Lancashire

Lancashire County Council elections: How will national issues affect the vote?

County Hall
Image caption The council has 39 Labour councillors, 35 Tory, six Lib Dems, three independents and one Green

Local government elections are always a good indicator of how voters are feeling, but with Lancashire being home to more than a handful of marginal Parliamentary seats, national party leaders will be keeping a close eye on the results when they come in on 5 May.

Labour held power at Lancashire County Council for 28 years until the Conservatives ended that streak in the 2009 elections.

Four years later, Labour were running the authority again, but without a majority. Instead, Jennifer Mein's Labour group have been reliant on Bill Winlow's Liberal Democrats for support.

Currently, the council breaks into 39 Labour councillors, 35 Tories, six Lib Dems, three independents and one Green.

Brexit's impact

Speaking to candidates from the two biggest parties, it seems neither are certain about winning a majority.

Both will be hoping for victories in the 4 May election in key battlegrounds like Pendle, but could the Liberal Democrats see a resurgence in an area where they've traditionally been highly successful?

One councillor told me Brexit could be a key issue for much of the county and Paula Keaveney, a lecturer in politics at Edge Hill University, agrees.

"People tend to use local elections as a proxy for national issues," she said.

"If there's dissatisfaction with a particular party at the time, they get punished at local elections. Jeremy Corbyn and Theresa May have an effect on the result."

Brexit is one issue which UKIP will hope to capitalise on. They say they'll be fielding candidates in most parts of Lancashire and are hoping to gain their first ever county council representative.

'Marginality'

There is also the longstanding debate over fracking, which could mean the Green Party can increase its presence at County Hall.

The party will no doubt be hoping for gains in north Lancashire, where they currently hold eight seats on Lancaster City Council.

Geoff Driver's Conservatives will argue the Labour group have made harsh cuts to services over the past four years, but Labour blame the Tory government for a reduction in their budget.

How these arguments will play out at the ballot box is hard to tell.

Ms Keaveney said the county has "this marginality which other areas don't have [so] it's definitely one of the top ones in the country to watch".

It seems, whatever the results, Lancashire politics will remain under a national microscope.

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