Local elections 2022: millions of voters head to polls across UK to elect new local leaders

The Tory party will find out whether the partygate scandal in Downing Street has impacted votes in the local elections today

Millions of voters across the UK are expected to cast ballots in the local elections today to elect the local councillors they want to run services and facilities in their area.

Polling stations are now open in the local elections, with council seats up for grabs in Scotland, Wales and across England, and Northern Ireland electing its new assembly.

Polling stations are now open in the local elections (Photo: Getty Images)

Where are seats available?

More than 4,000 councillors in 146 councils in England are standing for election on Thursday (5 May) in major cities including Leeds, Manchester and Birmingham, plus all 312 London boroughs.

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 are going to the polls across 18 constituencies to elect 90 MLAs ahead of Stormont elections.

Opinion polls have suggested Sinn Fein is likely to top the poll, and the Alliance Party is tipped to have a surge in support.

Will the Conservatives get support from voters?

As votes are tallied, the Conservatives will find out in the coming days whether the so-called partygate scandal in Downing Street has impacted votes, after both Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak were fined for breaking Covid laws.

The Tories have also been hit with a string of controversies, including former Wakefield MP Imran Nasir Ahmad Khan being found guilty of sexually assaulting a teenage boy and veteran MP Neil Parish quitting after admitting to watching pornography in the Commons.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson arrives with his dog Dilyn to vote at Methodist Central Hall, central London (Photo: Getty Images)

Oliver Dowden, the Tory Party chairman, looked to emphasise to the electorate the local choice they are making amid reports that some candidates had attempted to distance themselves from Westminster during campaigning.

In a statement to mark polls opening, Mr Dowden said: “The elections today are about one thing: who do you want running your council?

“The choice couldn’t be starker – between Conservatives who keep council tax down and offer good services, or the opposition parties who waste money on political games and vanity projects.”

Education minister Michelle Donelan argued that Mr Johnson was “an asset, not a liability” in elections, telling Sky News that she could “understand” why councillor hopefuls wanted to show they are “going to be working hard on all of those things that impact daily life” rather than focusing on what is happening in Westminster.

Environment Secretary George Eustice acknowledged that “all prime ministers will always be very conscious of the mood in their parliamentary party”, in response to speculation that poor results on Thursday could lead to more letters of no confidence from Tory MPs.

During a visit to Southampton Airport on the last day before polls opened, Mr Johnson stressed he was “absolutely confident” he had the “right agenda for the country”.

Tory supporters are likely to anxiously be watching out for results in true-blue London local authorities such as Wandsworth – under Conservative control for the past 44 years – Westminster and Barnet where pollsters YouGov believe Labour could cause an upset.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer used his election rallying call to highlight the “constant drip-drip of sleaze and scandal” in Mr Johnson’s administration.

Sir Keir said the government had broken the Covid regulations they had put in place “over and over again” and said the Tory “failure” to tackle the cost of living crisis had been a “disgrace”, along with the Chancellor’s decision to hike national insurance last month.

There have been Tory calls for Durham Police to look into whether the opposition leader broke Covid rules while campaigning before the 2021 Hartlepool by-election, but Sir Keir said it was a “smear” to suggest he breached the regulations while having “a takeaway and a beer while I was working late at night”.

Sir Ed Davey, leader of the Liberal Democrats, said voters on Thursday have a chance to “send Boris Johnson a message he can’t ignore”.

He said: “The Conservatives have failed to deal with the cost of living crisis, voted to pollute our rivers and abandoned our ambulance services.

“Whether it’s Somerset or Stockport, Winchester or Wimbledon, St Albans or South Cambridgeshire, I’ve spoken to lifelong Conservative voters who feel utterly taken for granted by a law-breaking Prime Minister and a tax-hiking Chancellor.”

The Lib Dems are hopeful of causing an upset in Hull by dislodging it from Labour’s control, while also vying for victory against the Tories in places such as Wokingham and Sutton.