Election 2015 England

Election 2015: Local councils battle for votes in shadow of Westminster

Voters on Thursday will be choosing councillors to represent them locally as well as their MPs Image copyright PA
Image caption Voters on Thursday will be choosing councillors to represent them locally as well as their MPs

As the battle buses criss-cross West Yorkshire's closely fought parliamentary constituencies it has almost been overlooked that 128 other election battles are being fought in the same area.

All five of West Yorkshire's powerful district local authorities go to the polls on the same day as the general election, each with a third of their council seats up for grabs.

Local polls on the same day as a general election sometimes produce surprising results and 2010 was no exception.

As the headlines were grabbed by a Conservative surge and "Cleggmania", voters in West Yorkshire took part in what political academics call a "reverse bounce".

As seats held by Labour MPs were toppling in the Leeds area, the city council saw a power-sharing Conservative and Liberal Democrat administration pushed aside.

In Bradford, a previously safe Labour parliamentary seat was snapped up by the Liberal Democrats, but in City Hall a minority Labour administration gained enough extra council seats to come close to gaining a majority.

Calderdale, the authority centred on Halifax, saw Labour take control and just down the road in Wakefield Labour strengthened its grip.

Bradford Spring

In the three rounds of council elections since then it has been largely a story of Labour gains, but with the odd blip.

George Galloway's "Bradford Spring" in 2012 resulted in five Respect councillors being elected but storm clouds soon moved in and the party has not won a single seat since then. In fact, after internal ructions, one of them switched to Labour this year.

The UK Independence Party (UKIP) also huffed and puffed in 2014 but it has hardly blown any of the council houses down. It now has two councillors in Wakefield and another two in Bradford.

So where does that leave the prospects for 2015?

Leeds City Council: It would take an earthquake to shift Labour from its position of power in West Yorkshire's biggest council, the city of Leeds. It has grown from being the biggest party, but needing the city's three Greens to take power in 2010, to now holding almost two thirds of the 99 seats in the council chambers. Keith Wakefield has announced he is stepping down as leader and the party will elect a replacement after the election.

Bradford City Council: Labour is by far the largest party, but with by-elections and defections this year its 45 seats leave it now one short of an overall majority in the 90-seat chamber. Respect, with its four members, claims it will squeeze Labour even further but is fielding candidates in just seven of the 30 seats up for election. As with all of the West Yorkshire councils UKIP is putting up more candidates than ever before.

Calderdale Metropolitan District Council: Despite Labour ending up as the largest party with 25 of the 51 seats in Halifax Town Hall after last year's elections it was just short of a majority, taking power with the help of the six Liberal Democrats. When those parties fell out last summer, the Conservatives added their 19 seats to the Liberal Democrats and Stephen Baines became West Yorkshire's only Conservative council leader. With Labour so close to a majority he will do well to stay in power.

Image copyright Stanley Walker
Image caption Labour is by far the largest party in Huddersfield Town Hall

Kirklees Metropolitan District Council: Labour, with 32 of the 69 seats in Huddersfield Town Hall, is by far the largest party but only holds control with the help of four councillors who make up West Yorkshire's strongest group of Greens. Labour needs three more for a majority but the expectation is for little change this time around.

Wakefield City Council: A Labour stronghold where the party holds 54 of the council's 63 seats. Upheavals have happened in the past here but few see veteran council leader Peter Box shifting out of his office any time soon.

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