On 2 May local government elections will take place in 33 Metropolitan Districts, 168 Districts and 47 Unitary Authorities across England. In addition, council mayors will be elected in Bedford, Copeland, Leicester, Mansfield and Middlesbrough; and the new North of Tyne region (formed in November 2018) will elect a combined authority mayor for the first time.

Here we examine the results of recent local elections, using data gathered from local councils, and the introduction of voter ID pilots this year.

Where are elections being held?

The map below shows the local authorities that are holding elections and the largest party to win in each area following the latest comparable elections in 2015. Local authorities without elections in 2019 are shaded light grey.


Councils holding elections in England, 2019

 

What happened in 2018?

The most recent local elections took place in May 2018. Following these elections, the Conservative Party had the highest number of councillors in England and controlled the highest number of councils. The charts below show the number of councils controlled by and the number of councillors affiliated with each party.

Bar chart showing the number of councils controlled by political parties following the May 2018 local elections
Bar chart showing the number of councillors by political party following the May 2018 local elections

In 2018, the Green Party won 39 seats, around 1% of all seats up for election. UKIP won three seats.

Comparing local election results

Local council members are elected for four-year terms using the first-past-the-post system. There are a variety of electoral cycles with three methods of holding local elections: electing a whole council, half the council or a third. Consequently, it is difficult to compare council results year-on-year as this would involve comparing elections in different councils. To give an accurate picture of underlying change, it is better to compare with the results from four years’ previously.

The charts below show the number of councils each party controlled, and the number of councillors elected by political party, following the 2015 local elections.

Bar chart showing the number of councils controlled by political parties following the May 2015 local elections
Bar chart showing the number of councillors by political party following the May 2015 local elections

After the May 2015 local elections, the Conservative Party had more councillors and controlled more councils than any other party. Their support was mostly located in shire districts (which made up 57% of all local authorities) and in county councils. The Conservative Party controlled 72% of district councils and 59% of county councils, while the Labour Party controlled 63% of London Borough councils and 83% of Metropolitan Borough councils.

Following the 2015 elections, UKIP had 339 councillors and controlled one council. The Green Party had 159 councillors.

Voter ID pilots

Voter ID pilots are taking place in eleven local authorities across England. The Government has said the pilots will provide further insight into securing the voting process and reducing the risk of voter fraud. Others, however, have said they risk discriminating against people who don’t hold appropriate forms of ID, such as passports or driving licenses.

Voters in the following authorities will be asked for their ID when they cast their vote:

  • Voters in Pendle, East Staffordshire and Woking will be asked to show photo ID before they are given their ballot papers.
  • Ribble Valley, Broxtowe, Derby, North Kesteven and Braintree will require voters to present either one form of photo ID or up to two forms of non-photo ID.
  • Mid Sussex, Watford and North West Leicestershire will test using poll cards as a means of identification.
  • In addition, Peterborough and Pendle will run a separate postal vote pilot, looking at the security of postal votes and providing additional guidance in postal vote packs.

The House of Commons Library will be collecting results from local authorities and publishing a summary analysis of the 2019 local elections.

Further reading

Our local elections paper from 2018 can be found here: Local Elections 2018 and further historical local election results can be found in our research briefing, UK Election Statistics, 1918-2018 – 100 years of elections.

Sources: Rallings and Thrasher, Local Elections in Britain: A Statistical Digest, April 2003; Rallings and Thrasher, Local Elections Handbooks, various years; the House of Commons Library.


About the author: Elise Uberoi is a researcher at the House of Commons Library, specialising in social and general statistics.