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How do local elections work in England and Wales?

Local elections decide who runs local councils, which are also sometimes referred to as local authorities.

Councils control things like council housing, rubbish collection, recycling, parking, transport, roads and footpaths, parks, leisure centres and libraries.

Each council area in England and Wales is split up into different sections, which are called wards. Wards are represented by councillors. Each ward is represented by either one, two or three councillors depending on how big they are.

People who live in each ward vote for who they want their councillor or councillors to be. The number of votes each person has is the same as the number of councillors that will represent that ward.

For example, if the ward is small and is represented by just one councillor, the voter will have just one vote. But if the ward is big and is represented by three councillors, the voter will be able to vote for up to three candidates. There will always be instructions on the top of ballot papers telling you how many candidates you can vote for.

Local elections in England and Wales use a voting system called First Past The Post. This means that the candidates who get the most votes are elected as councillors.

So in a ward represented by one councillor, the candidate with the most votes is elected. In a ward represented by three councillors, the candidates with the second and third highest number of votes will also be elected.

Each political party can put forward candidates to stand for election as councillors. Candidates don’t have to represent a party to stand for election. Those who don’t are called independents.

If a council ends up with a majority of councillors representing one political party, then that party runs that council. If there is no clear majority, the council is said to be under no overall control.

Local elections are not to be confused with general elections or European elections.

Related content:

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What are local elections?

How do local elections work in Scotland?

How do local elections work in Northern Ireland?