The battle is on for seats in Rushmoor and Hart as the local elections loom.
Positions are available in Rushmoor Borough Council's 13 wards with four political parties attempting to break the Conservative/Labour stronghold. And 84 candidates will be chasing 33 seats on a new-look Hart District Council when voters go to the polls on Thursday May 22.
Rushmoor's polling day will have one seat in each of its wards up for grabs. A boundary shake-up at Hart has reduced the number of wards from 18 to 11 and cut the number of councillors from 35 to 33.
Each Hart ward will now have three councillors and as 2014 is the first year of the new arrangement, all three seats for each ward will be available.
No party currently has overall control on Hart, although the council is run by a Conservative administration. There are currently 17 Conservatives, nine Liberal Democrats, seven Community Campaign Hart and two Independents.
But all the current parties are keen to do well in the all-out elections, with the Conservatives fielding 29 candidates, the Lib Dems 17 and CCH 11.
UKIP is also keen to make in-roads on the council and is fielding 11 candidates, with Labour putting forward 13.
The field is completed by one Independent, one Green and one Monster Raving Loony member.
Residents in Hart will have three votes and can put up to three crosses on their ballot papers. The top three placed candidates will then be elected.
Because there are new wards, some electors will have new polling stations so check the poling card before setting off to vote.
The district election count will take place at Hart Leisure Centre in Hitches Lane the morning after polling day.
Counting for the European Parliament elections will take place at the leisure centre on May 25.
In Rushmoor, the Conservatives currently hold nine of the seats up for grabs by 41 candidates from six parties, with Labour holding the other four.
Candidates from the Green Party are urging voters to turn their backs on the main parties in protest at what it describes as a council that is ‘not fit for purpose’.
The Liberal Democrats and Christian Party, both of which hold no seats in Rushmoor, will also be keen to make ground on their opposition, while UKIP’s eight candidates, and growing attention nationally, could put the party in a strong position to add to the two seats it already holds in West Heath.
Three wards will not be defended, as a trio of councillors step down. Conservative Cllr Brian Parker, who turns 80 this year, said he felt it was time to ‘let the youngsters come in’.
“I tried not to bring politics into it,” he said of his 17 years as a councillor.
“People have voted for me as Brian Parker, not as a Conservative councillor. I’d like to think that anyway.”
Cllr Rod Cooper, a fellow Conservative ending his first term as a councillor, is stepping away from politics to undergo a knee operation, but may return once he is recovered.
UKIP’s Cllr Steve Smith said he was stepping down to concentrate on his other community interests, such as being a governor for Farnborough’s Grange Junior School, treasurer for Aldershot and Farnham District Athletics Club and a fundraiser for Phyllis Tuckwell Hospice, which he ‘enjoyed more’.
Counting for the elections takes place overnight on polling day, with the first results expected from around 2am, while results from the European vote will not be announced until Sunday.