Calderdale returns to the ballot box on May 3

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CAMPAIGNING gets underway next week in what will be the last council election for two years.

Seventeen of the 51 seats on Calderdale Council will be up for grabs and the overall outcome couldn’t be more difficult to predict.

The only certainty is that as Labour is defending only two seats it has most to gain.

The Conservatives will be fortunate to hold on to all nine seats they are defending and the Liberal Democrats could be squeezed.

Voters will be torn between supporting a Con-Lib Government or a Lib-Lab council, both of which have been responsible for far reaching austerity measures that are having an effect on everyone to a greater or lesser degree.

Nowhere in Calderdale will the contest be more keenly fought than in Warley ward, on the outskirts of Halifax.

Robert Pearson won the seat for the Lib-Dems in 2008 with a majority of almost 1,000 votes, helping to make it a fairly safe seat for his party.

But an internal feud meant that he resigned the whip last year and has since been sitting as an Independent Lib-Dem.

He will not be defending his seat at the May 3 election and will soon be moving to France with his family.

The Conservatives need to win this seat if they are to stand any chance of forming a majority on the council but have recently dumped their candidate, ex-councillor David Ginley, because of alleged “unethical” practices.

They could be hoping that their replacement Christopher Pearson, a man with the same surname as the retiring councillor will cause enough confusion to give them a chance.

The Labour Party has drafted in a big gun in the shape of constituency party secretary Martin Burton.

Conservative Keith Watson will create history if he retains his seat in Greetland and Stainland.

Ever since the council was formed, the seat has only ever been won by Liberals - which is what Coun Watson was before he switched to the Tories following a dispute about the Mayoralty in 2008.

Sitting Conservative councillor John Hardy will be hoping everything goes his way in Skircoat ward because he due to be the next Mayor of Calderdale at the end of May.

Labour’s Ann Collins will join her husband, Barry, on the council if she wins in Ovenden as expected and Megan Swift, the wife of Labour leader Tim Swift, is defending her seat in Town ward.

Meanwhile, Labour’s Jenny Lynn is poised to become the first ever female councillor in Park Ward.

Lib-Dem council leader Janet Battye faces a tough fight defending her seat in Calder ward as does party colleague Christine Bampton-Smith in neighbouring Luddenden Foot.

Labour is on the ascendancy in Sowerby Bridge and could gain this seat from Conservative Councillor Amanda Byrne, who is standing down.

A swing to the left could also boost Labour’s hopes of replacing Conservative councillor Ian Cooper in Todmorden.

Nominations for this year’s election close at noon on Wednesday 4 April.

*The current make-up of the council is Conservatives 21 seats, Labour and Lib-Dems 13 seats each, two Independents, one Independent Councillor and one Ind Lib-Dem.