Published: 06:00, 07 May 2021
The counting of votes that will determine who runs Kent County Council for the next four years gets underway this morning - with the first results due within a couple of hours.
The election is one of many up and down the country in what will be the first test of public opinion on the parties since the 2019 general election.
There are 81 seats up for grabs in the county council poll, with the Conservatives looking to hold on to the commanding majority it has enjoyed since the last election in 2017.
It won 67 of the divisions but that has since fallen to 63 – still a significant margin.
While the Conservatives are unlikely to lose control, there may be unwelcome results, with speculation that some ‘big hitters’ who are in the cabinet may lose their seats. These include the current deputy leader Cllr Peter Oakford, who is in a tussle with Labour hopeful Mike Tapp to hold on to his seat in Tunbridge Wells.
Both Labour and the Liberal Democrats are hoping for a better showing than in 2017, where they failed to make up much ground on the Conservatives, with Labour enduring a particularly painful result.
It could again struggle to make inroads at the expense of the Conservatives
The Green party, which is fielding candidates across the county, will be keen to keep the one seat it has had since 2013.
The election has taken place against the backdrop of the on-going coronavirus crisis, which has affected the organisation of the poll if not the final result.
Councils have been forced to take measures to ensure polling stations were bio-secure, with voters having to wear masks and were encouraged to bring their own biros.
We will be covering all the results as they come in, with reaction, commentary and analysis with our political editor Paul Francis giving his take on events as they unfold.