Council elections are too often reported through the prism of national party politics with contests being cast as tests for party leaders. Undoubtedly the elections that take place on Thursday in 181 authorities – as well as the three mayoral battles in London, Liverpool and Salford – are influenced by the Westminster fortunes of parties and their leaders. But more so than ever before local choices are centre-stage and here at the LGiU we will be listening to local voices tell the story of what these elections means in their local communities.
With the decline of local newspapers and growing centralisation from national broadcasters, much national coverage of the elections will resonate from agencies – feeding in observations and results when required. These are ok, but they often lack the insight and subtleties that come from someone who knows the area road-by-road and block-by-block.
In a recent blog I identified the 50 key battles to look out for on Thursday. What will the small differences in voting trends be that cause some of the councils to change hands? Where will independent candidates figure at the polls? What local conditions or politics will result in a yes or no vote for one of the new Mayoralties? Where will there be recounts in knife edge wards?
This is why LGiU has organised a group of Count Correspondents from around the country – local councillors, officers and volunteers – who will be channelling their insight, rumour and fact throughout the night, capturing the excitement of the count.
But this is actually just one bit of a much larger collective voice that’ll emerge tomorrow night and continue into Friday evening.
On social media there will be thousands of people – some hugely active in their local community, others who probably don’t engage with local democracy for 364 days of the year – who will seek and share information and look to get involved with the events in their own way.
So as well as our Count Correspondents, these are the people we will be following tomorrow. Those people who can not just report the numbers of votes, but those who can help explain why, who and how these numbers come to be.