Comparison - General and Local Elections

For law students and tutors. This will help students recognise the difference between General and Local Elections and the different types of work elected candidates will do.

It is hoped that the following table may be of help to tutors when explaining to Uniformed Public Service students what might be achieved in terms of their comparison of two elections processes. 

The table compares general elections with local elections. 

The areas mentioned are not held out to be complete or exhaustive and indeed students may be able to add additional areas for comparison.  The points that are made have been deliberately kept brief but hopefully sufficient to get students underway - the intention being that it will be for students to develop the points with more detail and examples where appropriate.  The resource is set out as a table but may be adapted to produce a written report or a presentation as required by individual tutors.

The resource may be particularly helpful when comparing the election processes and responsibilities of two levels of government for a merit in Unit 1: Government, policy and the public services.

General elections - UK Parliament

Local government elections in England - About my vote, produced ...


General Elections



Local Elections


Area - Country as a whole.


Local councillor serves on county, district or parish council.

Responsibilities – a Member of Parliament is elected to represent the public's interests and concerns in the House of Commons. MPs consider and propose new laws, and can raise questions about current issues with government ministers.


Responsibilities – A Councillor is elected to represent the people, and their views, in their area, (ward), and have to work towards a compatible local environment. They serve for four years. In England and Wales there are more than 20,000 elected councillors and they represent 410 local authorities. They hold surgeries where people can come to discuss local issues.

Media coverage – national news. Now includes TV prime ministerial debates.


Coverage is more limited – usually restricted to local newspapers or local television stations.


Politics play a major role – It is usually the party the candidate represents that is voted for rather than the individual.


Politics may be less important – this is debatable as in some cases it is the person that is elected and in other cases it is the party he represents.


Candidates – see opportunity for full time position – EG David Cameron – Prime Minister, William Hague – Foreign Secretary, Nick Clegg – Deputy Prime Minister.

Candidates are volunteers - Councillors do not receive a salary , but they can claim allowances and expenses towards the cost of carrying out their duties.


May attract attention from overseas.


Unlikely to attract attention outside our country.


Taken more seriously -campaigns, meetings, TV coverage etc.


Sometimes less well supported.


Seen as more important as outcome affects overall government, population as a whole.


Outcome only affects local area.




Prime minister and senior ministers are MPs.


Local councillors do not form the  government and are not entitled to sit in Parliament.


Elections spending limits – There are expenditure limits at general elections. As constituencies are larger than wards there is a lot more travelling involved to contact as many people in a constituency as possible.


Less resources – so less spent - There are no separate limits on campaign expenditure incurred during local election campaigns. Because wards are smaller than a constituency it is easier for candidates to campaign on a personal basis by knocking on doors.


Opinion Polls seem to matter more


Opinion polls seem to matter less


Examples of services – we have MPs whose roles include – the chancellor, foreign secretary,defence secretary, health secretary,secretary of state for work and pensions and the business secretary with responsibility for "business and banks" .

Examples of local services – locally elected councillors help facilitate the provision of local services and facilities this includes public services, including schools, social services, and public transportation,council housing, gyms and leisure facilities, local planning, recycling and trash collection.


The expense for a candidate hoping to be elected in a General Election can be crippling.

Costs for candidates hoping to be elected in local elections is less prohibitive.


Held every five years unless there is a motion of no confidence or a motion for a general election is agreed by two thirds of the total number of seats in the Commons.

Councillors are elected for a period of four years.


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