May 2, 2024

The Local Elections and Beyond

On the 2nd of May, people across England will go to the polls to elect representatives to multiple levels of local government. Narratively, this election will be critical, likely setting the tone for the General Election this year. Here, we set out some of the basic facts about the election, how you can get involved both before and after, and what this will all mean in a crucial year for British democracy. 

The Local Elections

If you’re eligible to vote, and you’ve registered, you’ll be able to vote in any elections going on in your area. Numerically, this will be a reasonably small election compared to recent years, as several councils across the country are on different rotations. You can find out more, including if an election is happening in your area,  and where your nearest polling station is, on the Electoral Commission website. Do note that, following changes to electoral law in recent years, you will need Voter-ID to be able to vote in all elections; to find out more, including what forms of ID are acceptable, head to the Electoral Commission Website

Most of England will be electing councillors, these representatives will go on to make up the government in local councils across the country. Local councils set policy for much of local transport, waste, public utilities, green-spaces, and more. These are key battlegrounds for climate and nature

Some areas of England, such as West Yorkshire, Tees Valley, Greater Manchester, have overarching Combined Authorities and other forms of regional Mayoralities, ‘Super-Councils’ covering a wider region including several individual councils and having more responsibilities. This is part of a process of English devolution, passing more powers from the central Westminster government to the regions of England. This election will be a big moment for these forms of local government, with Labour currently controlling 4 and the Conservatives controlling 2. 

The results of these elections, when announced, will be heavily analysed to judge voter preferences ahead of the General Election, expected later this year. Whilst Westminster votes are usually published on the night of the election, with live counting continuing late into the night, council election results are not usually expected in full until a few days afterwards. 

The Last Test for the Parties

These local elections will be the last major public test of the UK’s political parties before the next general election. Most political observers will see the results as a statement of the general political mood of the country, and initial insight into public sentiment on the existing visions presented by each party ahead of the general election. Indeed, this is likely how the result will be seen by Conservative MPs; Rishi Sunak PM has already been forced to dismiss rampant speculation about challenges to his leadership in the case of a disastrous result for the party. 

However, local elections often work differently than General Elections. Local issues have even more capacity to be a catalyst for huge change, resulting in smaller parties or Independent candidates having a good chance of winning. Similarly, the makeup of voters in local elections are usually different, turnout is generally much lower and those who do show up to vote are often the ones most passionate about local issues and politics in general - local elections should not be used in isolation to judge how the average person on the street feels about politics. 

Key Climate Battlegrounds

One of the biggest parts of this campaign has focussed on London, the city will be electing councillors, members of the London Assembly, and the Mayor of London. This last race in particular has been especially fraught. The controversy surrounding the Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ) launched by the Mayor last year has led to Conservatives calling the election a ‘referendum on ULEZ’. This should definitely be seen in the context of the ‘ULEZ byelection’ last year in Uxbridge, where a Conservative loss was avoided through local campaigning on the ULEZ, and the fact that the Conservatives are looking to unseat Sadiq Khan and prevent his third term as Mayor. 

Another major battleground in this election will focus on the other regional Mayors. All eyes will be on the West Midlands and Tees Valley, where the Conservatives are defending the Mayoralities against an ambitious and confident Labour Party. The defence of these positions, along with the performance of Conservative Party candidates across the country, will be key to the continued confidence of the party in the Prime Minister, a lack of which could be a potential path to an early General Election. 

Contact your Councillors today

New councillors entering their time in office, and returning councillors taking up their positions again, presents a perfect opportunity to get in touch and start advocating for stronger climate policies in your local area. 

The first step to building a relationship with your new councillor after the 2nd May election is reaching out and contacting them. Getting this stage right can lay the foundation for a really positive and productive relationship between you and your local councillor.

Writing a letter to your new or returning councillor prior to the election is an important time to get issues onto their radar that they may have not previously been aware of.  Unlike MPs, where you have one representative for your local area, there are various councillors you might want to engage. 

If you want to speak to your local councillor, regional Mayor, or any other local representative, reach out to Hope for the Future today where we can offer you tailored one-to-one support on making your voice heard where it matters the most. Get in touch with us on

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