Unsure whether your vote will matter in the upcoming election? It will probably have more impact than we tend to expect, especially in the University ward.

In 2016, Nathan Burns was elected for the ward with a majority of just 18 votes. A fairly resounding reminder of just how much every vote cast can count – and indeed every vote not cast. Nineteen people secured that victory, just as they could equally have secured victory for a rival. That’s little more than two people from every college. The upcoming by-elections on the 17th will see two councillors elected, so it’s a real opportunity to help decide who will help shape decisions on your behalf.

Part of the reason for such a narrow victory in 2016 was the low voter turn-out – that election, turn-out was remarkably low at just 7.1 percent. Yet Councils have influence over our day to day lives in all sorts of ways. Councillors can help shape policy on the availability of housing, planning decisions such as those affecting Sugarhouse, the maintenance – or not – of cycle paths and roads, the provision of bus services for those living on less popular routes… all those things which usually only become apparent if and when things aren’t up to scratch. And beyond the day to day, they can contribute to policy on serious issues like the provision of homelessness services, environmental and recycling policy, and regeneration of deprived areas.

All of that means that at a time when Council resources are being squeezed to the limit, good decision making is crucial. Voting now is a chance to make sure we have councillors who we can be confident will take their role seriously, and make well-thought out contributions to difficult decisions about which services should be prioritised. That means voting not only for the right party, but also the right candidate- someone who will have the dedication and commitment to work for everyone.

And even beyond Lancaster, your vote will be crucial because, rightly or wrongly, local elections are one of the times the government and opposition parties measure the public’s mood on their performance and direction. Voting for your candidates locally is a chance to support or protest much wider party policies. Sending that message means your vote counts even if you vote tactically, and even if your preferred candidate doesn’t manage to win. Every vote locally helps feed into that wider national debate.

So that couple of minutes taken to vote might help make a difference for years to come, on campus, in the city and beyond. And if you persuade someone else to vote, it might just tip the election.