Manchester

Is it the year of the political minnows in Greater Manchester?

Ballot box Image copyright PA
Image caption Could small parties have a big say in Greater Manchester's politics?

This could be the year that smaller parties really make an impact in Greater Manchester, with Bolton being the place to watch.

The new Farnworth and Kearsley First party really shook up politics in the town in 2018, taking three seats from the ruling Labour group and now, another new party is hoping for similar success.

Horwich and Blackrod First is standing candidates on a similar hyperlocal platform.

Labour is already under pressure, having lost its majority earlier this year after a member quit the party.

It is still clinging to power with the support of some independent councillors, but further losses would mean deals have to be done and smaller parties may suddenly discover they have a much louder voice in Bolton.

Further gains?

Trafford was the scene of the story of the night in 2018 as the Conservatives lost control of their only local authority in Greater Manchester.

It has since been run as a minority Labour council and the party needs only a couple of gains to take overall control.

The Conservatives will be hoping to reverse their decline.

Image copyright david dixon
Image caption The battle for supremacy at Trafford Town Hall has been hard fought in recent years

Stockport is also run by a Labour group without a majority and this lack of control was brutally clear in March when the council's budget was voted down by opposition councillors for the first time since the 1980s.

It was passed at the second time of asking, but only after some concessions were made to the Liberal Democrats.

If there is to be any signs of life from the Lib Dems nationally, it is likely to show in places like Stockport.

The Lib Dems will also be hoping to make further gains in Manchester, where Labour enjoys an enormous majority.

In 2015, all 96 councillors were Labour, but the Lib Dems have won two seats over the last couple of years and narrowly missed out on a third at the last election.

But while further gains are possible, even the most optimistic of Lib Dem campaigners will be expecting nothing less than another massive Labour majority in the city this May.

Chipping away

One of the biggest issues across the region is the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework, a plan for the building of tens of thousands of new homes over the next couple of decades.

Conservative support for a controversial housing development in Flixton was partly responsible for the party losing control of Trafford council last year and this time around, there is strong resistance to parts of the plan in Stockport.

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Image caption Could Bury's Jewish population change the political landscape in the town?

Much of the fiercest opposition though is in the north of the region, with thousands of protestors meeting across Rochdale, Oldham and Bury.

Labour hold massive majorities in Rochdale and Oldham but their hold on power is weaker in Bury.

The town also includes Greater Manchester's largest Jewish population and a combination of housing protests and anti-Semitism concerns could create a dangerous cocktail for the party in the town.

Wigan is another council with a large Labour majority, but there are also three independent parties looking to make further gains there, and Salford and Tameside are safely Labour too.

Opposition parties can only hope to chip away at, rather than overturn red majorities there.

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