Local Elections 2024 | Dods Political Intelligence

Local Elections 2024 & Institute for Government’s event ‘Local and mayoral elections 2024: Why they matter and what to look out for’

Blog by Fionnuala Quinn


Local elections matter. Not just because they are an indication of how political parties will fare in the general election, but because these elections will impact the day-to-day lives of millions of people. The local elections today will decide how funding should be spent across the country, and will determine what the priorities of local authorities, mayors, and police and crime commissioners are likely to be. Local councils oversee large sums of money in order to provide statutory services to those in their local area, and voters today will assist in deciding who should be responsible for this pot of cash.

The electorate in 58 district authorities, 18 unitary authorities, and 31 metropolitan districts will go to the polls to vote for their local councillors today. In addition to this, there will be Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) elections across all areas of England and Wales, and combined authority elections for the East Midlands, Greater Manchester, Greater London, Liverpool City, the North East, South Yorkshire, Tees Valley, West Midlands, West Yorkshire, and York and North Yorkshire. The London Assembly elections are also being held today.

On 1 May, the Institute for Government hosted a fantastic event detailing why these elections are so important and what we should be watching out for. Throughout the course of the discussion, the panel provided their thoughts on a variety of topics related to these elections.

The panel for this event included Sarah Calkin, Editor of the Local Government Chronicle, Sir John Curtice, Professor of Politics at Strathclyde University and Senior Research Fellow at the National Centre for Social Research and Akash Paun, Programme Director at the Institute for Government.

Mayoral election

First, the panel discussed the 10 mayors that are up for election today, highlighting that metro mayors are “influential regional figureheads in their own right”, holding some of the largest political mandates of any politician in England. It is also important to note that when combined, these mayors control £25bn of funding for public spending.  

Sir John Curtice, Professor of Politics at Strathclyde University and Senior Research Fellow at the National Centre for Social Research, noted that the Conservatives were 20 points behind in the opinion polls, making their polling position weaker now than at the time of Liz Truss leaving office. Special attention will be paid to the two incumbent Conservative mayors, Ben Houchen (Mayor of Tees Valley) and Andy Street (Mayor of the West Midlands). Houchen won an astonishing 72.8 percent of the vote in 2021, indicating that he has a strong personal appeal to his constituents.  

Street has been vocal in his opposition to the Conservative’s decision to scrap the northern leg of HS2, even admitting that he considered resigning over his party’s decision. Transport is of course a hugely important issue for mayors and devolved bodies, with Street making it clear that he felt the Conservatives were letting people in his mayoral authority down after Sunak announced that the Government intended to abandon the high-speed rail project between Birmingham and Manchester

While the Conservatives are currently behind in the polls, Street and Houchen may not be seen purely as representatives of their party, but as true representatives of the constituents within their mayoral authorities. The personal appeal, and notable instances when these mayors have challenged the party line, may make Street and Houchen more likely to hold onto their seats.  

Sir Curtice emphasised that due to the personal votes that are likely to be awarded to these mayors, the Conservative Party’s performance will be more accurately assessed by evaluating the number of councillor seats they win. He said this would be a more useful gauge of the party’s broader appeal, as people often knew less about their councillor candidate than their mayoral candidates.

Voting system change

This is the first election where the first past the post (FPTP) system is being used as a voting system for metro mayors and PCCs. Previously, these elections used the supplementary vote (SV) system in which voters could vote for two preferences.  

Akash Paun, Programme Director at the Institute for Government, highlighted research undertaken by the Institute for Government which revealed that since the introduction of SV in 2000, a total of 223 elections had taken place using that system, 17 of which would have had a different result under FPTP, assuming there had been no change in voter behaviour. 

Importance of local elections

Sarah Calkin, Editor of the Local Government Chronicle, highlighted that local elections are the “front line of local democracy”. She noted that in the last 18 months, there had been greater attention paid to local councils and the services councils provide. While this attention is likely because of the issuing of Section 114 notices, where councils effectively declare bankruptcy, it is useful for councils to spotlight the roles and functions that they perform.

I have worked in a local authority before I started at Dods, and whilst some people do not have much contact with their local councils beyond paying their council tax and having their bins collected, the services and support councils provide can be enormously important. Statutory homelessness services provision, as well as services such as children’s and adult’s social care, can provide lifelines to those who need them. Councillors, as well as council-employees, ensure that people’s day-to-day lives function smoothly. The support councils provide to the public are massively important, and the election of councillors has a direct impact on the policies driven forward by local authorities.  

Calkin noted that councils feel their role is to be the “stewards of the places that we all call home”.  

Timing of a general election

Sir Curtice answered a question about whether if the Conservatives did better today than expected, would that make the general election more likely to happen sooner. He said that he had long held the view that the general election would be on 14 November 2024.  

Sir Curtice added that whether the Conservatives won or lost the general election, this result was secondary. He said the main point was that it would be Rishi Sunak’s career which would be greatly impacted by a Conservative loss, and whether that loss was small or large made a difference only to Sunak’s career.  

Interestingly, Sir Curtice said that by having the general election in November, it would allow Sunak to get all of his desired legislation onto the statute books. For example, the Tobacco and Vapes Bill would be a monumental piece of legislation to have in law, and that measure would still be remembered in twenty years’ time.  

Sir Curtice concluded by stating that unless the Conservative Party progressed to a position where Sunak would be continuing in office, Sunak had “every incentive of just running the clock on maximising his term in office” and “at least enjoying the job while he’s got it”.


While some may use this local election as a poll of sorts for the upcoming general election, it is worth emphasising that these elections are important independent of their use as a comparative tool. Once votes close at 10pm tonight, I look forward to seeing the results for the nearly 3,000 local councillors, 37 police and crime commissioners, and the 25 members of the London Assembly. As these results roll in, Dods will be providing further commentary. 

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