Local Elections 101: your questions, answered

At the Local Government Information Unit (LGIU), we’re here to demystify the mysterious world of local elections.

We’ve answered your key questions about how local elections in England work. What does No Overall Control mean? What is a Police and Crime Commissioner? What is the point of local elections? Read all about this and more.

With local elections being one of the most underreported, and yet crucial, parts of our democratic system, we’re advocating for more transparency and coverage to improve participation – one of the three core themes identified in the LGIU@40 manifesto: For the Future of Local Government.

This manifesto sets out the core challenges currently facing the sector and the changes needed to combat and create a better, stronger local government for all.

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What is the point of local elections?

‘Why do local elections matter?’ is a question that comes up too often. Despite being an integral part of democracy, it’s not always clear exactly what your vote in a local election helps determine for you and your community. At LGIU, we’re here to add clarity.

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Where are this year's local elections happening?

In the biggest year of elections on record, local elections in England have been labelled as ‘quiet’ – which seems quite contradictory because every single eligible person in the country has the opportunity to vote on May 2nd. Find out more here.

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What contests should I be looking out for?

Check out our guide to where the action will be in the May elections, covering council, combined authority, London assembly and PCC elections. We pick out the key contests where control might be won or lost – and the stakes are high.

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Not an LGIU member yet? Sign up for a free website account

If you’re interested in what we do but are not part of a member organisation, there is still much to be gained from signing up on our website for a non-member account. You will be able to read additional free content and you can opt to receive ‘And Finally…’ a FREE Friday round-up newsletter and/or our Global Local bulletin, which explores international approaches to a different topic each week.

What is turnout and why is it so low?

Local election turnout in the UK is lower than national elections, but what is it, and why is it low? Especially when local councils and councillors hold significant authority over critical services and amenities that communities rely on every day.

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What happens at an election count?

Ever wondered what happens behind the scenes at an election count? In four simple steps, we’ve summarised exactly how elections are held and the fundamental practice behind each count which guarantees our democratic system’s integrity.

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What does No Overall Control mean?

Before this year’s local elections, there are 91 councils across England in “No Overall Control”. Find out what this means in practice.

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LGIU member resources

LGIU supports our members with a daily news service; key policy round-ups, insight and analysis across the full range of local government topics; original research projects; panel events and workshops for shared learning and networking; discounts on a full programme of local government training and much more.

Is your organisation a member? Then sign up and create your free member website account – it’s your gateway to all your member resources.

Not a member? Why not join us and be part of a community focused on the crucial role of democratic local government in building thriving places and better public services.

What is a Police and Crime Commissioner?

Are you wondering what a Police and Crime Commissioner does or where the PCC elections are being held this year? We’ve got the answers for you.

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What is the London Assembly?

Operating since 2000, but what does the London Assembly do? And what authority does it hold? Find out here as part of LGIU’s resources and support for local elections.

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What is a Combined Authority?

Local government structure in England is a bit like an onion, with many layers, one of which is the combined authority. Want to know what a combined authority does and how many there are? Find out the answers.

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Where can I keep up with the 2024 local election results?

We’ll be covering them here at LGIU. Check out our one-stop-shop for local election coverage, analysis and support and be sure to sign up to our mailing list to stay in the loop!

For now, if you’re looking for more on the topic of local elections, check out the following issues that are generating traction on socials and in the media:

Will 2024 be the year of more elections and less democracy?

In 2024, more than half the world’s population will be eligible to vote in the biggest election year on record. Despite this, research shows that democracy has, at best, stalled or, at worst, declined on an international level. The reason is threats like misinformation and disinformation. We ask, what can local government do?

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What is the impact of Voter ID?

Voter ID was required in the UK for the first time at the May 2023 local elections. Everyone had lots of questions and concerns about it. In the aftermath, we conducted some in-depth research with electoral administrators across the country to gain a better understanding of the true scale of impact.

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What is it like to run local elections?

Peter Stanyon, Chief Executive of the Association of Electoral Administrators, reflects on how the role of electoral administrators in upholding this critical part of our democracy is changing, while the pressure is growing and resources are tightening.

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