Local elections 2018 - Why should we care?

By Michael Thrasher, Associate Member, Nuffield College, Oxford
This Thursday more than 22 million electors can vote in 150 English local authorities. More than 4,000 councillors will be elected.
Unfortunately, fewer than four in 10 of us will vote.
Local electoral turnout, apart from occasions when local and parliamentary elections coincide, has declined.But here are reasons why we should all take notice of these elections, especially those with a vote.This year marks the centenary of women's suffrage. In fact, some women voted in local elections before 1918.The reason was that the Victorians recognised the importance of the relationship between taxation and representation. Women who paid local rates had a stake in shaping local accountability.This relationship still holds.:: All you need to know about the local elections
Local elections 2018 - Why should we care?

Not happy about your bin collection? Maybe you should vote
Wherever we live, the local council is funded in part from local taxation. Locally delivered services impact upon our immediate environment and our quality of life, from refuse collection and street cleaning to education of our children and care of the elderly.Councillors determine how resources are allocated, which services are prioritised. There is no point complaining on Friday after staying home on Thursday.The context of voting is important too.We saw in June 2016 that voters were mobilised in record numbers to decide whether this country remained or left the EU. Much of the political establishment supported remain and thought the electors would follow their lead.A year later, Mrs May gambled and lost by again misreading the electoral mood.Each of these examples define our history and our national identity.
Local elections 2018 - Why should we care?

Fewer than four in 10 will bother going to the polling station
In the same way, local elections are about defining our sense of community.When democratically elected authorities were created in the nineteenth century the reformers believed that their size and shape should reflect communities of local interest.People should vote in wards small enough to capture a sense of neighbourhood.Council areas should reflect cultural traditions and important geographies. These conditions still operate to an extent but are threatened by so-called economies of scale and a drive towards larger authorities.
Local government should be an antidote to centralisation.
Local elections 2018 - Why should we care?

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn canvassing in Grimsby ahead of the elections
Local elections 2018 - Why should we care?

If the Tories get a battering there could be more pressure on the PM
Some bemoan the 'postcode lottery' when services fit local conditions and not a national standard. But if democratically elected councils decide on diversity is that not their right?Few of us want exactly the same shops in every high street, so why do we want uniformity in every local authority?Far from restricting the power of local democracy we should arguably be extending it. The devolution of power this century has neglected the majority.Labour tried and failed to introduce regional government to England. More layers of government, more politicians - no, thank you.So, those with a vote, use it.For the rest, watch and learn. These elections present threats and opportunities that will shape the future of British politics.
Local elections 2018 - Why should we care?

Another election wipeout could be the death knell for UKIP
Battle is resumed between the major parties and their respective leaders. Mrs May has to atone for her previous inept campaign appearance. Mr Corbyn to demonstrate he's no one-trick pony, capable of advancing Labour but not to outright victory.The Conservatives can expect some losses but if London's electors desert in large numbers and flagship councils like Wandsworth and Westminster fall then expect more speculation about her future.Corbyn's Labour will make gains of council seats and councils controlled, but how many of each?Below a hundred-seat gains and below-par performances in target authorities such as Barnet, Dudley and Trafford may trigger more of his already disgruntled backbenchers to voice concerns about the party's ideological shift.These elections are vital for the supporting cast.Strictly speaking, UKIP is defending 125 seats won in 2014. In practice, it is defending many fewer either because its councillors have already jumped ship or it does not have a candidate to defend the vacancy.
Local elections 2018 - Why should we care?

Kingston and Richmond councils will be big targets for Vince Cable
Last year's county elections saw the party lose every seat it was defending. A repeat may be the party's death knell.
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Vince Cable's Liberal Democrats are doing well in council by-elections as some voters take the least worst option.A stiffer test now awaits the party: wresting control from the Conservatives in the two southwest London boroughs of Kingston and Richmond must top the list. Staging a recovery elsewhere is vital if the current two-party domination is not to go unchecked.
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