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Local elections: everything you need to know in London, including the main boroughs to watch

Activists are in a last desperate race for votes ahead of Thursday’s local election mega-round in London. All of London’s 32 borough councils and their 1,817 seats are up for election, along with thousands of other seats across the rest of England.

The May elections will also see five boroughs choose directly elected mayors: Hackney, Lewisham, Newham, Tower Hamlets and Croydon. The job should be a shoe for four of those town halls, but Croydon could be a close contest.

Predicting the outcome is a tricky game in an election when only 40% of voters vote. But there are definite signs we can watch to see how well the parties are doing.

READ MORE:Key dates and deadlines for the 2022 municipal elections

Several key boroughs could change hands on May 5

Every London borough to watch in local elections

The local elections come at a particularly delicate time for the Conservative Party in London, with the government having suffered huge blows in recent months over the party’s Downing Street scandals and handling of the cost of living crisis. The party will be particularly keen to retain a few of its strongholds in the capital, but will also seek to make inroads in a few south London seats. The full list of major London boroughs to watch on Thursday and Friday.


Westminster City Council has been held by the Tories since 1964 – but Labor is targeting the borough heavily and polls suggest they could take it. West End Labor candidate Paul Fisher said in a roundup last week that the borough was suffering from ‘poor licensing’, ‘library risk’ and ‘accumulation of waste in Fitzrovia “. Workers are hard at work on the Marble Arch Mound fiasco, the £6million council project widely seen as an embarrassing flop.

Local Conservative candidates are keen to highlight their work with voters. Boundary changes in the borough make it harder for all sides to get a sense of where they stand – but the Tories certainly face a tough challenge at the seat of UK government.


The south London borough of Wandsworth has been Tory-held for more than 40 years and was once described as Margaret Thatcher’s favorite council. Labor came just ahead in the popular vote last time out, but failed to take control. Labor is “more likely to win than not win”, election expert Lewis Baston tells us, with Labor’s rise in the polls under Keir Starmer making it a key target.

Labor is promising to cut council tax in the borough, and Sadiq Khan campaigned over the bank holiday weekend to bolster the campaign. The Tories point to their record of building affordable housing in the borough, a high number of electric vehicle charging stations and higher resident satisfaction than Labour-led Lambeth.


The North London borough of Barnet could also go Labor’s way on Thursday. The borough is home to around a quarter of the UK’s Jewish population, and Labor failed to win it in 2018 under Jeremy Corbyn.

Held by the Conservatives for 20 years, Keir Starmer hopes to win it back as a sign of a “changed” party. Finchley in the borough was the seat of Margaret Thatcher, and it will be a big loss for Boris Johnson’s party if he goes the way of Labor in May.


The Tories tell me things are “good” for them in Labor-controlled Harrow. A Harrow Tory tweeted: “Labour has been in power in Harrow for 12 years. The housing tax has increased, there are tips everywhere and municipal services are deteriorating. They say they will ‘seek’ to freeze council tax if they win.

But Labor points to the support of former Tory deputy leader of the Harrow Tories, Barry Macleod-Cullinane, on why he is voting Harrow Labor on May 5: pressuring Tory MPs to get rid of Boris Johnson.

South West London

Liberal Democrat-controlled areas like Sutton, Kingston and Richmond aren’t exactly on Labour’s radar, says election expert Lewis Baston, but the Tories are targeting them hard. The Lib Dems say they are hearing lingering anger over partygate on the doorstep, and they are hoping to clinch seats in Merton.

The area is home to the parliamentary seat of Wimbledon which they want to reclaim in the next general election. However, anger over the high levels of council taxation in the three south-west boroughs they control could see the Tories win seats.

Tower hamlets

The Aspire party of disgraced ex-mayor Lutfur Rahman is hoping to win seats in Tower Hamlets. Rahman was convicted of election fraud by an election tribunal in 2015 and removed from office. The former mayor was disqualified from holding elective office for five years. He is now running to become mayor of the borough of East London again.

While the town hall looks safe for Labour’s John Biggs, it will indeed be very interesting to see if Rahman’s Aspire party wins any seats. The Met Police say they will monitor each of the 71 polling stations between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. on Election Day to try to deter potential fraud.


Labor is fighting to retain control in Croydon, the Labor-led council which was forced to declare bankruptcy in 2020 and faced serious allegations of mismanagement. Sir Keir’s party is struggling to retain the council and elect veteran Val Shawcross as its first-ever mayor.

Ms Shawcross, who served in the London Assembly for 20 years, has lived in Croydon for almost four decades, and Sir Keir described her as ‘absolutely connected to the community’. The Labor leader told MyLondon she was a “broom” to sweep up bad practice in the borough.

The Conservative candidate to be the first directly elected mayor of the South London Borough is Cllr Jason Perry. He says: “The current failing Labor Council is not giving Croydon the leadership it deserves. I have a positive view of a Croydon where Council listens to residents. Where your council taxes are spent wisely by a Council that cares. I want people to feel proud when they say they’re from Croydon.”

To have

This outer London borough is currently under no overall control, but the Havering Residents Association is the second largest party and effectively forms the opposition to the largest Conservative party. The residents’ association opposes the sale of dozens of council-owned community assets under the Tories to fund a ‘spending spree’. The council could become the first borough in London to be controlled by a residents’ association.

Who can vote in municipal elections?

You must be registered to vote to vote in May and the deadline has been set for April 14. In England, you can vote in local elections when you are 18 or over and a British citizen, eligible Commonwealth citizen (54 countries are included here), Republic of Ireland citizen or Union citizen European.

The definition of a “Commonwealth” citizen includes citizens of the British Crown Dependencies and British Overseas Territories. An “eligible” Commonwealth citizen is someone who has permission to enter or remain in the UK, or who does not need such permission. If this sounds confusing, you can check if you are eligible to vote on the Election Commission website.

How to vote in municipal elections?

The Electoral Commission says the ballot papers will list the candidates in your wards: “You can vote for as many candidates as there are councilor vacancies, by putting a cross [X] in the box next to your choice.” You can vote in person on the day of the election, by post before election day, or by proxy (having someone else vote for you if you cannot come).

This year, the deadline to submit a mail-in ballot request was 5 p.m. on April 19, and the deadline to submit a proxy ballot request was 5 p.m. on April 26.

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