Why don’t people vote in local elections?

Graphic showing a woman voting and also showing the various UK elections happening on May 6, 2021 - English local councils, Scottish Parliament, Welsh Parliament, Police & Crime Commissioners, Regional Mayors, and London Mayor & Assembly.
Graphic from votingcounts.org.uk

Across the UK, the turnout for local elections is a shockingly low 35% (almost half the turnout for our general elections). But why? In this week’s Bylines Network podcast, hosts Katrina Best, Alex Toal and Kerry Pearson explore this central question and dig deeper into the confounding complexities of UK local government.

So, why don’t more people vote in local elections? Are we even clear which councils are in charge and who is up for election this time and where? How does local government in England differ from the devolved parliaments in Scotland and Wales, where the voting age is now 16? Also, is there really more than one type of mayor? And what even is a police and crime commissioner?

Listen and subscribe to the Bylines Network podcast on Spotify.

In the first of our four-part series covering the local elections (which are happening across the nation on 6 May) we attempt to find out the answers to all these questions and more, with the help of an impromptu quiz, and two very special guests: Rachael Farrington, who founded the non-partisan, highly informative website Voting Counts seven years ago when she was still a 17-year-old A-level student; and Professor Colin Copus, director of the local government research unit at De Montfort University.

Photo of Rachael Farrington, founder and director of Voting Counts.
Rachael Farrington, founder and director of Voting Counts

Do follow our new Twitter account @BylinesPod as well as Rachael Farrington’s @VotingCountsUK. You can also find and follow hosts @katrinabest @toal_alex and @kerrya_pearson on Twitter along with this episode’s editor Julian Greenbank @jewelsog.

Be sure to check out next week’s episode, in which we’ll explore how democratic our local elections really are, with the help of special guests Naomi Smith of Best For Britain, Tom Brake of Unlock Democracy, and Abbie Jones of Make Votes Matter Manchester.

The deadline to register to vote by PROXY* is 5pm on 27 April:


* You must already be registered to vote and on the current electoral register.

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