VOTERS go to the polls for local elections today in a contest that is likely to gauge how the public believe the Labour administration is faring, rather than bring about political change.
Labour has such a dominant grip on St Helens Town Hall, holding 40 of the 48 seats, that even defeat in all 16 seats being contested would not remove the party from office.
There remain plenty of sub plots, however.
It is the first round of elections since Barrie Grunewald wrestled control of the council leadership and the outcome could offer a barometer of how voters believe he is faring.
Labour is facing burning issues too, such as the controversial kerbside recycling system and the struggles of St Helens town centre.
But it has also made a series of bold election promises – including plans to create a new St Helens youth zone and the creation of a panel to oversee improvements – and is targeting an increase in its majority.
Political opposition remains low key in the town, but with the European Parliament elections falling on the same day as the locals, it will be interesting to see how UKIP – which has been fighting a titfor- tat advertising battle with Labour – will fare.
Among the seats to keep a close eye on will be in the town centre, where former Liberal Democrat John Beirne is standing for UKIP.
In Sutton, meanwhile, leader of the opposition Cllr Stephanie Topping, will be defending her seat for the Liberal Democrats.
In West Park, Marie Rimmer, who will stand for Labour in St Helens South and Whiston at the next General Election, is defending her seat in West Park, aiming to continue her run as a councillor for one more year.
This year the election count will take place tomorrow (Friday) day time rather than through the early hours.
In the last round of the local elections two years ago, which ran through the night, the then Lib Dem leader Brian Spencer, was involved in an unsavoury exchange with a Labour rival.
The Star will provide coverage of the count and results at sthelensstar.co.uk on Friday.
- For full list of local election candidates visit www.sthelensstar.co.uk/local_elections_2014.