Page last updated at 08:01 GMT, Wednesday, 13 May 2009 09:01 UK

Heady cocktail for county voters

County council elections
John Hess
Political Editor, East Midlands

County Hall Matlock
Voters will decide who takes a seat at County Hall

Derbyshire is one of four county councils in England still controlled by Labour.

It is more than 28 years since the Conservatives had control at County Hall.

Labour has benefited since 1993 from having the county council elections on the same day the general election.

In 2005, Labour retained control with 38 seats while the Conservatives secured 15 and the Liberal Democrats had 10.

A swing of 5% to the Tories would be enough for Labour to lose its overall majority, according to recent research from Colin Rallings and Michael Thrasher of the University of Plymouth.

It would take a swing of 12% for the Tories to take control at County Hall in Matlock.

Victory for the Conservatives would be a huge triumph for David Cameron and would probably exceed his expectations.

One reason for Tory caution is a recent council by-election in the Long Eaton area of the Erewash district.

Campaign issues

This is classic Midlands marginals territory but just days after the Chancellor's budget, and against all the trends in the opinion polls, Labour won the seat from the Tories with a comfortable majority. The Liberal Democrats were third and the BNP were last.

The Conservatives in Derbyshire and its youthful leader, Andrew Lewer, are pitching hard in this election that "it's time for change".

And there is an issue in this campaign where Labour may be on the back foot.

Police funding in Derbyshire has been a long running sore. But the issue came to the surface when the government capped a rise of 8.68% that was proposed by the police authority, for its share of the council tax .

The Local Government minister John Healey has pegged the increase back to 5%.

That, in turn, has raised the political temperature with warnings of big budget cuts and a loss of between 50 to 60 police officers.

Law and order concerns wrapped up in council tax could be a heady political cocktail.

All 64 seats on Derbyshire County Council are open to candidates. Nominations close on 7 May and voters go to the polls on 4 June.



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