Voting takes place in 279 English local authorities today, amid predictions of dramatic gains for UKIP and a drubbing for Conservative councillors.
Around 9,500 seats are up for grabs in 194 district councils, 127 of which will be all-out elections, in 49 unitary councils - including 30 all-out votes - and 36 metropolitan district councils.
The Conservatives hold 136 of the councils up for grabs in today’s local polls but party sources are anticipating heavy losses of up to 400 of the 5,110 seats they are defending.
The Labour Party is defending 78 of the contested councils, including 30 metropolitan boroughs, 19 unitary authorities and 29 shire districts while the Liberal Democrats cling on to a mere eight shire districts.
The Labour Party anticipates losing around 100 of its 2,456 seats and the Lib Dems are resigned to the loss of around 50 of the 1,098 seats they currently hold.
Around one-fifth of the councils (56) are currently under No Overall Control – including 14 unitaries, 38 shire districts and four metropolitan boroughs.
Some 161 of the 279 councils are holding all-out elections, with the remainder choosing one-third of their elected member intake. In addition, mayoral elections are taking place in Bedford, Copeland, Leicester, Mansfield, Middlesbrough and Torbay.
But an insurgent UKIP, which enjoyed a net gain of 161 seats in last year’s local polls, is poised to double its current number of council seats to around 750 and has claimed an additional 400 gains would be ‘a reasonable ambition’.
UKIP expects to make inroads into Labour’s northern council heartlands, including Dudley, Hartlepool, Preston and Rotherham.
Writing in The MJ this week, Dr Jonathan Carr-West, chief executive of the Local Government Information Unit, said: ‘Getting to grips with what really matters to people requires a depth of engagement and an attention to detail that can only be achieved at a local level and this is ultimately why what happens in local government will be more important than the sound and fury of the Westminster variety show, however much that may capture our attention over the next few hours and days.’