Millions head to the polls as party leaders vote in local elections

How significant will the local elections be to the government? ITV News Political Reporter Shehab Khan reports

Voting is underway to elect councillors and mayors in the UK's local elections, while people in Northern Ireland are choosing their representatives to the Stormont Assembly.

Leaders of all the big parties were among the millions casting their votes, with every council seat in Scotland, Wales and London up for grabs with many more across the rest of England.

Boris Johnson, leader of the Conservatives, was photographed walking to a polling station in Westminster to vote without his wife Carrie but accompanied by his dog Dilyn early on Thursday morning.

Boris Johnson arrived to vote along with his dog Dilyn. Credit: AP

Labour leader Keir Starmer held hands with his wife Victoria as he arrived at a polling station in Kentish Town, north London, to cast his vote in the local elections for Camden Council.

Keir Starmer arrived to vote with his wife Victoria. Credit: PA

Sir Ed Davey, the Liberal Democrat leader, arrived on foot along side a party activist to cast his vote at the Surbiton Methodist Church in south-west London.

Ed Davey cast his vote at the Surbiton Methodist Church. Credit: PA

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon voted SNP at her local polling station in Glasgow, while her Welsh counterpart Mark Drakeford wore a red tie for Labour as he cast his ballot in Cardiff.

Welsh and Scottish first ministers Mark Drakeford and Nicola Sturgeon have also cast their votes. Credit: PA

Which seats are being contested in the UK and Northern Ireland?

Seats are being contested at a total of 200 local authorities in the UK.

In England, more than 4,000 councillors in 146 councils are standing for election in major cities including Leeds, Manchester, Birmingham and all 32 London boroughs.

South Yorkshire will also be voting for a regional mayor and 1,000 parish councils will be electing around 10,000 councillors.

All 32 councils in Scotland and all 22 in Wales are also holding elections, with polls open between 7am and 10pm.

In Northern Ireland voters across 18 constituencies will elect 90 MLAs to Stormont.

When do polling stations close?

Polling stations opened at 7am this morning and will close at 10pm this evening. Any British citizen over 18 can vote, so long as they've registered and are not serving prisoners.

Can I bring my dog?

Each year the hashtag #dogsatpollingstations trends on Twitter, with people taking photographs of their pets waiting outside - but are people allowed to take their dogs inside?

According to the Electoral Commission the answer is yes - Boris Johnson brought his - although it's up to the discretion of each polling station.

The Commission says dogs can enter in an “accompanying” role but should not be allowed to roam freely inside or disrupt the vote.

What if I've lost my polling card? Do I need ID?

There is no need to take your polling card with you when you go to vote. If you've registered you just need to tell the polling station staff your name before voting.

Voter ID is not yet required in the UK, however legislation was passed this year meaning it will be necessary in the future.

Legislation on free voter cards is likely to be passed later this year and they are expected to be used at the local elections in England May 2023 and at any UK Parliamentary election held after that date.

What do local councils do?

Councils and unitary authorities are responsible for delivering services that people rely on every day - including social services, bin collections, recycling, housing, education, and planning.

Councils were integral to the UK's response to coronavirus, forming the heart of emergency measures like the track and trace programmes.