England & Wales Democracy, devolution and governance

What is the point of local elections?


Local sign in a shop window. Photo by Erik Mclean on Unsplash

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At the most basic level, local elections are held for you to choose your local councillors – but it might not be immediately obvious why this is important.

Your local councils are in charge of a range of essential services, including:

  • Education, for example, providing schools, transport to get children to school and providing opportunities for adult learning;
  • Housing, such as finding accommodation for people in need and maintaining social housing;
  • Social Services, for example, caring for and protecting children, older people and disabled people;
  • Highways and transport, including maintaining roads and managing traffic flow;
  • Parks, leisure and cultural services, for example, providing libraries, leisure services and arts venues;
  • Consumer protection, such as enforcing trading standards and licensing taxis;
  • Environmental health and services, for example, making sure that the food provided in pubs and restaurants is safe to eat, and controlling pollution locally;
  • Planning, including managing local development and making sure buildings are safe;
  • Economic development, for example, attracting new businesses and encouraging tourism;
  • Emergency planning for things like floods or terrorist attacks.

Your local councillors represent your opinions on how these services should be run. Their impact on the quality of life in your community is much, much higher than the impact of your MP, who has no formal local powers.

If you have an election in 2024, and you can check whether you do below, please remember to register by the 16th April and vote on the 2nd May

Looking for more on the topic of local elections? Check out our member-exclusive briefing covering 2024 elections issues for English local authorities


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