A total of 200 local authorities across Britain are holding elections on Thursday May 5.
Every council seat in Scotland, Wales and London is up for grabs and there are polls across much of the rest of England.
Many of the seats being contested this year were last elected in 2017 and 2018, when the UK was still in the European Union, the prime minister was Theresa May and Labour was led by Jeremy Corbyn.
The political landscape of the UK has undergone huge changes in the past few years, but many of the issues that can decide local elections remain the same, such as when bins are collected, the state of parks and pavements, and access to libraries and hospitals.
This year’s elections are also likely to be a verdict on Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, in particular their handling of such national issues as Covid-19 and the cost of living.
Here are some of the key contests to look out for in London and the south east:
Councils that could change hands in London
– Barnet is Labour’s top target in London for the third election in a row. The party failed narrowly to win control in 2014, while 2018 saw the council swing further towards the Conservatives, with local Labour members blaming the row over antisemitism in the national party. Labour needs to gain nine seats to form a majority. As with every council in London, all seats are being elected. (7am)
– Wandsworth is another long-standing Labour target, but here the party managed to increased its number of councillors in both 2014 and 2018. The Tories have held the council since 1978 and have made a point of charging residents one of the lowest average levels of council tax in the country, so a Labour victory would be of symbolic significance. (5.30am)
– Hillingdon contains the constituency of the Prime Minister and has been controlled by the Conservatives since 2006. Labour is hoping to make gains, but the outcome is hard to predict as the size of the council is being cut from 65 to 53 seats. (4am)
– Westminster has been held by the Tories continuously since its creation in 1964. But Labour has slowly increased its number of councillors at recent elections and will want to make more progress this time. Given the current volatile political climate, plus a reduction in the size of the council from 60 to 54 seats, the final result could be close. (3am)
– Harrow is a council where the reduction in the number of seats from 63 to 55 could work in either Labour or the Conservatives’ favour. Labour won a narrow majority in both 2014 and 2018 but the borough’s electoral districts have been substantially redrawn for 2022 and both parties could profit from the new-look map. (5pm)
– Sutton is a Liberal Democrat-Conservative battleground that has been run by the Lib Dems since 1990. The party should retain control again this year, but the Tories will hope to make gains and chip away at the Lib Dems’ small overall majority. (4am)
Councils that could change hands in the South-east of England
– Crawley has tilted between Conservative and Labour control in recent years but neither party has an overall majority. It would take only a couple of gains for either the Tories or Labour to take full control of a council deep in the commuter belt of West Sussex. A third of seats are being contested. (2pm)
– Gosport sees the Conservatives, who have only a small majority on the council, under pressure from the second-place Lib Dems. All the seats are up for grabs and boundary changes across the borough means the outcome will be even more unpredictable. (5pm)
– Worthing is a top Labour target and the party goes into the election level-pegging with the Conservatives on 17 seats each. The Tories currently run the council as a minority administration but Labour has made steady gains in recent years and is hoping to take full control this year. A third of seats are being elected. (2pm)
– Southampton is another Labour target and winning control from the Conservatives would help demonstrate the party is building back support in southern towns and cities. The Tories are defending a majority of two and a third of the seats are being contested. (5am)