It is worth knowing that although 7th May is the date of the general election, there will also be local and mayoral elections elections running alongside that different people can vote in. Electoral cycles mean that not all councils hold elections for Councillors at the same time.
If you are unsure if a local election is happening in your area, you should check with your Electoral Registration Office or search for details on your local authority website. Alternately, if you live in England, you can view this list compiled by the Electoral Commission [please note it opens an .xsl file].
Member of Parliament (MP)
The UK public elects Members of Parliament (MPs) and you will be voting for them in the general election. Their job is to represent the people of their local constituency in the House of Commons, which is part of Parliament. They should be fighting for the interests of people living in the community that elected them and debating new legislation with other MP’s.
They split their time between working in Parliament, working in their constituency and working for their political party (if they have one).
To be able to stand as an MP, you must be at least 18, and be a citizen of Britain, a Commonwealth country or the Republic of Ireland. They can either be a member of a political party or run as an independent member.
Local Elections (Councillors)
You might also have the opportunity to vote in local elections alongside the general election, although this is not happening in all areas of the UK. If you’re unsure whether this is happening where you live we recommend you check with your local Electoral Registration Office.
Councillors are elected to the local council in the area which they live or work. They can either be a member of a political party or run as an independent. It is their role to listen to issues in their community, to raise these at relevant council meetings, and to make decisions that ensure your local council is taking action to address them. For example councillors could be involved in making decisions about how the money your local council receives from central government is spent, or how services should be run.
You can find more information about the work councillors do on the ‘Be a Councillor’ website.
There are different types of Councils depending on where you live – such as country councils, district councils or parish councils. You can read more information about council systems in these separate guides for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.