Millions of Brits around the country will go to the polls todayfor the 2022 local elections.
Voters will be choosing local representatives in England, Scotland and Wales and there will also be an election for the Northern Ireland Assembly.
Polling stations have just opened and close at 10pm.
When will the results be announced? After polls close at 10pm, ballot boxes are taken from all the polling stations to local or regional counting centres where staff open them and start counting votes.
What do the polls say?
Polling results published in the Daily Telegraph newspaper suggested the Conservatives could be set for their worst performance in the local elections since the 1990s.
The survey, conducted by Electoral Calculus with Find Out Now, suggested Labour could be on course to gain more than 800 seats, while the Tories are likely to lose 548 seats on councils across the country.
Veteran elections expert Professor Sir John Curtice thinks it is hard to predict the outcome of local elections, adding the loss of 550 seats was “not unrealistic”.
Once all the votes in an area are counted, the official in charge – the returning officer – takes the stage and announces the results.
The first batch of results is likely to be announced at midnight, with locations such as Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Essex, Greater Manchester and Bolton traditionally announced around this time. The latest is likely to be around 5pm on Saturday from Tower Hamlets.
What are parties saying?
Parties have been moving into expectation management mode.
Environment Secretary George Eustice acknowledged on ITV’s Good Morning Britain that “all prime ministers will always be very conscious of the mood in their parliamentary party”, in response to speculation that poor results on Thursday could lead to more letters of no confidence in the Prime Minister.
Sir Keir Starmer has been downplaying talk of a major victory for Labour, with party strategists reportedly worried that the Tories are winning the pre-election “expectation management” process.
Asked what success would look like for Labour, Sir Keir told BBC Breakfast: “We want to hold seats where we’ve already got them, and we want to make gains where we can. I’m conscious that we’ve got to earn every vote, I’m taking nothing for granted.”
Seats are up for grabs
Local council elections are happening in England, but not in all areas. More than 4,000 councillors in 146 councils will be standing for election in major cities including Leeds, Manchester, Birmingham and all 32 London boroughs.
South Yorkshire will also be voting for a regional mayor and 1,000 parish councils will be electing around 10,000 councillors.
All 32 councils in Scotland and all 22 in Wales will be holding elections, with residents able to vote from the age of 16.
In Northern Ireland, voters will be electing 90 members, representing 18 constituencies, to the Northern Ireland Assembly.
In a nutshell, what will voters be voting for?
– Every local authority in Scotland, Wales and London.
– South Yorkshire’s regional mayor and the borough councils of Barnsley and Sheffield.
– 60 district councils, 31 Metropolitan boroughs and 19 unitary authorities across the rest of England.
– County councils in North Yorkshire and Somerset.
– Local mayors in Croydon, Hackney, Lewisham, Newham, Tower Hamlets and Watford.
– All 90 seats in the Northern Ireland assembly.
– There is also a referendum in Bristol on whether to keep the city’s elected mayor.
– Why do local elections matter?
Local elections do not enjoy the same prominence as general elections, with turnout always low, rarely reaching above 40%.
However, these elections will decide who is responsible in an individual’s local area for planning issues, housing and rubbish collections, public transport and road maintenance.
They will also be an opportunity for voters to have their say on national issues including the cost of living, lockdown breaches in Downing Street and the Government’s response to the war in Ukraine, therefore providing a wider picture on the performance of the main political parties.
The councils in England that will receive most attention are in London, where Wandsworth could swing to Labour after 44 years of being in the hands of the Tories.
Recently, the area has been drifting to the left, with all three of the borough’s MPs now Labour, including Fleur Anderson in Putney, which was the only seat the party gained from the Tories in 2019.
The Conservatives also face challenges in Westminster, with their large majority diminishing over the years, and Barnet, where Labour’s poor performance in 2018 has been associated with concerns about Jeremy Corbyn among the Jewish community.
In Tower Hamlets, while there are unlikely to be too many upsets in the council elections, the race to become mayor will be one to watch, with controversial former mayor Lutfur Rahman standing again.
He was forced to step down after an election court found him guilty of corrupt and illegal practices, but he has faced no criminal prosecution.
In other parts of the country, Hartlepool will be hotly contested. The Conservatives won the parliamentary seat from Labour at a by-election in May 2021 and will have to demonstrate that the faith voters put in them was not misplaced. On the other hand, Labour will hope to start to rebuild its Red Wall.
In Bury, residents voted last year to keep Labour in control of its council, but during the 2019 general election they voted in two Tory MPs – one of these being Christian Wakeford, who has since defected to Labour.
In the South of England, Tories will be hoping not to give any more ground to the Liberal Democrats, after losing two safe Tory seats at by-elections in less than a year. Wokingham, St Albans and Sutton are some of the key Conservative-Liberal Democrat battlegrounds.
Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland
In the last election in 2017 in Scotland, the Conservative made big gains from Labour but failed to gain overall control, leaving most councils run by coalitions.
The largest cities – Glasgow and Edinburgh – will be the ones to look out for.
In Wales, attention will be on whether Labour can maintain its hold over Cardiff and the cities along the M4 corridor.
Meanwhile, tensions are high in Northern Ireland ahead of the Stormont Assembly elections as the Brexit protocol remains a divisive issue.
The Northern Ireland Executive collapsed in February and it is possible it will not be restored after the elections, particularly if Sinn Fein comes first.
Oliver Dowden, the Tory Party chairman, looked to emphasise to the electorate the local choice they are making amid reports that some candidates had attempted to distance themselves from Westminster during campaigning.
In a statement to mark polls opening, Mr Dowden said: “The elections today are about one thing: who do you want running your council?
“The choice couldn’t be starker – between Conservatives who keep council tax down and offer good services, or the opposition parties who waste money on political games and vanity projects.”
Education minister Michelle Donelan argued that Mr Johnson was “an asset, not a liability” in elections.
Ms Donelan told Sky News she could “understand” why councillor hopefuls wanted to show they are “going to be working hard on all of those things that impact daily life” rather than focusing on what is happening in Westminster.
Environment Secretary George Eustice acknowledged that “all prime ministers will always be very conscious of the mood in their parliamentary party”, in response to speculation that poor results on Thursday could lead to more letters of no confidence from Tory MPs.
Mr Johnson, during a visit to Southampton Airport on the last day before polls opened, stressed that he was “absolutely confident” he had the “right agenda for the country”.
Tory supporters are likely to anxiously be watching out for results in true-blue London local authorities such as Wandsworth – under Conservative control for the past 44 years – Westminster and Barnet where pollsters YouGov believe Labour could cause an upset.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer used his election rallying call to highlight the “constant drip-drip of sleaze and scandal” in Mr Johnson’s administration.
As well as partygate, the Tories have been hit with a string of controversies, including former Wakefield MP Imran Nasir Ahmad Khan being found guilty of sexually assaulting a teenage boy and veteran MP Neil Parish quitting after admitting he watched pornography in the Commons.
Sir Keir said the Government had broken the Covid regulations they had put in place “over and over again” and said the Tory “failure” to tackle the cost of living crisis had been a “disgrace”, along with the Chancellor’s decision to hike national insurance last month.
Writing in the Daily Mirror, Sir Keir said: “The British public shouldn’t have to put up with a Government that refuses to take seriously the very real issues facing you and your family.”
There have been Tory calls for Durham Police to look into whether the opposition leader broke Covid rules while campaigning before the 2021 Hartlepool by-election.
But Sir Keir said it was a “smear” to suggest he breached the regulations while having “a takeaway and a beer while I was working late at night”.
Sir Ed Davey, leader of the Liberal Democrats, said voters on Thursday have a chance to “send Boris Johnson a message he can’t ignore”.
“The Conservatives have failed to deal with the cost of living crisis, voted to pollute our rivers and abandoned our ambulance services,” he said.
“Whether it’s Somerset or Stockport, Winchester or Wimbledon, St Albans or South Cambridgeshire, I’ve spoken to lifelong Conservative voters who feel utterly taken for granted by a law-breaking Prime Minister and a tax-hiking Chancellor.”
The Lib Dems are hopeful of causing an upset in Hull by dislodging it from Labour’s control, while also vying for victory against the Tories in places such as Wokingham and Sutton.
In England, more than 4,000 councillors in 146 councils are standing for election in major cities including Leeds, Manchester, Birmingham and all 32 London boroughs.
All 32 councils in Scotland and all 22 in Wales are also holding elections, with polls open between 7am and 10pm.
Meanwhile, tensions were high in Northern Ireland ahead of Stormont elections where voters are going to the polls across 18 constituencies to elect 90 MLAs.
Opinion polls have suggested Sinn Fein is likely to top the poll, and the Alliance Party is tipped to have a surge in support.