With all that has been going on in the last few months, from the coronavirus to the fallout of the European Super League, you would be forgiven for forgetting that the local elections are happening in less than two weeks.

With a lack of television coverage, no debates, and the only reminder coming in the form of sporadic party manifestoes through your letterbox, it would be quite easy to dismiss the local elections as unimportant, irrelevant and a waste of time.

But you would be wrong

Voting in the upcoming elections is important for a number of reasons. They may not get as much media attention as a general election face-off between Johnson and Starmer, but voting in local council elections is crucial in influencing how decisions that affect you personally are made.

Of course, general elections are significant. But it can be argued that individual citizens’ lives are more affected by decisions made at the local level. Though they are frequently perceived as an unimportant cog in a larger machine, local councils have significant power.

Local authorities are responsible for infrastructure, schools, refuse collection, library services and public transport. Many things that a lot of people take for granted are operated by local councils — not Westminster. While defence and monetary policy are clearly important, issues such as transport which are presided by local authorities are likely to have a more tangible impact on your life.

Essentially, central government accepts that every area in the country must have working schools, decent roads and waste collection, but stops short of the gritty details such as which companies should be given these contracts and how much money should be allocated to each service. Your local council handles these details because central government believes that local authorities know the specifics of their area better than national governments ever could.

So why do people ignore local elections?

If local elections are so important, why do people fail to turn out to vote? Just over 1 in 3 registered voters cast their ballot in 2018, and places like Hartlepool had only 24 per cent of their voting population vote on polling day. I think the main reason comes down to education.

From a young age, we haven’t been taught about the importance of voting, activism and making our voice heard. It has always been presumed that young people know why voting is a right, but schools need to stress why governments should be held accountable, and the basic differences between local and general elections. We should teach politics in secondary schools; this way, once young people reach voting age, they will be more informed about various issues and why they matter.

It also doesn’t help that we don’t see these local councillors who claim to represent us. Too often, they are consumed within the system rather than involved and in touch with local communities. Certainly, citizens need to vote more in local elections, but it’s also equally important to have candidates they can be passionate about, trust and connect with.

When politicians argue that they are answerable to the public at the ballot box, elections like this are what they are talking about.

Politics is not just the theatrical performances at PMQs or the radio soundbites on the Today programme. The decisions these people make on our behalf have a big impact on our day-to-day lives. Why would you not want to have a say in that?

Voting should be seen as a civic duty, not just some tick you make in a printed box once every five years at the general election. We need to remember that politicians are accountable to the public, first and foremost. If we continue to abstain from voting, they will be less incentivised to have our best interests at heart.

This year’s Local Elections will be held on May 6th. And here’s everything you need to know.

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