Local elections 2023: Voters head to the polls in England

The polls have opened for the 2023 local elections in England - and voters must bring their IDs for the first time. Credit: PA

Voters are heading to the polls today as more than 200 local authorities hold elections across England.

Around 8,000 councillors are being elected in some 230 local authorities, while four mayoral elections are also taking place in Bedford, Leicester, Mansfield and Middlesbrough.

The polls will officially open between 7am and 10pm.

No elections are taking place in Scotland or Wales, but those in Northern Ireland will have the chance to decide the structure of 11 councils, as part of elections in two weeks.

Thursday's elections are the first time that voters in England will be required to present photographic identification before casting their ballot, but only certain types will be accepted.

A passport, driving licence photocard, blue badge, Totum student discount card, and older person’s bus pass are all valid, as well as a voter authority certificate.

All accepted forms of photo ID:

  • Passport issued by the UK, any of the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man, a British Overseas Territory, an EEA state or a Commonwealth country

  • Driving licence issued by the UK, any of the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man, or an EEA state (this includes a provisional driving licence)

  • A Blue Badge

  • Older Person’s Bus Pass

  • Disabled Person’s Bus Pass

  • Oyster 60+ Card

  • Freedom Pass

  • Scottish National Entitlement Card

  • 60 and Over Welsh Concessionary Travel Card

  • Disabled Person’s Welsh Concessionary Travel Card

  • Senior SmartPass issued in Northern Ireland

  • Registered Blind SmartPass or Blind Person’s SmartPass issued in Northern Ireland

  • War Disablement SmartPass issued in Northern Ireland

  • 60+ SmartPass issued in Northern Ireland

  • Half Fare SmartPass issued in Northern Ireland

  • Identity card bearing the Proof of Age Standards Scheme hologram (a PASS card)

  • Biometric immigration document

  • Ministry of Defence Form 90 (Defence Identity Card)

  • National identity card issued by an EEA state

  • Electoral Identity Card issued in Northern Ireland

  • Voter Authority Certificate

  • Anonymous Elector's Document

Critics of the new rules on voter identification have accused the government of failing to raise enough awareness about today's local elections in England being the first in which participants must show ID.

Of the estimated 2 million people without valid ID in England, just 89,500 people have so far registered for the alternative Voter Authority Certificate, according to government minister Baroness Scott of Bybrook.

Electoral Commission chairman John Pullinger said using data from greeters would be “inherently unreliable” as some people may turn around before speaking to anyone and others may not be recognised if they later return with the correct ID. The Committee chairman said that, due to this, “we simply won’t know how many people will have been turned away”. He added: “It appears that the Government has designed a system which denies the prospect of sensible and co-ordinated information collection and makes it almost impossible to judge the true impact of the introduction of voter ID.” The Electoral Commission said it will carry out opinion polling to gain “evidence on the fullest impact of the ID requirement”.

Dogs at polling stations

Photographs of canines at polling stations have become an unlikely stable of UK elections, presumably for no other reason than because people love dogs.

But animal charity Blue Cross has issued some guidance for people who want to join in the craze, and it might disappoint dog owners.

Tying them up outside the polling station makes them a "tempting target for thieves", the charity says, so people should check locally whether their dog will be allowed inside.

The hashtag #dogsatpollingstations trended on Twitter as voters used the opportunity to take their pets along with them to polling stations around the country.

Guidance from the electoral commission states that dogs - bar assistance dogs - are not usually allowed inside polling stations as they can disturb voters.

The Electoral Commission has issued guidance to officials suggesting people should not allow photos inside polling stations as accidentally including any of the above details in the background of a shot could lead to a jail sentence and a £5,000 fine.

Becky Thwaites, head of public affairs at Blue Cross said: “We love how dogs can get involved on polling day with #dogsatpollingstations.

"If you intend to take your dog with you to vote do check if your polling station allows dogs inside, which is much better than leaving them tied up outside and running the risk of dog theft.”