THIS year’s elections in the Harrogate district should throw up some fascinating tussles, as voters in the rural wards go to the polls on May 3.
There are 16 seats up for grabs, of which the Conservatives currently hold 14, with the Lib Dems and the Liberal Party controlling one each.
Three well-known Conservative councillors are stepping down at the election: current mayor Les Ellington (Nidd Valley), Chris Brown (Wathvale) and Richard Grange (Washburn).
The Tories are fighting in all 16 wards, while Labour are fielding 15 candidates and the Lib Dems have nine.
Meanwhile, UKIP is contesting three seats, the Liberal Party hopes to retain one, and there is a single independent candidate, Chris Lewis in Ouseburn, facing off against current councillor Martin Leather (Con) – who will be deputy mayor if he wins – and Labour’s John Fisher.
Harrogate Borough Council is currently controlled by the Conservatives, who have an overall majority of 14.
The Pateley Bridge seat is a contest between current district councillor Stan Beer (Lib Dem), town mayor Stan Lumley (Con) and Labour candidate Stephen Boyden.
Coun Robert Windass (Con) will only be able to serve as the Mayor of Harrogate if he can see off competition from Alec Hendry in the Boroughbridge ward.
Four of the seven members of the cabinet – which recommends policy to the full council – are defending their seats on Thursday, May 3.
The wards up for election are: Bishop Monkton, Boroughbridge, Claro, Killinghall, Kirkby Malzeard, Lower Nidderdale, Marston Moor, Mashamshire, Newby, Nidd Valley, Ouseburn, Pateley Bridge, Ribston, Spofforth with Lower Wharfedale, Washburn and Wathvale.
Deputy returning officer, Peter Jordan, is encouraging people living in the rural areas to make sure they are registered to vote in time for the election.
He said: “As well as elections for the rural seats on Harrogate Borough Council, a number of rural parish councils will also be holding elections.
“You must be on the electoral register to have your say on who sits on your council.
“If you have recently moved to the area, or moved house, it is important to make sure that you register at your new address otherwise you won’t be able to vote.”
The deadline for registration is Wednesday. Forms are available on 0845 3006091 or at www.aboutmyvote.co.uk.
The website also includes application forms for a post or proxy vote.
Some voting tips from the council:
– Make sure you are registered to vote. Registration forms must be completed and returned by April 18.
– Check where you should vote. Details of your local polling station will be on your poll card. If you have not received it or are unsure of where to go call: 0845 300 6091. Polling stations will be open from 7am–10pm.
– Bring your poll card with you to the polling station, it may speed things up. But don’t worry if you don’t have it, you can still vote without it.
– Follow the instructions on the ballot paper carefully. If you’re unsure of how to complete your ballot paper, a member of staff will be able to advise you.
– Pop your ballot paper in the ballot box and that’s it done.
– If you applied for a postal vote – which you can do up to 5pm on Wednesday, April 18 – make sure it is returned by 10pm on Thursday, May 3. If you have left it too late to post back, you can drop it off at your polling station or at the council offices at Crescent Gardens.