England & Wales Democracy, devolution and governance

What do district councils do?

Image by Ana Gic from Pixabay

Today 168 district councils hold elections for councillors, about a quarter of them are electing by thirds, so most of them are ‘all out’.  What do district councils do and why are these elections so important?  Matthew Hamilton, Director of the District Councils Network tells us more.

District councils

England’s district councils are the closest and most accountable public authorities to the people they serve.

District councils cover over 60 per cent of England’s land mass, providing two thirds of the local services that contribute to making better lives and stronger economies for more than 22 million people – 40 per cent of the population.

District councils protect and enhance quality of life by safeguarding the environment, promoting public health and leisure, while creating attractive places to live, raise families and build a stronger economy. As the housing, planning and growth authorities, they approve 90 per cent of all planning applications and were responsible for just under 100,000 housing completions in their areas last year – more than any other type of authority.

By tackling homelessness and promoting wellbeing, district councils ensure no one gets left behind by addressing the complex needs of today while aiming to prevent the social problems of tomorrow. Districts are integral to the UK’s future prosperity by driving forward housing and planning, economic development, industrial strategy and Local Enterprise Partnerships. They operate on a scale that residents relate to and are at the heart of delivering the ‘doorstep’ issues that matter to communities – where it is possible to solve problems rather than simply manage caseloads.

District councils are local leaders whose priorities are shaped by our understanding of and engagement with local communities, including environmental health issues such as food safety and noise pollution, as well as leisure facilities, including parks and open spaces, and culture. Their prevention work plays a vital role in improving health and wellbeing by reducing the burden on adult social care, for example, through home adaptations.

Districts are best placed to shape and deliver future transformations of towns across the country, a key strength recognised by the Government which has opened up the £675 million Future High Streets Fund to districts. Whether it’s producing and updating Local Plans, forming masterplans, or having frank discussions with building owners and developers, Districts are ideally placed to help deliver the vital makeovers needed to ensure town centres remain vibrant for changing generations.

As the building blocks of collaboration, Districts also take a lead role in improving public services and outcomes for people and places through better collaboration, forming partnerships with neighbours beyond their boundaries to achieve even more for those they serve.

Why vote in the local elections?

    • Local elections are the bedrock of democracy and give people a say on issues that are important to them where they live.
    • If people don’t vote they can’t influence who represents them on councils to best serve their interests.
    • Voting in the local elections enables the public to decide who will run the essential services that residents rely on every single day.
    • Local elections in district councils can affect council tax, refuse and recycling collections, car parking and community safety.
    • They can also influence policies on housing and planning, concessionary travel, food safety and noise pollution inspections, arts and culture, as well as the provision of health and leisure centres, parks and green spaces.
    • Local elections can help determine which employers move to local areas, creating jobs and economic growth, and can affect licensing and planning applications, including home extensions.

A ballot box, a piece of paper and a stubby pencil could make a huge difference to improving the quality of people’s lives and the areas where they live. This is why it’s worth making time to vote.