Local government reporter Elaine O’Flynn reflects on how the ballot box gives us all a chance to have our say

“EVERY vote counts.” You’ll have heard that sound bite before.

It’s up there with this year’s plethora of politicians’ catchphrases, which so far include ‘hard working families’ (Conservative), the ‘cost of living crisis’ (Labour) and the ever-rumbling ‘political earthquake’ (courtesy of UKIP).

But believe me — the first point is actually true.

It’s easy to become disillusioned with politics. Every week I read letters and comments from Bolton News readers bemoaning the state of our town, from the number of empty shop units to the level of potholes on the roads.

Today, at the local elections, you have the chance to elect the people you think are best to decide the priorities from this town.

From how much council tax you pay, to when your bins are collected to the standards of your children’s school meals — all those decisions come back to the town hall, and the people voted in by the electorate.

And each vote has its impact. At the last local election in 2012, the difference between the winning Conservative candidate, Cllr Alan Walsh, and Labour’s Sharaquat Shaikh was just 61 votes – fewer people than live on the average street.

Today is also the opportunity to have your say about who you want representing you in the European Parliament.

Bolton to Brussels may be hundreds of miles away, and the decisions taken in Strasbourg may seem to have little consequence to us here in the North West.

But regardless of whether you believe the UK should leave the EU or stay put, whoever is elected today will represent you in debates on the environment, banking reform, employment rights and trade — all of which impact on the political and economic landscape of this country and our town.

Across the world millions of people are still denied the right to vote and be part of a democracy — a system that people have fought and died for in this country, less than 100 years ago.

So don’t waste this opportunity. To have your say about the future of Bolton and Europe — make sure you vote today.