Local elections 2021: What elections are happening, how will they be different, and will I have to take my own pencil?

Elections are taking place across the country today, with polls due to close at 10pm tonight.

It will be the biggest round of elections in living memory. Here in the Midlands everyone will be able to cast a vote in at least one election, while in some places people will have multiple decisions to make.

That's because there will be a combination of elections which had always been scheduled for 2021, and a large number which were postponed from last spring due to the Covid pandemic.

Voters will be voting for

  • 189 members of the Scottish and Welsh parliaments

  • 39 Police & Crime commissioners in England and Wales

  • 7 Metro mayors in England

  • 5 local mayors in England

  • 25 members of the London assembly

  • 4,632 councillors in England in 144 councils 

  • 247 councillors in by-elections

  • 2 Parliamentary by-elections

These elections will be particularly significant as they are the first test of people's political opinions since the pandemic, and the first elections since Keir Starmer became leader of the Labour party.

In the Midlands, the historic county of Northamptonshire along with its seven districts is being dismantled to form two new 'super' councils. North Northamptonshire and West Northamptonshire will be unitary councils running all the local services in their area rather than being split between county and district local authorities.

What elections are taking place here?

1. Mayoral elections

The West Midlands Combined Authority

Mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough

2. Metropolitan District Councils (A third of these seats will be up for election)

Metropolitan district councils provide all local services and facilities.

3. Unitary Councils (The whole council will be up for election)

This means the council provides all of the services and facilities in the area.

Unitary Councils (A third of these seats will be up for election)

4. County Councils (The whole council will be up for election)

County councils exist where there is a two-tier council system of a county council and a district council. Responsibility for services and facilities is split between the two.

The county council is often responsible for services and facilities such as schools and learning, libraries, and roads.

5. District Councils (Half of the seats up for election)

The district council is part of a two-tier system with a county council.

They are often responsible for things like collecting Council Tax, housing, and electoral registration.

Your district council could also be known as the borough or city council.

District Councils (A third of the seats will be up for election)

6. Police and Crime Commissioners

You can find the candidates standing in your area here.

  • Cambridgeshire

  • Derbyshire

  • Gloucestershire

  • Leicestershire

  • Lincolnshire

  • Northamptonshire

  • Nottinghamshire

  • Staffordshire

  • Warwickshire

  • West Mercia

  • West Midlands

East Midlands

In the East Midlands, our political reporter Gareth Owen explains why Nottinghamshire is one to watch.

West Midlands

In the West Midlands, the election for the West Midlands mayor is particularly significant as it's one of the most powerful, directly elected roles in the country. This is the link to the final list of candidates after nominations closed.

Gareth Owen explains why Dudley is also a council election to watch.

What do I need to do now?

You need to be registered to vote. The deadline for this was midnight on Monday 19th April.

What will happen before polling day?

A polling card will arrive through the post with details of the elections you can take part in and where to go.

What will happen on 6th May?

Polling stations will be open from 7am to 10pm on 6th May.

If you registered, but did not receive a polling card, you will still be able to vote.

What will be different at my polling station?

Your normal polling station may not be open this year if it can't be made Covid safe, so do check your polling card when it arrives.

There'll be one-way systems, social distancing, touchpoint cleaning and ventilation where possible.

Voters will also be asked to bring their own pen or pencil to make their mark on their ballot paper, and will have to wear a face covering unless legally exempt.

There will be clean pencils available at the polling station for those who forget to bringtheir own.

Will people not wearing a face covering be turned away?

Everyone is being encouraged to wear a mask, and there will be spare face coverings at polling stations.

Polling station staff will not prevent voters from entering a polling station and voting if theydo not wear a face covering.

What if I don't want to vote in person?

In elections you can always always vote by post or by proxy (when someone else casts your vote on your behalf) but there is expected to be an increase in demand this year as people are concerned about mixing, or are shielding. So people are being encouraged to apply early.

What if I catch Covid just before polling day?

Arrangements are being made so people can apply for a proxy vote up until 5pm the day before polling day - that is, if they caught Covid, and had to self-isolate.

They could also arrange a new proxy vote at that late stage, if the named proxy caught Covid and was unable to vote on their behalf

The idea was announced when it was confirmed that the elections would go ahead in May.

It still needs to be debated in the House of Commons before coming into force.