Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Voters Go to Polls in Crucial Ballot; Town Hall Elections Will Give Political Parties a Vital Indication of Support

Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Voters Go to Polls in Crucial Ballot; Town Hall Elections Will Give Political Parties a Vital Indication of Support

Article excerpt

Byline: By PETER YOUNG Political Editor

VOTERS are going to the polls today in crucial town hall elections with the North East one of the country's main political battlegrounds.

How the region votes is important to all the main parties.

As Labour's traditional English heartland, any sign that support for the party is weakening would be a blow to Gordon Brown's government.

Conservative leader David Cameron has vowed to win seats in the North while the Liberal Democrats under Nick Clegg are seeking to build on their Newcastle power base.

Elections are taking place at 159 councils across the country, with more than 4,000 seats up for grabs, including more than 300 in the North East, and Londoners are choosing a new mayor.

The polls close at 10pm but in many parts of the North East votes will not be counted until tomorrow, with the outcome expected by early afternoon.

This includes Northumberland, where the Liberal Democrats and Conservatives are battling to have a say in the running of the Labour-controlled county council. Votes will also be counted tomorrow in Newcastle, run by the Liberal Democrats, and in Labour controlled Gateshead and North Tyneside.

In the Labour strongholds of County Durham, South Tyneside and Sunderland, votes will be counted as soon as the polls close and the results are expected in the early hours.

Election officers today reminded postal voters that they can still use their ballot papers today.

In Newcastle, which has one of the highest postal votes in the country, electoral services manager Debby Frost said: "People can still hand them in to a local polling station or the Civic Centre up to 10pm." One of the most fiercely fought contests is in North Tyneside, where the council is run by a Labour mayor, while the Conservatives are the biggest single party in the council chamber.

Newcastle is regarded as an important battleground by all the main parties. The Lib Dems won control of the city council in 2004, ending 30 years of Labour rule, while the Tories haven't had a seat since 1996. …

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