Vote 2012: Swindon council elections biggest in 12 years

Votes are counted at a Swindon Borough Council election The last time Swindon Borough Council had an all-out election was in 2000

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On 3 May the residents of Swindon will go to the polls for their biggest local election since the turn of the millennium.

The last time Swindon Borough Council had an all-out election was in 2000; Labour were in power locally and also in central government.

This year a total of 57 councillors are to be elected across 20 wards, with each councillor representing approximately 2,800 constituents.

To further complicate things, the map for which parts of Swindon are grouped together has been redrawn and the ward boundaries changed.

Nearly all of the wards will each be electing three councillors.

One ward - Chiseldon and Lawn - is to have two new councillors and another - Ridgeway - is to have only one councillor.

The last time there was an election for all the seats on Swindon Borough Council, the ruling party lost control. That was in 2000, and it was Labour who took a battering as the Conservatives made enormous gains.

This time it's the other way round - and the Tories hope history doesn't repeat itself. They've presently got a comfortable majority, but boundary changes, and reducing the number of councillors by two to 57, forces them into an all-out election at a difficult time.

Being in government nationally usually means punishment at the polls locally. The age of austerity doesn't help - and some of the council's cuts have been very controversial.

Add to that the economic woes - Swindon's got some of the highest unemployment in the West Country - and voters may be looking for change.

The Liberal Democrats with four seats, and UKIP with one (a former Tory), are small fry here.

Be in no doubt: Swindon's a battle between the big two, Conservatives and Labour, and there are going to be casualties.

The Conservative's have run the council since 2003 and are proud of their record, but they know they must work hard to avoid losing their majority.

Councillor Rod Bluh, leader of Swindon Borough Council, said: "The challenge for every local election is trying to get people to focus on local issues rather than national issues.

"We recognise that and to be honest I don't think any of the local parties can do very much about that. If it was just on local issues I don't think we would have to fight nearly as hard."

But it's a fight that Swindon's Labour group believes it can win.

Group leader councillor Jim Grant said: "I'm afraid the Conservative-led government are taking a hammering due to their failure over the budget and their general incompetence in running government.

"They will pay a price for that and I think they will pay a price on 3 May in Swindon."

The Liberal Democrats, who are small in Swindon, have never run the council but believe that could work in their favour.

Councillor Stan Pajak: "Now I think people have the experience of a Conservative council, and also the past bad experience of when Swindon actually was one of the worst performing councils in the country because of it's Labour leadership.

"I think it's a unique opportunity and hopefully people will vote on new lines."

Ward boundaries in Swindon

Old (up to 3 May, 2012) New (from 8 May, 2012)

Abbey Meads

Blunsdon & Highworth

Blunsdon

Central

Central

Chiseldon & Lawn

Covingham & Nythe

Covingham & Dorcan

Dorcan

Eastcott

Eastcott

Gorse Hill & Pinehurst

Freshbrook & Grange Park

Haydon Wick

Gorse Hill & Pinehurst

Liden, Eldene & Park South

Haydon Wick

Lydiard & Freshbrook

Highworth

Mannington & Western

Moredon

Old Town

Old Town & Lawn

Penhill & Upper Stratton

Parks

Priory Vale

Penhill

Ridgeway

Ridgeway

Rodbourne Cheney

Shaw & Nine Elms

Shaw

St Margaret

St Andrews

St Philips

St Margaret & South Marston

Toothill & Westlea

Walcot & Park North

Walcot

Wroughton & Wichelstowe

Western

Wroughton & Chiseldon

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