What do local councils do?

Councils are responsible for providing local services and facilities.

Your elected representatives or councillors represent you at a local level – this is known as local government.

Depending on where you live, your council is responsible for all or some of the following areas:

  • Council housing
  • Education services
  • Electoral registration
  • Environmental health
  • Leisure and recreation facilities
  • Libraries
  • Local planning
  • Local transport
  • Parks and public places
  • Regulation of local business
  • Roads and footpaths
  • Social services
  • Waste and recycling

What type of council do I have?

There are different types of councils in the UK and the type of council you have depends on where you live.

Types of councils

How are they elected?

When you vote in a local election, you will receive a ballot paper listing all the candidates standing to be a councillor in your area.

You may be asked to vote for more than one candidate depending on where you live.

In Scotland and Northern Ireland you will be asked to rank the candidates in order of preference.

When are they elected?

Each councillor is elected for four years, but when you have an opportunity to elect them depends on the type of council you have in your area and what voting method it uses.

Voting by thirds

If your council votes by thirds, this means that a third of councillors are elected every year over a four year cycle (with no elections in the fourth year).

Voting by halves

If your council elects by halves, half of the councillors are elected every two years.

Other local authorities, such as the London Boroughs, elect all of their councillors every four years.

Whatever method your local authority uses, you will be able to vote in local elections at least once every four years.

Who is eligible to vote?

To vote in a local council election a person must be registered to vote, 18 years or over on polling day in England, Northern Ireland and Wales or 16 years or over on polling day in Scotland, and also:

  • a British or Irish citizen, a qualifying Commonwealth citizen, or a citizen of the European Union
  • resident in the UK
  • not be subject to any legal incapacity to vote

The following cannot vote in a local council election:

  • anyone other than British or Irish, qualifying Commonwealth or European Union citizens
  • convicted persons detained in pursuance of their sentences, excluding contempt of court (though remand prisoners, unconvicted prisoners and civil prisoners can vote if they are on the electoral register)
  • anyone found guilty within the previous five years of corrupt or illegal practices in connection with an election

Find out more about who is eligible to vote

Last updated: 1 November 2019
Next review: 11 September 2020