Many voters in England, Wales and Scotland are going to the polls today to choose their new local representatives.
Over 4,350 seats are contested in England in over 140 councils, with all 32 councils in Scotland and all 22 councils in Wales also local elections†
These elections will directly decide who in an individual’s area is responsible for planning issues, housing and waste collection.
But they will also enable voters to express their views on national issues, including the cost of living crisisthe ongoing row over parties in Downing Street and in Whitehall and the government’s response to the war in Ukraine.
You can find the results where you live with our special election service. And Thursday evening from 11 pm we have a special election program on Sky News
With a large number of seats up for grabs, the results are likely to paint a vivid picture of the national vote for the first time since the snap general election of 2019.
But what are the main points of attention and what is considered a good or bad result for the most important parties?
When can I vote?
To vote in today’s local elections, you must be registered and over 18 in England, or over 16 in Scotland and Wales.
Polling stations will be open on May 5 between 7am and 10pm – but as long as you queue at 10pm, you have the right to cast your vote.
What do I vote for?
Local councilors are elected for four years by the local community to represent its views.
They are responsible for a wide variety of matters from transportation, waste collection, planning applications and the management of mental health services.
By participating in the polls, residents can have a say in what is happening in their neighbourhood.
Local residents can vote for as many council seats as their neighborhood is contesting – which will be made clear at the top of the ballot.
What are the key results to watch out for?
London, which accounts for more than four in ten of all English seats in play today, could witness some disruption for one of the two main parties.
Wandsworth and Westminster – both currently controlled by the Conservatives — are two London councils that are particularly in the spotlight.
Work won more votes but fewer seats in the local Wandsworth election last time – but the constituency is solely represented by Labor MPs – and the party will want a different outcome today.
As an early adopter of Thatcherite policies, which include the sale of town halls and privatisation, the Conservatives will be happy to stick with the esteemed South London borough.
Westminster has never been under the control of any other party, but some commentators believe the Conservatives could come under pressure here if the party gate squabble rages on.
Other Southern councils where the Conservatives are also expected to face a challenge include Barnet, Harlow, Southampton and Thurrock.
Meanwhile Croydon, the Labor authority lately dogged by financial troubles, could see Labor facing a struggle amid mounting voter discontent.
Hartlepool, which the Conservatives won in a 2021 by-election — winning more than half of all Labour’s votes for the first time since its founding in 1971 — is also in Labour’s crosshairs.
Labor lost control of the authority in 2019 and is currently led by a coalition of Conservatives and Hartlepool Independent Union councillors.
Peterborough was won by Labor in a 2019 by-election, but the party lost to the Conservatives in the general election months later.
The result there can therefore be seen as a good indicator of public opinion about the current government.
In Wales, with the majority of councils currently led by coalitions, it will be interesting to see if this changes and if Labor can keep Cardiff while the Conservatives can maintain a strong foothold in the north east of the country.
Meanwhile, in Scotland, all eyes will be on whether the Conservatives can at least maintain or even improve on the gains they made with Labor in 2017.
When will we know the results?
Results are expected in the early hours and all day Friday, with some municipalities likely to make a statement on Saturday as well.
In England, about half of the councils are expected to start counting votes tonight, with the remaining councils starting Friday morning.
Meanwhile, in Scotland and Wales, counts won’t start until Friday, with first results not expected until that afternoon.
A fuller picture should be clearer from tomorrow night.
What will the main parties see as a good or bad result?
Leading pollsters Colin Rallings and Michael Thrasher have given their interpretation of how we should view the possible outcomes of the polls.
They suggest that more than 350 losses would be the figure the Conservative Party does not want to reach.
This could cause many Conservative MPs – in both former “red wall” fringe seats and seats in the south – to become particularly concerned.
The party will try to write off losses of between 100 and 150 as “mid-term blues”, opinion polls suggest, but this level of decline will still indicate the Tories are following Labor in terms of popular support.
Meanwhile, gains of over 100 would show the Conservatives continue to make their way into the former heartland of Labour and would be seen as a major success for Boris Johnson‘s government.
By contrast, according to recent polls, Labor will want to capitalize on their growing popularity.
Mr Rallings and Mr Thrasher suggest that 200 or more gains – which would be the party’s best performance in local elections in a decade, as a triumph for Sir Keir Starmer†
Gains between 50 and 100 would also be seen as a positive step forward, showing that the party has made progress since 2018 and may have even targeted some key London council seats.
However, minimal or no gains would be considered disappointing given Mr Johnson’s current declining popularity.
More than 100 losses would be portrayed as a particularly bad result, overshadowing the misery of 2021.
What happens now?
While Johnson is under mounting pressure over the partygate scandal, today’s local elections will be seen as indicative of what voters have made of the issue.
If the Conservatives underperform in this election, his premiership could come under even more pressure – with a potential leadership challenge about to be triggered.
Tory MPs are likely to be concerned that, if repeated at the next general election, similar results could lead to Labor leader Sir Keir becoming prime minister.
In late November, reports were circulating that letters of confidence were being sent to the influential 1922 Committee of Tory backseats when the party gate issue reared its head.
Conservative Party rules state that at least 15% of Tory MPs must write a letter of confidence to enable a leadership challenge.
There are currently 359 Conservative MPs, meaning 54 letters are needed to provoke a contest.
Before the election, more than a dozen Tory MPs called for Johnson to leave.
This number could now increase. But as the letters are submitted confidentially, there is no accurate total of how many were submitted to the 1922 Committee chairman, Sir Graham Brady.
But Mr Johnson is adamant that he will still be prime minister six months from now, despite the backseat rumblings of discontent over partygate.
On the other hand, if Labor underperforms – at a time when Conservatives’ popularity has plummeted – Sir Keir’s leadership is likely to be called into question as well.
This will be particularly the case if the Labor party fails to gain ground in one of the former ‘red wall’ areas where the Conservatives won general elections in 2019.