal prosecution.

POLITICS Elections Councils
(PA Graphics)

– What about outside London?

In other parts of the country, Hartlepool will be hotly contested. The Conservatives won the parliamentary seat from Labour at a by-election in May 2021 and will have to demonstrate that the faith voters put in them was not misplaced. On the other hand, Labour will hope to start to rebuild its Red Wall.

In Bury, residents voted last year to keep Labour in control of its council, but during the 2019 general election they voted in two Tory MPs – one of these being Christian Wakeford, who has since defected to Labour.

In the South of England, Tories will be hoping not to give any more ground to the Liberal Democrats, after losing two safe Tory seats at by-elections in less than a year. Wokingham, St Albans and Sutton are some of the key Conservative-Liberal Democrat battlegrounds.

– What about in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland?

POLITICS Elections Councils
(PA Graphics)

In the last election in 2017 in Scotland, the Conservative made big gains from Labour but failed to gain overall control, leaving most councils run by coalitions.

The largest cities – Glasgow and Edinburgh – will be the ones to look out for.

In Wales, attention will be on whether Labour can maintain its hold over Cardiff and the cities along the M4 corridor.

POLITICS Elections Councils
(PA Graphics)

Meanwhile, tensions are high in Northern Ireland ahead of the Stormont Assembly elections as the Brexit protocol remains a divisive issue.

The Northern Ireland Executive collapsed in February and it is possible it will not be restored after the elections, particularly if Sinn Fein comes first.

ULSTER Election
(PA Graphics)

– What do the polls say?

Polling results published in the Daily Telegraph newspaper suggested the Conservatives could be set for their worst performance in the local elections since the 1990s.

The survey, conducted by Electoral Calculus with Find Out Now, suggested Labour could be on course to gain more than 800 seats, while the Tories are likely to lose 548 seats on councils across the country.

Veteran elections expert Professor Sir John Curtice told the PA news agency it was hard to predict the outcome of local elections, adding the loss of 550 seats was “not unrealistic”.

POLITICS Elections
(PA Graphics)

– What are parties saying?

Parties have been moving into expectation management mode.

Environment Secretary George Eustice acknowledged on ITV’s Good Morning Britain that “all prime ministers will always be very conscious of the mood in their parliamentary party”, in response to speculation that poor results on Thursday could lead to more letters of no confidence in the Prime Minister.

Sir Keir Starmer has been downplaying talk of a major victory for Labour, with party strategists reportedly worried that the Tories are winning the pre-election “expectation management” process.

Asked what success would look like for Labour, Sir Keir told BBC Breakfast: “We want to hold seats where we’ve already got them, and we want to make gains where we can. I’m conscious that we’ve got to earn every vote, I’m taking nothing for granted.”

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