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Local Elections 2022: A summary for social workers

Kerri Prince, BASW UK Public and Political Affairs Lead, provides an overview of last week's Local Elections...

Last Thursday, the 2022 Elections took place across the UK. In Northern Ireland, there were elections to the Assembly. In the rest of the UK, there were Council elections as well as a Mayoral election in South Yorkshire.

Ahead of the council elections in England, Wales and Scotland, the Conservative and Labour parties were trying to set expectations low on their performances. The Conservatives were briefing out stories that they could expect to lose 800+ Council seats, and Labour were briefing that the gains they expect to make weren’t going to be a very high number. Both parties set expectations so that when they inevitably performed better than they briefed out, they could portray the result as ‘better than expected’.

But the results are in, and the facts are now clear for all to see. The Conservatives lost 487 Council seats, Labour gained 108, but the Liberal Democrats performed the best with 223 seats gained.

Local elections are used to add to the nationwide narrative on what would happen if a General Election was called tomorrow, so there is often a lot of posturing in the days following the elections on what the results mean.

These results aren’t ideal for the Conservative Party, and it doesn’t bode well for a General Election. But Labour also failed to make all the gains that they needed to in order to feel more confident about winning the next General Election.

What does this mean for social work?

Local councils have a lot of unrecognised power, and they have the ability to positively change lives for the better, often overnight. They have direct responsibilities for housing, council tax, social care, public health, and anti-social behaviour – all issues that can impact a person’s quality of life.

A local authority could introduce services and schemes (within the realms of law!) that could complement statutory social services – and many have in the past. But local authority budgets are still being cut to the bone.

You will be hard-pressed to find a local authority that didn’t increase council tax this year. Despite which party is in power in any given area, the money that they’re given from central Government is still not enough - and this continues to impact frontline services and what Councils can do for people.

Local elections are important. Who runs your local area is important. But we will not see the drastic positive change in provision that we want to see until we get a Government that prioritises social care and social work.