UK elections 2012: what you need to know

Local and mayoral elections are taking place in England, Scotland and Wales on Thursday.

A variety of elections are happening around the country, and in some areas voters will be able to cast a ballot in several contests.

Here's a guide to what's happening.

A ballot boxRui Vieira, PA Wire

What elections are taking place?

There are different kinds of elections taking place in England, Scotland and Wales. No elections are taking place in Northern Ireland.

In England:

- most towns and cities, excluding London, are holding polls to elect some or all of their local council. The last time these elections took place was in 2008. A total of 128 councils are holding elections.

- elections are taking place in Liverpool, Salford and London to elect a mayor. This will be the first time such an election has taken place in Liverpool and Salford. It will be the fourth such election in London.

- elections are also taking place in London to choose the members of the Greater London Assembly.

- finally, referendums on whether to introduce an elected mayor are taking place in the following cities:

In Scotland:

Elections are taking place in all 32 local authorities across the nation.

In Wales:

All Welsh councils except Anglesey are holding elections.

Who can vote in the elections?

Anybody who is aged 18 or over on 3 May, and who is registered to vote.

If I am 18 or over, am I automatically able to vote?

No. You must have registered to vote. You are not eligible to vote simply because you are the correct age, or because you pay council tax.

Is it too late to register to vote?

Yes. The deadline was Wednesday 18 April.

What if I'm not going to be around to vote in person?

There are two ways you can still take part in the elections - by postal vote, or by proxy vote.

A postal vote has to be applied for in advance. You must fill in a form and send it off. Once you've received your vote, you must make sure you return it in plenty of time for it to arrive before the close of poll (10pm on 3 May).

Find out more about voting by post.

A proxy vote involves you allowing someone to vote in person on your behalf.

Find out more about voting by proxy.

I still need more information

The Electoral Commission website's About My Vote is designed to deal with all queries about this year's elections, including what to do if you're a student, an overseas voter or a member of the armed forces.

When will the results be announced?

Here's an approximate timetable:

From midnight, Thursday:

  • Most local council results from England and Wales.
  • Mayoral referendum results from Bradford, Coventry, Manchester and Nottingham.
  • Mayoral election results from Salford (2am) and Liverpool (5am).

From 11am, Friday:

  • Local council results from Scotland, plus remaining results from England and Wales.
  • Mayoral referendum results from Birmingham, Bristol, Doncaster, Leeds, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Sheffield and Wakefield.

From 5pm, Friday:

  • London Assembly results.

From 8pm, Friday:

  • London mayoral result.

UK elections 2012: full coverage