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Local elections in Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells this May

Voters are heading to the polls for local council elections that could have major repercussions for all the main parties.

Political Editor Paul Francis answers the key questions.

Voters in two parts of Kent head to the polls on May 5 Picture: Chris Loades
Voters in two parts of Kent head to the polls on May 5 Picture: Chris Loades

Where and when are elections being held in Kent?

Just two councils have elections next month: Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells. In each a third of seats are up for grabs when voters head to the polls on May 5.

Why aren’t other councils having elections?

It is simply that all other areas in Kent hold elections only once every four years - these are ‘all out’ elections in which every seat is contested.

Who will be able to vote in the two areas in Kent?

That depends on whether you live in one of the wards being contested. If you do not, you won’t be able to vote this time.

What is the current make-up of the councils?

Maidstone council: Just 18 of the 55 seats are up for election. The Conservatives currently hold 29, giving it an administration with a majority of five.

The Liberal Democrats have 11, the Independent Group and the Maidstone Group five each and Labour three.

Tunbridge Wells council: Sixteen seats out of 47 seats are up for grabs with voters.

At the moment the authority is run by the Conservative party in a minority administration. It has 21 councillors, while the Liberal Democrats have 12, the Tunbridge Wells Alliance six, Labour five and there are three independents.

What is at stake in these elections?

These elections are supposed to be about local authority services, such as collecting rubbish, but inevitably they are an opportunity for voters to deliver their verdict on national government.

The Conservatives are bracing themselves for a set of poor results in the wake of the on-going ‘partygate’ scandal.

If they suffer serious losses, it is expected that there will be fresh pressure on Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

He could be forced to quit and may face a vote of no confidence from within his own party.

That is why there will be interest particularly in Tunbridge Wells, normally a party stronghold.

The Conservative party has already felt a squeeze and narrowly hung on to power last year.

The Green party is emphasising its opposition to house-building targets but its vote could be affected by the number of parties fielding candidates in key wards.

Green county councillor Mark Hood says the absence of any pacts with other parties might benefit the Conservatives.

Despite that, he says the election still represents an opportunity for the party to continue its advances across the county.

“Getting a Green councillor on the council would be transformative because we know from our experience in Tonbridge and Malling the influence of the ‘drip, drip, drip’ of environmentalism does have an effect,” he said.

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