In just one week, on Thursday 5 May, UNISON members across the UK will get a chance to cast their votes in elections.
Most of the council seats up for election were last contested in 2018. The political landscape of the UK has clearly undergone huge changes in the past four years.
From parliamentary gridlock around Brexit to the 2019 general election Tory landslide, from the pandemic to the cost of living crisis, it’s now a different and more challenging world for UNISON members.
Clearly many of the issues that can decide local elections remain the same, such as bin collections, the state of neighbourhood parks and pavements, and access to libraries and other local public services.
These issues are important for UNISON, because it’s our members who deliver such services and who have seen up close how over a decade of Tory cuts has taken its toll on the ability of councils to deliver for their communities.
But such elections are also an important opportunity for voters to send a message to the prime minister and the Westminster government about how effectively they are handling the issues of the day, and how they are conducting themselves in office.
This will be the first big electoral test for Prime Minister Boris Johnson since ‘partygate’ – the revelations about parties held at 10 Downing Street during the pandemic.
These parties took place at a time when many of our members were on the COVID-19 frontline, and when the vast majority were faithfully following the rules that Johnson himself had explained at government press conferences.
It will also be the first time many will have had to respond to the government’s priorities in the face of the cost of living crisis. As we’ve learned over recent days, people in the UK now face the biggest decline in their living standards since the 1950s.
UNISON general secretary Christina McAnea said: “Who the government shields and protects in the face of this crisis tells us much.
“And as we’ve also seen, the policy choices that the government is making are, as is always the case under the Tories, hitting the worst off the hardest.
“Many charities have been quick to point out that below inflation increases to Universal Credit are going to push many more families into poverty,” Ms McAnea added. “And as was revealed in post spring statement comments from the chancellor, the government’s proposed pre-election 2024 cut to income tax is premised on two years of ‘public sector discipline’.”
How can UNISON members get involved?
- First, foremost, and easiest – make sure you vote. And encourage friends, family and colleagues to do so too. Local elections are notorious for low turnout. And low turnout helps the Tories.
- Talk to your friends and local community about the issues at stake. Word of mouth, or even social media posts, can be powerful. Many are more likely to listen to and trust people who they know work in public services, than politicians.
- Finally, you can help out with local Labour Party campaigns. If you’ve not done this before, don’t worry. There will always be a welcome for newcomers and a range of tasks, so that everyone can help in a way that best suits them. Your local UNISON Labour Link officer will be able to put you in touch – and sign post the priority seats that the union is concentrating on.
Where are elections taking place?
Local elections will take place in the following:
21 unitary authorities in England
33 metropolitan boroughs in England
60 non-metropolitan districts in England
33 London councils
All 32 councils in Scotland
All 22 councils in Wales
Northern Ireland will, on the same day, be holding elections for the Legislative Assembly.
Although not everyone gets a vote in England, a significant number will, particularly those living in cities and towns. You can find out whether you get a vote in England from the Electoral Commission.