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Everything You Need To Know About The 2024 Local Elections

Conservative West Midlands Mayor Andy Street and Labour Greater London Mayor Sadiq Khan are both defending their positions in these elections (Alamy)

7 min read

On Thursday, the public will be able to vote in a number of different elections across England and Wales, including for local council seats, regional mayors, and police and crime commissioners.

Here is everything you need to know:

Who can vote?

If there are elections in your area, you can vote if you are aged 18 or over, registered at an address in the area, and a British, Irish, EU or eligible Commonwealth citizen, and you must have registered to vote by the deadline of midnight on Tuesday 16 April, which has now passed. 

You can vote either in person at your local polling station, by postal vote or by nominating a proxy, but you must have arranged either postal or proxy voting in advance of polling day. If you vote in person, you must bring along an acceptable form of ID, such as a passport or driving licence – this includes ID which has expired as long as you still look like the photo.

Which local councils are up for election?

At the local elections on 2 May, 2,660 council seats will be contested across 107 areas in England, with Labour and the Conservatives defending almost 1,000 seats each.

In 2023, the Conservatives lost a third of their councillors and more than half their councils on a 4.5 per cent swing to Labour and 1.5 per cent swing to the Lib Dems. There is therefore a widespread expectation that Tories will also perform badly across the elections this year, losing seats to both Labour and the Lib Dems.

While local election results cannot be directly mapped to predict general election results, they can be a good indication of upcoming changes in Westminster voting intentions. At previous transitions of power in 1979, 1997 and 2010, the party about to enter government made significant gains in the local elections prior to the general election.

What are the key councils to watch?

LABOUR

Labour are hoping to take some councils directly off the Tories, particularly eyeing up Dudley, Harlow, and Redditch. Harlow has been a key bellwether council for decades and has voted for the winning party at every election since 1983. Conservative-controlled Redditch Council currently only has a slim majority of two seats.

These councils also cover Westminster seats which Starmer’s party would need to gain in order to get a good national majority. 

LIB DEMS 

The Lib Dems will be looking to pick up Gloucester, Wokingham and Brentwood. They became the largest party in Wokingham at last year’s local elections and will now hope to take full control for the first time in more than 20 years. 

Party figures will hope to use these local elections to further their intention of smashing down the ‘Blue Wall’ of traditionally Tory areas. 

GREEN PARTY

It is expected that the Greens will also pick up more seats across the country, but may struggle to gain full control of any more councils beyond Mid-Suffolk, which they gained last year. 

The party will hope to gain more seats as the largest party in Bristol, where they are hoping to also win a seat against Labour in the upcoming general election.

REFORM UK

Reform is only standing candidates in 12 per cent of council seats and is particularly hoping to perform well in Hartlepool, Lincoln and Plymouth. They are fielding 12 candidates in Hartlepool, where Reform leader Richard Tice is also the prospective parliamentary candidate, but Labour will be hoping to take overall control of the council.

Which mayors are up for election?

Mayors up for re-election
Andy Street (Con), Sadiq Khan (Lab), Andy Burnham (Lab), Steve Rotheram (Lab), Tracy Brabin (Lab) and Ben Houchen (Con) are all trying to get re-elected as mayors (Alamy)

Ten mayoral elections are being held across England, including nine regional metro mayors:

  • Greater London (Sadiq Khan, Labour incumbent)
  • Greater Manchester (Andy Burnham, Labour incumbent)
  • Liverpool City Region (Steve Rotheram, Labour incumbent)
  • West Midlands (Andy Street, Conservative incumbent) 
  • Tees Valley (Ben Houchen, Conservative incumbent)
  • West Yorkshire (Tracy Brabin, Labour incumbent)
  • North-East England (electing a mayor for the first time)
  • East Midlands (electing a mayor for the first time)
  • York and North Yorkshire (electing a mayor for the first time)

A contest will take place to choose the next directly elected mayor of Salford, a position currently held by Labour’s Paul Dennett. 

The North-East England Mayoral Combined Authority is being established, combining the former North of Tyne Mayoral Combined Authority and the North East Combined Authority. Current Metro Mayor for the North of Tyne Jamie Driscoll is running as an independent candidate in this new race, having been barred from running for Labour. 

What should you look out for in the mayor elections?

Tory hopes of any national comeback in the polls appear to be largely hanging on at least one of the Conservative mayors, Andy Street or Ben Houchen, holding onto their mayoral positions.  

Some Conservative also hope that they might be able to elect a Conservative mayor in the new mayoralties of East Midlands or York and North Yorkshire. The Tory candidate for East Midlands Mayor is Conservative MP Ben Bradley, who is also the leader of Nottinghamshire County Council. He previously told PoliticsHome he wanted to run an individual campaign in the hope of separating himself from the “not so brilliant” national image of the Conservative Party. Both Street and Houchen have made similar remarks about running as individuals. 

Recent research from More in Common suggests there might be some reason behind their approach, with polls and focus groups showing the public are increasingly making a distinction between how they vote in local and national politics. 

The race for London mayor will be an important indication of Labour’s performance in the capital – while Sadiq Khan is expected to win a third term against Tory candidate Susan Hall, whose selection opened up another chasm in the already-divided Conservative Party. But with Khan’s record on crime and housing facing increased criticism, Labour could be worried about him underperforming this time around. 

Blackpool South by-election

Alongside local and mayor elections, a parliamentary by-election will also be held in Blackpool to replace incumbent MP Scott Benton, who was elected as a Conservative but was suspended from the Commons after being caught in a sting operation offering lobbying services for payment. 

Benton won his seat as part of the Tories’ ‘Red Wall’ surge in 2019, so Labour are widely expected to win the seat back, given he only held a majority of 3,690. Reform UK will also hope to perform well in this by-election as part of their campaign to appeal to ‘Red Wall’ voters.

What are the London Assembly elections?

As well as voting for the mayor, people in London will elect 25 London Assembly members.

11 assembly members are elected by voters across the capital while 14 constituency assembly members are elected by voters in each of London’s 14 constituencies. Each voter in London will vote for one of each, one on a yellow ballot paper and the other on an orange ballot paper.

The current makeup of the London Assembly consists of 11 Labour members, nine Conservatives, three Greens, and two Liberal Democrats.

What are the police and crime commissioner elections?

Elections are taking place for 37 police and crime commissioners (PCCs) across England and Wales, who are responsible for setting policing priorities and holding police forces to account.

The role of PCCs was introduced through the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011, having been a Tory manifesto promise to making policing more “visible” and accountable to the public. 

Turnout in PCC elections has risen over time – in the first election it averaged just 15 per cent but by 2021 it had risen to an average of 33 per cent. In the 2021 elections, 30 Conservative PCCs were elected, alongside eight Labour and one Plaid Cymru.

When will results be announced? 

The results across all these elections will be announced over the course of Friday and the rest of the weekend. 

While many local election results will be announced overnight in the early hours of Friday morning, more will be expected throughout the course of the day and some counts will go on into the weekend. 

Mayoral election results will be declared on Friday and Saturday, while the London Assembly elections will be declared on Saturday.

The Blackpool South by-election results will be expected early on Friday morning.

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