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Local Elections 2024

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Written By:

Kaja Robakowska

Published:

4th April 2024

2024 has so far been a year filled with fevered anticipation and analysis of not just the outcome but the timing of the General Election.

At times this has left the upcoming local elections taking second stage and for many people, 2nd May is a date on which Rishi Sunak declined to hold a General Election, rather than the day voters in 107 local authorities up and down the country will head to polling stations to choose their local councillors. Alongside local authority elections, city regions will be going to the polls to elect their Metro Mayors, with two devolution deal authorities holding mayoral elections for the first time.

“As a result – far from being a footnote in an election year of potentially seismic change, this year’s Local Elections will not only shape our local political landscape in the short-term but could provide an insightful glimpse of what’s to come later this year.”

The magnitude of the upcoming local election positions it as one of the most significant political events of the year, with pivotal changes anticipated. As with previous elections, there is no doubt that each region will see shifts within their local authorities.

Regions at a Glance

In the South, a majority of councils will be electing a third of their members. Many of these authorities experienced a loss of Tory leadership in the 2023 elections, indicating a likely further strengthening of Labour, Lib Dem and Independent leadership. Senior Tories have labelled recent results “catastrophic” and this trend looks set to continue for the previously Tory-dominated South, albeit with perhaps a lower level of impact this given the reduced number of seats being contested.  

In the Midlands, forecasts suggest that the region may experience a smaller degree of change compared to the South, although the Conservatives are still projected to lose control of more councils. The addition of a devolved authority in the East Midlands could potentially exacerbate this loss if regional voters mirror national sentiments.

In the North, the focus will be even more so on Mayoral elections, with six out of 7 Mayoral Combined Authorities choosing new leaders. The expected Labour dominance may not be as profound as it has been in previous years and provides an interesting test for local sentiment towards national party policy.

 

What impact will the GE have on this year’s Local Elections?

And while the primary focus is for now at least on local elections, of course how public sentiment in relation to the general election will impact events on 2nd May is for many people top of mind.   

Despite the prevailing notion that most regions are “blue wall battlegrounds”, these sentiments cannot accurately forecast the outcomes of local elections. Throughout the years, turnout at local elections has consistently fallen short of that seen in General Elections. Various factors have influenced this, however the most notable is a prevailing lack of awareness and/or interest in local elections and the responsibilities of local authorities. Previous studies have shown that 1 in 4 of those who voted for either Labour or the Conservatives in both 2017 and 2019 General Elections, did not vote in the 2018 local elections. And with public trust in politics at an all-time low in the UK, many candidates will find themselves hoping to ride a wave of public sentiment against the current Government in combatting the prospect of a low turnout.

 

Key Issues – Development, Infrastructure & Energy

Campaigning, whether it is at a local level or national, always draws on the issues of the day, and now perhaps more than ever, the UK’s current status with regards to provision of necessary infrastructure and delivering much-needed housing, is a priority issue for many voters – particularly when presented with a choice of local candidates often campaigning on hyper-local issues as well as national party policies.  

What impact will Labour’s recent ‘Power Up Britain’ pitch have on the doorstep, and will the perceived tension between “Backing the Builders not the Blockers” and supporting the principle of “more local” decision-making manifest itself in voting intentions on 2nd May? More macro issues too around securing the UK’s energy security are continuing to hit people’s pockets and challenge businesses across the country. Finding answers to these urgent questions is a major challenge for politicians of every stripe whether holding local or national office.  

The local elections provide an opportunity to better understand how the public are responding to the major parties’ messages on these key issues and should provide us all with a glimpse of how things could play out at the General Election. 

Whatever your political persuasion or interaction with the Local Elections – they seem set to offer us some fascinating contests and more food for thought before the country goes to the polls later this year. 

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