Polling stations across the UK have now opened to allow voters to elect councillors and Police and Crime Commissioners for their local area.
People have until 10pm tonight to cast their vote in the largest local election since 1973 following the reorganisation of local government.
Over 5,000 seats are up for election, with councillors and Police and Crime Commissioners being appointed for a term following the results announcements, which are expected to take place across the weekend. There is also a by-election taking place in Hartlepool following the resignation of former Labour MP, Mike Hill.
Additionally, some areas will be able to vote in their local mayoral election and those in Scotland and Wales will be voting for representatives in their respective devolved government.
Scheduled elections were postponed in 2020 following the emergency Coronavirus Act, meaning that the serving elected officials remained in their posts for an additional 12 months.
Coronavirus is expected to be the most important issue to voters in the elections, despite the fact that key decisions on the pandemic are made at a national level. A survey conducted by the University of Essex nonetheless found that 59 per cent of respondents ranked coronavirus as their highest priority issue.
Before you head to the polls, here’s everything you need to know on this year’s local elections.
What time do the polls open and close today?
This year’s local elections will be held today, Thursday, May 6. Polls opened at 7am and close at 10pm.
How many councils are taking part in the Local elections?
143 English local councils are taking part in the polls, with over 5,000 seats available for election. 48 million people are eligible to vote for their local representatives.
Police and Crime Commissioners will also be elected today, and voters in Scotland and Wales will elect representatives to their devolved parliaments – Holyrood in Scotland and the Senedd in Wales.
People are able to vote for 13 directly elected mayors in areas including Bristol, Greater Manchester, Liverpool City Region, West Yorkshire, Doncaster and Salford.
This includes an election for the Mayor of London and for the 25 London Assembly seats. London Mayor and Labour candidate Sadiq Khan is currently leading in the polls by 63 per cent compared the Conservative candidate, Shaun Bailey, who sits at 37 per cent.
A UK parliamentary by-election for the constituency of Hartlepool is also taking place today, May 6, following the resignation of the former Labour MP, Mike Hill. This is seen as a key seat to determine the success of Keir Starmer as Labour leader.
Counting across the local Scottish constituencies will begin on both Friday and Saturday, with the regional declarations expected on Saturday evening at the latest.
You can find out what days the declaration of Scottish constituencies will come through, including some times, here.
Voting is in 40 FPTP constituencies and five regional Proportional Representation top-up seats, and counting is due to take place in the day on Friday, with results from FPTP seats expected from about 3pm and peaking about 5pm.
Potential estimated declaration times include:
- 2pm – Vale of Clwyd
- 4pm – Arfon
- 5pm – Bridgend and Ogmore
- 6pm – Carmarthen West & Pembrokeshire South
- 7pm – Clwyd South and Wrexham
The five regional PR top-up seats are expected to be announced on Friday evening and the Police and Crime Commissioners in Dyfed-Powys; Gwent and North Wales are expected to be announced on Sunday, with the South Wales count taking place on the same day.
How can I vote today?
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 closed 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.
Read our guide on how to vote and where to find your local polling station
How will Covid-19 impact the elections?
In-person voting will go ahead due to the impracticality of organising an all-postal ballot of this scale. Instead, people who have been shielding throughout the pandemic have been encouraged to vote by post.
Social distancing will be in place, meaning that there may be a queue when you arrive, and a one-way system will be enforced inside the polling station.
Voters are asked to wear face coverings when going to vote and are encouraged to bring their own pen or pencil with hand sanitiser available at all polling stations.
Additionally, for anyone who has to isolate due to a coronavirus result, they can submit an emergency proxy vote by submitting a form before 5pm today.
You can find more information about Covid policies at polling stations here.
Which parties have the most to gain?
The Conservatives are defending 2,052 seats in the election, compared to Labour’s 1,621.
The stakes are high for Labour. At the beginning of the year, Keir Starmer looked tipped to do what Jeremy Corbyn couldn’t, with the party pulling level with the Conservatives in approval ratings after an uphill climb.
However, the success of the vaccine rollout can be credited with renewed support for the Conservatives and the latest polling shows the Tories will sweep to an historic victory in today’ votes.
Labour faces the task of reclaiming lost ground after the 2019 general election when a Conservative landslide saw key “red wall” seats including Wakefield, Rother Valley and Don Valley flip to the Tories, with considerable gains made in other Labour strongholds.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on May 5, shadow work and pensions secretary Jonathan Reynolds said that Labour could outperform election polls despite indications that it could lose places like Hartlepool.
“If you look at where there is a Conservative poll lead in some polls it’s heavily down to turnout.
“Quite rightly, we know from previous elections polls went wrong because Conservative voters are frankly more likely statistically to turn out.
“We can say to people if you want strong local candidates that will make a difference in your area focused on public services and your welfare, go out and vote Labour.
“If people do that we might outperform many of those polls.”
What are the latest Local election polls?
As of May 3, the Conservatives maintain a strong lead with a 41 per cent approval rating, but Labour have closed the gap slightly over the past week as they follow on 36 per cent, according to a Politico poll of polls.
When Sir Keir was elected as Labour leader in April 2020, the party’s approval rating sat at 29 per cent behind the Conservatives’ 51 per cent lead.
However, after drawing neck-and-neck between September 2020 and January 2021, the Conservatives have taken the lead once more, no doubt fuelled by the success of the coronavirus vaccine rollout.
It comes as an exclusive poll revealed that Labour will fail to seize any councils from the Tories as Keir Starmer struggles to capitalise on Boris Johnson’s troubles over sleaze allegations.
But Labour can take some comfort in that the Conservatives don’t appear to be making further inroads into the Red Wall of northern England.
Asked if he accepts that this week’s election results will reflect on his leadership, Sir Starmer told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on May 4: “Yes, and I take full responsibility for the results, just as I take full responsibility for everything that happens in the Labour Party under my leadership.”
When will the 2021 London mayoral election result be called?
The London mayoral election is also being held today, with a record number of candidates standing.
Of the 20 candidates, Labour’s Sadiq Khan looks poised for re-election, currently sitting at 62 per cent in a second round of polling conducted by Politico. Shaun Bailey, the Conservative candidate and Khan’s opposition front-runner, follows on 38 per cent.
This year sees a record-breaking number of 20 candidates running for the city’s mayoral position, include the actor, Laurence Fox, Count Binface and Piers Corbyn, the brother of the former Labour leader.
Polling stations are open from 7am to 10pm, with the count expected to begin at 9am on Friday, May 7.
When is the 2021 Scottish election?
The Scottish parliamentary election is also taking place today, with 129 MSPs to be elected to Holyrood.
This year’s election will be pivotal in determining whether longstanding SNP First Minister Nicola Sturgeon will be able to secure a majority vote in favour of a second Scottish independence referendum.
Ms Sturgeon requires a majority of 65 seats to gain a mandate for the referendum, but the pressure comes from the the Scottish Conservatives, who under Douglas Ross aim to prevent a referendum and protect the union.
As of May 4, the polls, collated in Politico’s Poll of Polls, show that the SNP have a substantial lead in both the 73 single-member constituency seats and the 56 regional list seats, with an approval rating of 48 per cent and 37 per cent respectively.
Despite being the clear leader in the polls, these ratings have dropped since the beginning of 2021, with Labour and the Conservatives seeing a small rise in their approval rating since the start of the new year.
Syndicated news from The Telegraph (UK)