WIRRAL has had the most turbulent year of any Merseyside council – and Thursday’s ballot could see another power swing.
The last 12 months has seen a minority Labour administration fall to a vote of no confidence from Tories and Lib Dems, but new Labour group leader Phil Davies needs just four seats to win back control.
Council leader Jeff Green, whose Tory group is defending 12 seats, claimed his group – which took control of the council with the Lib Dems in February and brought in a budget with a 3% council tax cut – should be compared against Labour “bringing the council to its knees”.
He said: “We have been campaigning on our record of achievement of what we have been able to do in the last three months against Labour’s record of failure in areas such as adult social services, the budget and so on.”
The council is facing a critical period during which it must show it can be well managed after the release of a series of damning reports into how it has operated in recent years.
Phil Davies, who recently took over leadership of the Labour group, said key issues include the Budget and “giving money to millionaires while increasing taxes on pensioners”, deep cuts to council funding and frontline services and fears for the NHS.
He also said the recent council tax cut was “seen by people for what it is – an election bribe”.
Meanwhile, UKIP and the Green party have put forward candidates in all 22 wards – with the Greens particularly targeting Birkenhead and Tranmere ward, while UKIP have campaigned strongly in Oxton, aiming to capitalise on what they see as widespread dissatisfaction with the three main parties.
This year will also see a key fight for the Lib Dems to remain a credible force locally, with just nine councillors and other parties targeting their remaining seats.
Leader Tom Harney said his party is “in new territory” with its national politicians in government, but said their focus remained “on local issues the council can deal with”.
Independent candidates are also standing, with John Brace in Bidston and St James ward, Charles Barnes in West Kirby and Thurstaston, along with Morag Reid in Rock Ferry for the Trade Unionists And Socialists Against Cuts party, and Joseph Killen for the BNP in Birkenhead and Tranmere.