Vital importance of 4 May local elections | Letters

‘Councils are a fundamental part of British democracy, providing the essential services that citizens rely on every single day,’ write Jonathan Carr-West and Simon Edwards. Photograph: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty

Following your editorial (15 April) on the local elections on 4 May, we wanted to underpin your view on the importance of this vote. Local elections are often seen as a prism through which to view national politics, as an indication of the strength of government and opposition in parliament. But they are vitally important in their own right. Councils are a fundamental part of British democracy, providing the essential services that citizens rely on every single day. And, with many councils up and down the country facing their biggest budget cuts in the last decade, the stakes couldn’t be higher.

Local elections are the ones that really matter. So much of what local government provides goes beyond bin collection and street lighting. County authorities alone are responsible for £30bn a year spent on essential public services – from social care and children’s services to roads, schools and investment in vital local infrastructure. When the public vote on 4 May they will be deciding who’ll run their services, whether their families will receive adequate care in old age or get places in schools, and who will work to improve or not the economic outlook of their local area.

Political parties form a large majority of council groups across the country. As such, many will be in full battle mode for the general election in June. However, they also need to remember that local electorates in our county areas and in the combined authorities are voting on local issues and local records. These records should not be forgotten in the fog of a general election campaign which is about placing bums on green benches in the House of Commons. This is about real, community democracy in which local political parties produce clear and innovative solutions for their communities.
Jonathan Carr-West Chief executive, Local Government Information Unit
Simon Edwards Director, County Councils Network

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