LAST May the unthinkable happened a seismic power shift after the local elections saw a Lib Dem/Tory alliance wrestling control of the town hall from Labour, who had for many decades been long odds-on to always fill a majority of seats . The big question this time round is will the alliance be able to keep their clutch on power or will Labour come roaring back.

Former Labour mayor Pat Robinson's switch to the Lib Dems earlier this year shifted the balance further, boosting Lib Dem numbers to 20, with 21 Labour, six Tories and one independent.

Among candidates who will contest this May's elections is former Labour council leader Brian Green. Mr Green, who led St Helens council in the 1980s, will be fighting the Bold seat on behalf of the Community Action Party on Thursday, May 3.

The far-right party BNP is also fielding four candidates, three more than last year.

Another former high profile name bidding for a return to the town hall is Pat Martinez Williams who is standing for Labour in Thatto Heath.

In recent weeks the campaign has become increasingly bitter with Labour claiming in local paper adverts that the Lib Dems and Tories were hitting old folks with the closure of care homes.

But council leader Brian Spencer has attacked the adverts alleging they were offensive and manipulative, adding: "To suggest elderly people are being treated cruelly in St Helens will upset many families.

" Even their own government say St Helens is one of the top authorities in the country for supporting elderly people.

"Are they saying that they treated the residents from Heyescroft cruelly when they closed that home and transferred them to other homes?"