Page last updated at 14:12 GMT, Friday, 15 May 2009 15:12 UK

First electoral test for councils

Deborah McGurran
Political Editor, BBC East

Generic ballot box
Turnout is expected to be lower than at previous council polls

It was curtains for Bedfordshire's old councils on 1 April.

Bedford Borough and a new council called Central Bedfordshire - a merger of the the old South and Mid Bedfordshire District Councils - took over.

It was believed that savings could be made by getting rid of a tier of local government as former executives and chief executives lost their jobs.

So this is the first test for the 66 councillors of the new Central Bedfordshire Unitary and for the 36 seats of Bedford Borough Unitary authority.

Bedford Borough also has an elected mayor who is responsible for drawing up the budget for the council, as well as a large number of key strategies which are then considered for approval by the full council.

The next election of the mayor is scheduled for 2011.

At present the Conservatives lead both authorities and although it is believed that "notionally" Central Bedfordshire will remain Conservative, there is a possibility that Bedford Borough could be hung between the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats.

No Labour councillors

So Bedfordshire County Council has ended its 120-year history and the elections here on 4 June represent a historic new start.

The first results for Central Bedfordshire will be the first full council declarations in the region this time, as they are going for a late night count on Thursday.

Bedford Borough will join the rest of our county councils and will declare on Friday.

Buckinghamshire County Council is unique among the counties in having no Labour councillors at all.

The last two defected to the Lib Dems, who now have 12 councillors to the Tories' 45.

As such, the Tories are extremely likely to retain council control when all 57 seats are contested at the June election.

Buckinghamshire's county boundaries were originally formed in the 10th Century.

More than 200 communities were grouped together to raise money for the new castle being built at Buckingham and its borders are uniquely long and thin.

These days a high proportion of people living in Buckinghamshire commute daily into London.

Hertfordshire County Council is unlikely to see an electoral hurricane this year.

Commuters

The most interesting areas are Stevenage and Watford; the latter is a three-way marginal for the next general election.

Hertfordshire has 28 towns of varying sizes but no major centre.

The county has a high population density, with a large number of people who commute daily into London.

There are "significant" pressures in trying to balance its prosperous economy with protecting the environment, according to the Local Government Association.

Hertfordshire County Council, which has all of its 77 seats up for election, is a major employer in the area.



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