In Depth

Local election polls: when are the results out and who is tipped to ‘win’?

Vote comes as the two main parties face anti-Semitism and Windrush scandals

Voters are heading to the polls today for the last set of elections before the UK is scheduled to leave the European Union in 2019.

The local elections will be “the first England-wide test of electoral opinion since last year’s dramatic general election”, says the BBC.

But while Brexit is expected to play a big part in how people vote, both major parties are dealing with scandals of their own-making – over anti-Semitism and Windrush deportations – that could also have a significant impact on the final result.

Though there are no polls in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, 150 councils are up for grabs in the UK’s largest country.

These sets of seats were last contested in 2014. Labour will be hoping to build on its strong performance back then and “will look for evidence that the party is making progress in areas like the Midlands and the East, crucial for its hopes of winning the next general election”, says The Guardian.

Where are elections being held?

More than 4,000 seats are being contested across England. Key battlegrounds include London, where every borough council seat is up for grabs, as well as the Midlands, Liverpool, Sunderland and Birmingham.

As well as metropolitan, unitary, borough and district council elections, there will also be mayoral elections across the country.

The Electoral Commission’s website has a postcode checker that enables voters to find out whether local elections are being held in their area.

What are they for?

Depending on where you live, your local council is responsible for many public services, including council houses, education, local transport, parks and leisure facilities, and waste and recycling.

Coming one year after the surprise result of last year’s general election, and one year before Brexit, the local elections will also be keenly observed as a bellwether for the fortunes of the two main parties.

What is likely to happen?

In the latest national poll, carried out by Ipsos Mori, the Conservatives are ahead of Labour by one point (41-40). However, this means little in an election involving small pockets of votes across the country.

Labour currently holds more than half of the seats being contested on Thursday so it would take a big shift for the Tories to end up with the most seats after the votes are counted.

In London, where every borough is up for election, voting intentions are 51% Labour, 29% Conservative and 11% Liberal Democrat, according to the latest YouGov poll.

But YouGov’s director of political research, Anthony Wells, says Barnet is the only “easy” pick-up for Labour; the other boroughs would need “substantial swings” to go to Labour.

Corbyn’s party is odds-on 1/2 to win in Barnet, where the Conservatives lost their slim majority following the resignation of a councillor last month.

Meanwhile, writing in The Independent, John Curtice says “failure to retain control of two Conservative citadels, Wandsworth and Westminster, has been portrayed as a potential precursor of renewed restlessness” about Theresa May's leadership on the Tory backbenches.

In Westminster, the Tories look like the ones to back at the bookmakers, but the odds are very close in Wandsworth: 5/6 for a Labour majority and 1/1 for Conservatives.

“London is not a good barometer of national opinion, so results elsewhere will be keenly watched,” says the Financial Times. In particular, defeats in the Midlands, where Brexit was popular, would undermine one of the Conservative Party’s few strong points of last year’s general election, says the newspaper. It adds that Labour “will look to dislodge the Conservatives in Trafford, in Greater Manchester, and to take hold of Dudley, where the UK Independence party currently holds the balance”.

Labour’s Dan Jarvis looks likely to become the first elected mayor of Sheffield city region, with bookies offering odds of 1/25. The former paratrooper, who is MP for Barnsley Central, has been previously tipped as a future Labour leader.

Overall, polling experts Colin Rallings and Michael Thrasher have predicted that Labour could make net gains of 200 seats, with the Tories losing 75 and the Lib Dems perhaps picking up a couple of dozen. Ukip is expected to lose almost all of its 125 seats.

What are the parties saying?

Last year’s general election result proved managing expectations can be almost as important as the outcome itself. In June, Labour won significantly less seats than the Tories but vastly exceeded all pre-vote predictions, leading to the perception they ‘won’ when in fact they lost.

This election looks to be no different. Indeed, “expectation management for next week's elections has been going on for months”, says Matt Chorley in The Times.

Senior Tories have repeatedly downplayed the party’s chances to such an extent that anything better than a complete wipeout will be viewed as a successful night.

“By contrast Labour have got themselves into the daft position of expectations running out of control, risking people not bothering to turn out and genuinely decent results seeming like an anti-climax,” says Chorley. Fears the anti-Semitism row may dent the party’s chances has led to a scaling back of expectations in recent weeks.

Who can vote?

In order to vote, you must be on the electoral register; be at least 18 on polling day; be resident in Britain; and be British or a Commonwealth or a European Union citizen.

To take part in these polls, voters had to have been registered by midnight on Tuesday 17 April. You need to re-register if you have changed address, name or nationality so if you have not done so you will not be eligible to vote.

Voters in Bromley, Gosport, Swindon, Watford and Woking will be asked to provide ID when they vote, as part of a new government trial. Full information is available on the local council websites for these areas.

When will the results be announced?

Polling stations opened at 7am this morning and will close at 10pm, which is when councils can begin counting the votes. Most results are expected to come through overnight, but some areas, including Islington, Kingston and Tower Hamlets, are saving the counting until Friday morning, so their results will come out in the afternoon.

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