Don't Waste Your Voice: How (And Why) To Vote In This Years Local Elections

It’s easy to hear ‘local election’ and think of potholes and Parish councils. And while it’s true, they often lack the drama and spectacle of a general election (unless Jackie Weaver and her antagonists are involved), local elections still play an important part in shaping both the regional and national political agenda. Next month, voters will elect 2,600 councillors and 10 metro mayors across the country. One of the biggest races in this year's local elections is for London Mayor, which is set to be a closer fight than usual for Sadiq Khan, looking for a third term and the Tory candidate, Susan Hall.

It’s easy to feel disillusioned by British politics and to turn away from the polling station, but in an election year, it’s more important than ever to engage with the political system. Turnout is always lower for smaller elections: In 2021, only 35.9% of eligible voters turned out to vote in local elections, compared to 67.3% who voted in the 2019 general election. But, strong voter turnout in local elections can have a broader impact on the general election, influencing policies at national level.

The results of May 2 will be scrutinised by pollsters, as they serve as a barometer of public opinion and political trends and may very well influence the strategies and policies of the political parties at national level. Historically, strong voter turnout in local elections has had a ripple effect on voter turnout in general elections.


It’s also a way to have a voice wherever you are. Politics is often centred around Westminster, and local elections are an opportunity to bring the focus –and power– back to local communities. Currently, approximately a quarter of public spending goes to local councils. They are the grassroots authorities responsible for schools, leisure centres and a huge array of services from mental health to bin collections.

So, if you’re trying to raise an issue or get your voice heard, it’s often much easier to do so via your local councillor than your MP. Case in point, the times I’ve emailed my MP in the last year to champion greener policies, I received a copy and pasted blanket response, whereas I can often find my local councillor canvassing in my area (she’s also a very active member of our street Whatsapp group sharing updates about local services –and lost cats). It’s these councillors representing local authorities who make decisions on issues that directly affect us including local and social services, planning applications and budgets. Voting for then gives us a much more direct voice in shaping our local areas and communities.

Yesterday, the Give an X campaign launched an open letter encouraging young people not to lose their voice in this year's elections. Signed by artists and performers including Paapa Essiedu, Amelia Dimoldenberg and Es Devlin, it’s a compelling reminder to register today: 'Voting is not just casting a ballot; it is narrating the stories of our communities and painting a vision of a better tomorrow. In the face of huge challenges nationally and globally, that has never been more important.'

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