POLYAS Election Glossary

We provide explanations and background information on elections, voting rights and digital democracy

Council Elections

Council elections (also known as local elections) take place in order to elect representatives to the UK's lowest tier of government - local government. Council elections generally take place every four years, however they are conducted differently across the different constituent nations of the UK.

Council elections in England and Wales

In England and Wales, council areas are split up into wards which can be represented by up to three councillors depending on their size. Eligible voters in each ward vote for who they want their councillors to be, and will be able to cast the same number of votes as councillors to be elected in that ward. For example, people living in a ward to be represented by one councillor will be entitled to just one vote, whereas people living in wards represented by three councillors will be able to vote for three different candidates. Just like in UK general elections, council elections in England and Wales are conducted under the first past the post electoral system, meaning the candidate with the highest number of votes will be elected. In wards represented by multiple councillors, for example three councillors, the top three candidates will be elected to the council.

Council elections in Scotland 

Council elections in Scotland, however, are conducted differently. Wards in Scotland are represented by three or four councillors. Council elections in Scotland are conducted under a form of proportional representation electoral system called single transferable vote, in which voters list the candidates in order of preference. Council elections in Scotland occur every five years.

See also: General Elections, First Past the Post, Proportional Representation

< Go back