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Friday, May 1, 1998 Published at 14:00 GMT 15:00 UK

The West - Michael Lund

Will Labour take a knock from the traditional swing against the party in power? Will the Tories begin their recovery? And will the Liberal Democrats be able to maintain their strong position in the West? Michael Lund reports.

Michael Lund reports on low voter turnout
This year, all the parties will face a tough time persuading the electorate to come out and vote in the West.

It is only a year since the general election and local election double poll and voter turnout in the locals is always low. This is something the government is trying to tackle for future polls.

However, this year has seen another round of above-inflation rises in council tax and this might encourage some to take a trip to the polls.

The Liberal Democrats

The Liberal Democrats go into this year's elections as the major political force in the West.

The party claims to have built up a strong base in local government here, but some considerable work is needed if it is to maintain that position.

The party has made a great deal of effort to court votes over the years and is clever at using grass roots politics to score points over the other parties, particularly in Bristol

The Conservatives

The Conservatives are hoping to begin their recovery after last year's general election defeat by improving their position in local government.

They are hoping to make gains in all areas, but especially in Swindon where they suffered heavy losses two years ago.


In Bristol Labour did relatively badly in last year's local elections despite parliamentary gains in the city.

The party has already lost one council by-election to the Liberal Democrats so it will be interesting to watch the Labour vote this year to see who the electorate blames, if anybody, for the cuts to services and the highest council tax in the West.

[ image: A campaigner out to save the greenbelt]
A campaigner out to save the greenbelt
Labour also faces a tough challenge in Stroud where the party clings to power by just one seat. The council has faced criticism during a row over the allocation of land for homes in the new 'Local Plan'.

Places such as the Painswick Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty were threatened with major development. And although the threat has since been toned down it may well affect Labour's support in the area.

Labour's hold in Gloucester remains strong.

Councils going to the polls

One third of council seats are up for election in Bristol and Swindon's unitary authorities, and in the district councils of Gloucester, Stroud and Cheltenham.

All are currently Labour controlled, except Cheltenham which is Liberal Democrat.

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