Sheffield residents intend to vote in local elections despite fears of low turnout

With Polling Day looming on May 6th, 80% of people asked say they are not only aware of but intend to vote in next weeks local elections.

Residents will vote for councillors in several different wards with the Labour controlled council likely to face it’s biggest threat from a Green Party revitalised by disgruntled Labour voters.

There will also be a local governance referendum as citizens are asked to decide on whether they’d like a cabinet or a committee model for the newly elected council when they take their seats.

Turnout in these local elections are usually abjectly low with the 2018 local elections seeing all but one ward record a turnout of under 40% with the average turnout being 31%. In a year where COVID-19 restrictions still persist there are fears the turnout could hit new lows.

However, a survey of shoppers in the city centre, conducted on 30th April found that 24 of 30 polled are aware of the elections and intend to vote. Political disenfranchisement and voter apathy have long been bemoaned particularly with regards to local democracy but this admittedly small sample size could reflect a surprisingly increased turnout in these elections.

Sheffield has been a traditionally Labour stronghold however the Liberal Democrats have had some joy in the Steel City, notably when deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg held the Westminster seat of Sheffield Hallam between 2005 and 2017.

The council is typically a closer affair as lower turnouts benefit fringe parties with more politicised voters turning out. The Green Party currently occupy 4 seats on the council and will be hoping to win over students and disenchanted Labour voters unimpressed with Keir Starmer’s more pragmatic, soft left leadership of the Labour Party.

Caitlin Hart, 18, a student at the University of Sheffield said: “I’ll be voting Labour but the Greens will definitely do well as people don’t like Labour without Corbyn”.

In 2018 the Liberal Democrats took 11 seats to Labour’s 13, reducing their majority. While hopes of overhauling them seem far fetched they will be hoping to make more gains.

The elections were postponed last year due to the pandemic and take place on Thursday 6th May.

Written by Liam Fitzpatrick

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