How local elections impact YOUR life – and why it’s crucial you cast your vote

Voters slate Boris Johnson ahead of local elections

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People across the UK go to the polls on Thursday to cast their votes for who they want to run their local areas. There are thousands of seats up for grabs in England, Wales and Scotland, while those in Northern Ireland will decide on who sits in Stormont. Mayoral seats in England are also being contested in places like South Yorkshire.

Wednesday is the last day political leaders can campaign, so figures are expected to travel to key battlegrounds in a last-ditch attempt to win over the local populations.

Local elections are vitally important and directly affect each individual living in an area.

Local councils and elected officials are responsible for myriad elements of daily British life, including council tax bills, spending of local taxpayers’ money, making cuts in order to save, fixing — or ignoring — potholes, and planning what local areas will look like in years to come, among many other things.

In fact, local government spending amounts to a whopping 25 percent of all public spending in the UK.

Yet, on the whole, voter turnout for local elections has been historically poor, with the electorate showing up more reliably for general elections and ignoring the local counterpart.

In 2021, the UK’s last bumper set of local votes much like the ones coming up this week, numbers followed a similar pattern to previous local elections.

England saw a voter turnout average of just 36.4 percent, House of Commons data shows.

That means around 20,152,800 failed to cast their vote and have their say on how their hometowns were run.

Every time an election comes round, experts and organisations urge people to go out and vote — regardless of who they vote for.

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In general elections, many people vote tactically in a bid to push a party out of power or choose not to vote at all as a form of protest.

Others remain unsure and often fail to vote out of not knowing who to vote for altogether.

Voting Counts, an independent resource that seeks to help people make “informed decisions when voting”, has offered crucial advice about why voting matters.

In a blog post focused on a general election — but still relevant for local elections — it wrote: “Voting gives you the power to decide how the UK is run…

“An election is also your chance to speak out if you have a complaint about the way the country is being run.

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“Remember, voting is not the only way to participate but it’s the quickest and easiest way!

“If you don’t vote, you’ll have had no say over who will be making decisions on the issues important to you.”

The platform also said voting is important even if you do not think your candidate or councillor will win.

By voting for a candidate who may not necessarily win, you still send a message to the winner about the issues that are wanted in the area.

Voting Counts wrote: “For example, if Candidate A gets a large number of votes because of her stance on the Environment, then the winning Candidate B might try to do more on this issue in order to convince you to vote for them next time.”

Local elections are also vital for political parties to gauge the national mood for the next general election.

Adam Price, leader of Plaid Cymru, recently told Express.co.uk that gaining votes at the local level was a “fantastic opportunity” for the party to prove itself ready for the next election.

He said: “Local government is the building block [of national politics].

“Many of the areas that we have made breakthroughs at the Senedd level or even Westminster, the first step is often building a base for ourselves in local government — the most local level — because politics and decisions there are so important.

“It’s important in terms of the quality of people’s physical environment but also in terms of the growth of the party: people gain experience at that local level and they move on to the county level, and that can then be the bedrock of which people subsequently see growth in the party [at a national level] later on.”

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