This year’s local elections in England on Thursday 6 May have been given the go ahead after doubts about whether they would take place due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Electors will go to the polls to elect councillors in 24 county, 127 unitary, district and borough councils, with elections to the London Assembly also set to take place.
As well as these, 13 mayoral elections will take place, including in London, Greater Manchester, the Liverpool City Region and the West Midlands, while Police and Crime Commissioner elections will also go ahead.
Due to Covid-19, last year’s local elections were cancelled, but will now take place on the same day as the elections that were already scheduled for this year.
An estimated £92 million of Government grant funding will be provided to local authorities for the elections, with £31 million being an uplift to directly address costs associated with making the elections Covid-secure.
The May 2021 polls will take place in a way that is similar to previous polls, but there will be some differences to normal procedures.
The Government is making the following commitments:
- Voters will have a choice between in person and absent voting. Postal and proxy voting will be supported and proxy voting rules changed so that those affected by Covid-19 in the days before the poll can still vote.
- Working with partners to make sure that voters, electoral staff, candidates, campaigners and the wider public are protected to the maximum extent possible from the spread of disease. They will be clear about how existing public health regulations and guidance apply to essential voting activities.
- Candidates and their agents will have additional guidance on the specific application of social distancing and other regulations to their activities, including nominations and campaigning.
- Returning Officers and local authorities will have the support from the Government that they need to deliver the elections, including additional funding for the extra costs that the necessary public health measures will generate.
The rules for proxy voting are changing, so that anyone who is self-isolating can request a proxy vote at the last minute – up to 5pm on polling day itself.
To keep people safe at the polls, polling station staff and voters will have to wear a mask (unless exempt) when they go to vote and are being asked to bring their own pen or pencil to the polling booth.
Other measures that will be in place at polling stations include social distancing inside and outside venues, a limited number of people inside, maximum ventilation, glass screens, hand sanitizer and regular cleaning.
Given the importance of avoiding any further disruption to education, the Government have announced that schools should not be used where alternative venues are available and discourage the use of schools where it would result in closure.
They will provide support to Returning Officers to explore the use of other community or commercial facilities, in order to minimise disruption to schools where they are the only available option.
Commenting, the Minister of State for the Constitution and Devolution at the Cabinet Office, Chloe Smith MP said that “safe and secure elections are the cornerstone of our democracy”.
She added: “The United Kingdom has a world-class electoral system, delivered in each area by the statutorily independent Returning Officer.
“We have the utmost confidence in the ability of the Returning Officers to run these polls in a way that meets the highest standards of both public safety and democratic integrity.”
Elections to the devolved parliaments in Scotland and Wales will take place on the same day, but are run separately.