The Coronavirus Act,which received Royal Assent on 25 March 2020, made emergency provisions in relation to the coronavirus. This briefing examines the provisions related to postponing local elections due in May 2020 until May 2021.

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This briefing paper is one of a collection of Commons Library briefings on the Coronavirus Bill (the Bill). It deals with postponing the May 2020 elections. The other briefing papers, dealing with other parts of the Bill and general background, are available on the Commons Library website (Coronavirus Bill: Overview). 

On 13 March 2020 the Government confirmed that the local elections in England and police and crime commissioner elections in England and Wales, due to take place on 7 May 2020, would be postponed for a year. This was as a result of the ongoing coronavirus outbreak.

The elections scheduled to take place were for:

  • 40 Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) elections in England and Wales
  • London Mayor and members of the Greater London Authority
  • Councillors in 118 English councils
  • 3 local authority mayors (Bristol, Liverpool and Salford)
  • 4 combined authority mayors (Greater Manchester, Liverpool, Tees Valley, and West Midlands)
  • Parish council elections in some parts of England

The Coronavirus Act makes provision to delay the decennial electoral registration canvas that was due in Northern Ireland this year. The Bill also allows for unscheduled electoral events, such as by-elections in devolved elections and recall of MP petitions, to be delayed. No scheduled local elections were due to take place in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland

The postponements of any of these electoral events cannot go beyond 6 May 2021.

The Bill was introduced on Thursday 19 March 2020 and passed all its Commons stages on Monday 23 March. The Lords stages of the Bill were held on 24 and 25 March. The Coronavirus Act 2020 gained Royal Assent on 25 March 2020.

This briefing summarises the main points of the Act relating to elections, including amendments made at Committee stage in the House of Commons. The Government has also released a statement which also outlines the main provisions of the Bill in relation to postponing elections.

  • Commons Research Briefing CBP-8856
  • Authors: David Torrance, Neil Johnston
  • Topics: Elections

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