Our experts’ list of local authorities that are most likely to be affected by national trends
Watford BC (LD)
Liberal Democrat control of the council is cast iron: mayor Dorothy Thornhill was re-elected with over 50% of the vote in 2006. The influence of local voting on the general election outcome is the focus of attention. In the tightest three-way marginal in the country, can the Liberal Democrats overturn a 1,150 Labour majority by persuading their local supporters to stick with them in the parliamentary contest too?
Barking and Dagenham LBC (Lab)
The BNP hope that their two highest profile parliamentary candidates (leader Nick Griffin in Barking and London Assembly member Richard Barnbrook in Dagenham) will boost the party’s local election vote. The party topped the poll in six of the seven wards contested in 2006; this time they field candidates in all 17 wards. However, a bitter contest and the general election are likely to increase turnout and allow Labour to remain safely in control.
Ipswich BC (no overall control)
Labour all the way from 1979 to 2004. The Conservatives topped the poll at each of the last three local elections and now run the council in alliance with the Lib Dems. The marginal Rushmere and Sprites wards voted Conservative in 2006, Labour in 2008. The council will remain hung but the flow of the vote there could tip the balance in the currently Labour-held parliamentary seat.
Bristol City Council (LD)
Liberal Democrats took control last year as Labour lost ground to them and the Conservatives. They could consolidate their position this year by repeating their gains in the Horfield and Kingsweston wards. Both are within the highly marginal Bristol North West constituency, which is high on the Conservative target list - and an outside chance for the Lib Dems themselves.
Oxford City Council (NOC)
Labour, who run the council as a minority party, are under pressure from the Liberal Democrats at both local level and in the East parliamentary constituency. A gain or two for them in wards like Headington Hill and Northway, and Marston could herald an alliance with the Greens at City Hall and spell the end of Andrew Smith’s career at Westminster.
North Tyneside Council (Con)
Tynemouth is one of very few constituencies in the North East on the Conservative target list. They held the seat until 1997 and have fought back locally to take both the council and the directly elected mayoralty. Overall control, and their parliamentary fate, could now hang on being able to retain the marginal Collingwood ward, gained from Labour in 2006.
Professors Colin Rallings and Michael Thrasher, LGC Elections Centre, University of Plymouth