Tomorrow, most people in Britain will go to the polls to elect their local representatives. Local elections in Britain are a strange thing. There are various different types of government, unitary councils, regional assemblies, and parish and county councils. These disparities have nothing to do with local traditions, they are all quirks of a modern system drawn up by national administrators.
County borders were redrawn in the 1970s, and to give you an idea of how difficult is to understand the new system, I was born in the 1980s and I don't get it. My address puts me in Cheshire but most government services are provided via Manchester. Even though elected officials in Manchester have power over my area, I can only vote in Stockport. Even stranger, though, the point of a unitary council is to have only one level of government, some people under the same council as me can also vote for the Cheshire county council, which is a higher level of government. As if the system were not convoluted enough, instead of electing one local representative, we have three — each serving a four year term (creating a year off).
It is probably a good thing that none of these people have any real power. Most of their spending is mandated by central government and they can only raise one quarter of their own budget. If a council is inefficient, they get more money from the centre. Thus our supposedly local representatives answer to the civil service rather than the voters.
Recently, the mayor of London was suspended by unelected officials for politically incorrect speech. Due to the overall complexity of the system and lack of real power, local elections have become a horrendously expensive opinion poll. Most people don't bother to participate, which politicians naturally blame on lazy voters. Around the time of these elections we are subjected to a barrage of advertising telling us that "politics affects everything" and chastising us for not doing enough. The main parties have even considered making it illegal to not vote.