Council elections 2021

This advisory details our coverage of council election nominations and results, focusing on messages sent on the wire.

For details of messages in XML format for digital products, please see the page on XML format under Delivery Methods.

Key dates and times for local elections in England in 2021:

  • Nominations close: Thursday April 8.
  • Polling day: Thursday May 6.
  • Declarations: from the early hours of Friday May 7 and through until Monday May 10.

Elections will take place at 143 councils in England, comprising:

  • 28 unitary authorities
  • 35 metropolitan boroughs
  • 59 non-metropolitan districts
  • 21 county councils.

Some councils have elections for all seats while others have a third of their seats up this time. See the Councils list for details.

Thirteen mayoral elections including in London are taking place – see separate Mayoral elections advisory.

Boundary Changes

Councils with confirmed local boundary changes coming into effect for the May 6 polls will be listed here soon:

In addition, owing to local authority mergers, there are three new councils in the 2021 local elections, replacing existing councils. The changes are as follows:

  • New unitary council Buckinghamshire replaces Aylesbury Vale, Chiltern, Wycombe, and South Bucks district councils, and Buckinghamshire County Council.
  • New unitary North Northamptonshire replaces Corby, East Northants, Kettering, and Wellingborough councils, as well as Northamptonshire County Council.
  • New unitary West Northamptonshire replaces Daventry, Northampton, and South Northants councils, as well as the county council.

PA will treat the new councils as boundary-change councils in its data. The baseline for existing council seats uses notional data.

Please see Results section below for information on the handling of results for councils where there have been boundary changes.


PA’s council elections baseline data, covering the current council line-up (seats held) and seats up this time (seats offered) before any boundary changes, unopposed returns, and candidates going to the poll, is made available to customers in the run-up to polling day in a wire message and through nominations files for each council in XML format for digital.

See the page on XML format under Delivery Methods for more details about council nominations files.

The wire message is sent as ELECTION Nominations with the category code: XTH

The data is revised as necessary in the run-up to polling day in the light of new information such as defections or postponed ward elections owing to the death of a candidate.

Full sets of the revised data are made available from time to time, with a final run on the afternoon of the day before polling day, Wednesday May 5.

Important: In very rare cases it may be necessary to amend the data for a particular council before its result can be sent during the event on May 6-10.

Note that fresh test nominations files are made available before each test under the test programme.


Rushes will be sent immediately on the wire after final declarations for a council where that council has changed control. These will be catchlined POLL Unitary for unitary authorities, POLL Metro for metropolitan boroughs, POLL Non-Met for non-metropolitan districts – all followed with the council name. For example, POLL Unitary Bristol.

They will have the category code: XTJ

Example text for rush messages:

  • C gain Worcester from no overall control
  • Lab lose Amber Valley to no overall control

If it becomes clear in advance of final declarations that a council has changed control, a rush will be sent in the general news service under the usual editorial category code: HHH

Results will be sent immediately on the wire and in XML format after final declarations for a council have been made.

On the wire, these will be catchlined POLL Unitary for unitary authorities, POLL Metro for metropolitan boroughs, POLL Non-Met for non-metropolitan districts – all followed with the council name. For example, POLL Unitary Bristol.

They will be category-coded:

  • XLR for plain text (TTY)
  • XLD for data format.

Collated runs of all council election results in so far will be sent on the wire using the same category codes on Friday May 7 at about 0430, 0630, 0930, and as needed as results come in through until they are all in. They will be catchlined POLL Unitary, POLL Metro, POLL Non-Met – followed by the keyword, Collated. For example, POLL Metro Collated.

Examples of a “full council” result (catchlined POLL Non-Met Westborough) in plain text (TTY) and in data format:

C gain from Lab
Lab lose 6, C gain 4, LD gain 2
New council: C 28, Lab 22, LD 4

{00}Westborough} }
{01}C} }Lab} }
{03}Lab} }lose} }6
{03}C} }gain} }4
{03}LD} }gain} }2
{04}C} }28
{04}Lab} }22
{04}LD} }4

In the case of a council where there have been boundary changes, the result will include the text “Boundary change” below the council name and changes in the numbers of seats held by parties as a result of the poll will be shown as “up” and “down” rather than “gain” or “lose”.

Example of a “part council” (halves or thirds) result (catchlined POLL Metro Newtown) in plain text (TTY) and data format:

Lab No change
Lab 10, C 6, LD 5
Lab lose 3, C gain 2, LD gain 1
New council: Lab 36, C 14, LD 13

{01}Lab} }} }No change
{02}Lab} }10
{02}C} }6
{02}LD} }5
{03}Lab} }lose} }3
{03}C} }gain} }2
{03}LD} }gain} }1
{04}Lab} }36
{04}C} }14
{04}LD} }13

If a result has to be corrected, the catchline on the wire will be styled POLL Correction followed by the council type and the council name. Example: POLL Correction Unitary Bristol. Where there is a change to the winning party a rush correction will be sent with the same catchline.

Corrections are made for XML format messages by providing a new version of the result with a higher revision number. Customers should always take the latest version with the highest revision number. See the page on XML format under Delivery Methods for more information.


As results come through, we will be transmitting up-to-date State of Parties statistics giving details of overall seats and councils won by party and net changes up or down in seats and council control by party.

On the wire, these SoP statistics will be catchlined POLL State of Parties Council and will use the category code: XTH

Example of SoP gains and losses table (note that formatting on this web page is out and will be fixed):

With results available from 15 out of 88 councils, the state of parties is:

Party     Total     Change in     Seats    Net change

councils  control       won      in seats

Lab        4                       297      +11

LD         3         +1            161       +4

C          1                       201      -15

Ind                                 30       +1

Others                               5       -1

Noc        7         -1

A version of this SoP statistic is provided in XML format. See the page on XML format under Delivery Methods for more information.

On the wire, we will send out lists of councils gained and lost by parties at intervals as necessary, catchlined POLL Statistics, category code: XTH

Fictional example of council changes list:

Conservative lose to NOC

Labour lose to NOC
Telford & Wrekin

Liberal Democrat lose to NOC
South Somerset
Three Rivers

Conservative gain from NOC
Basingstoke & Deane
East Staffordshire
High Peak
St Albans
Staffordshire Moorlands
Wyre Forest

Conservative gain from Labour
Amber Valley
North Warwickshire

Conservative gain from Liberal Democrat
Hinckley & Bosworth

Conservative gain from Independent/Other

Labour gain from NOC
West Lancashire

Party abbreviations

  • Conservative (C)
  • Labour (Lab)
  • Liberal Democrat (LD)
  • Green Party (Green)
  • United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP)
  • Independent/Other (Ind)
  • Ratepayers or Residents (R)
  • Liberal (Lib)
  • Mebyon Kernow (Meb Ker)
  • Reform UK (Reform)
  • Yorkshire Party (Yorkshire)
  • Vacant (Vac)

Quick Reference Table

Catchlines and category codes:

Message Catchline Text category Data category
Rush POLL (followed by council type and council name) XTJ
Rush correction POLL Correction (followed by council type and council name) XTJ
Result POLL (followed by council type and council name) XLR XLD
Result correction POLL Correction (followed by council type and council name) XLR XLD
Collated results POLL (followed by council type and council name) Collated Result XLR XLD
State of parties POLL State of Parties Council XTH
Councils gained and lost by parties POLL Statistics XTH

Elections Live Coverage

All narrative copy, claims/pointers (giving indications for key councils in advance of final declarations), reaction and analysis, will run in the general news service. On the wire, these messages will use the usual editorial code: HHH


We will be sending test results ahead of the election, with voting figures generated at random by computer. Please see separate advisory for the provisional test programme.

All test material will be marked clearly as “PA Test”.

You MUST check before polling day that any test material has been cleared from your systems.