Working to make government more effective


Local elections 2022

On 5 May, local elections will take place in England, Scotland and Wales.

Birmingham Town Hall

On 5 May, local elections will take place in England, Scotland and Wales.

Where are elections taking place?

The elections are for all seats in Scotland’s 32 local authorities, and all 22 in Wales.

In England, council elections are being held in in 144 of England’s 333 councils.

In addition to the scheduled elections, by-elections will be held in wards in a further nine districts and two unitary authorities, and there will be elections for six local authority mayors. In Bristol, a local referendum will be held to determine whether the city council should retain its mayor-led model.

‘Shadow elections’ (where councillors do not immediately take up their positions after being elected) will take place in Cumberland, and Westmoreland and Furness. These are two new unitary authorities, which will replace Cumbria County Council next year. The councillors will take up their positions when the unitary authorities start operating in 2023.

How many seats are being contested in England?

A total of 4,411 council seats are being contested, including by-elections.

In England, councillors are elected on four-year terms to single or multi-member wards using the first past the post electoral system.

In contrast to Scotland and Wales, not all council elections in England take place in the same year. Around two thirds (67%) of councils elect all their councillors every four years. Just under one third (31%) of councils elect councillors by thirds three years out of every four. A smaller number (2%) of councils elect their councillors by halves every two years.

The breakdown of elections in 2022 in England is as follows:

All seats will be contested in

  • all 32 London boroughs
  • five district councils (St Albans, Huntingdonshire, Newcastle-under-Lyme, South Cambridgeshire, Gosport)
  • four metropolitan boroughs (Birmingham, Bury, Rochdale and St Helens)
  • North Yorkshire and Somerset County Councils
  • Reading unitary authority
  • shadow seats for the new unitary authorities of Cumberland and Westmoreland and Furness.

Half of seats will be contested in six district councils (Adur, Cheltenham, Fareham, Hastings, Nuneaton and Bedworth, and Oxford).

A third of seats will be contested in:

  • 49 district councils
  • 29 metropolitan boroughs
  • 16 unitary authorities.

Local mayor elections will take place in Watford and the London boroughs of Croydon, Hackney, Lewisham, Newham, and Tower Hamlets.

What were the results in previous elections in England?

At the 2021 elections, the Conservative Party won 42% of all council seats in England, almost unchanged from the last elections in 2019. The Labour Party won 30%, down three percentage points from 2019, and the Liberal Democrats won 14% of seats. The Conservative Party has held the largest share of council seats in England since 2003.

Following the 2021 elections, the Conservatives controlled 42% of councils, almost unchanged from 2019 (no elections were held in 2020 due to the pandemic). Labour controlled 23% of councils and the Liberal Democrats 6.6%.

How many seats are being contested in Scotland?

All seats in all councils in Scotland are also up for election in May 2022 – a total of 1,226 councillors. Scottish local elections take place every five years.

What were the results in previous elections in Scotland?

In 2017, the Scottish National Party won 431 seats, 35% of the total. In that election the Conservative Party overtook the Labour Party for the first time in terms of the number of council seats won – 276 (22%) versus 261 (21%). Independents and other parties accounted for 16% of councillors and the Liberal Democrats 5%.

Since the 2008 elections, councillors have been elected in Scotland using the single transferable vote (STV) system, which replaced the first past the post system used in England and Wales. STV results in seats being allocated in closer proportion to the number of votes won by each party. This tends to reduce the likelihood of single-party control of councils. Almost all (29 of 32) councils in Scotland are now run by a coalition of parties, up from 11 in 2003. The remaining three councils are run by independents.

How many seats are being contested in Wales?

All seats in all councils in Wales are up for election – a total of 1,234 seats in 762 wards. The last local elections in Wales were in 2017. The local elections in Wales were originally set for 2021 but were rescheduled to 2022 to avoid coinciding with the elections to the Senedd Cymru. The Local Government and Elections (Wales) Act 2021 permanently changed the term of Welsh councillors from four to five years.

Between 2017 and 2022, the Local Democracy and Boundary Commission for Wales has conducted the biggest ever changes to Welsh local government boundaries. 8 Local Democracy and Boundary Commission for Wales, Biggest ever change to Welsh Local Government Boundaries Confirmed, 15 October 2021,  As a result, the total number of council seats in Wales has fallen from 1,250 in 1,234.

Wales uses the first past the post system to elect councillors.

What were the results in previous elections in Wales?

In the 2017 elections, the Labour Party won 472 council seats (38% of the total), Plaid Cymru 203 (16%), the Conservative Party 184 (14.7%), the Liberal Democrats 62 (5%). Independents and other parties won 329 seats (26%). Labour has traditionally dominated local councils in Wales, but its share of council seats fell during the period it was in power at Westminster.

After the 2017 election, Labour held overall control of seven councils, Plaid Cymru and the Conservatives one each, and independents three. In 10 councils no party had overall control.

Who can vote in local elections?

In England, all adults aged 18 and over can vote in local elections who are British citizens, EU citizens, or ‘qualifying Commonwealth citizens’ 11 GOV.UK, Types of election, referendums, and who can vote,  (citizens of Commonwealth countries who have leave to enter or remain in the UK, or who do not require that leave). 12 Electoral Commission, Register to vote,

In Scotland and Wales the franchise is broader. In addition to the categories above, any citizen of another country resident in Scotland or Wales who has the legal right to remain in the UK can vote.

How many people vote in local elections?

Fewer people vote in local elections than in general elections. Turnout tends to be between 30 and 40% of the electorate (against an average of 66% for general elections). Turnout in Scotland and Wales is higher than in England on average. When local elections take place at the same time as parliamentary elections, as last happened in England in 2015, turnout is comparable to that of national elections.


United Kingdom
England Scotland Wales
Johnson government
Institute for Government

Related content

21 JUN 2024 Explainer

English devolution

What is the history of English devolution? How much of England has devolution? Which powers are devolved?