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Last Updated: Tuesday, 2 May 2006, 05:31 GMT 06:31 UK
Big issues leave power in balance
By Jane Mower
BBC News, London

Buck Street Market, also known as The Camden Market
There has been criticism over the use of ASBOs in Camden
Turnout for the London local elections is predicted to be one of the lowest on record.

So could this pave the way for shock results where controversial topics dominate the agenda?

As campaigners try to coax voters to the polls, for some this is just the opportunity they have been waiting for to ensure their voice is heard.

Tunnelling for Crossrail in Brick Lane, the Olympics and post office closures could all prove to be prime motivators.

Local government expert Tony Travers said: "One-off issues can tip a few votes where there is a low turnout as fewer votes are needed."

Experts have predicted possible changes in political control in Bexley, Brent, Croydon, Hammersmith and Fulham, Hillingdon, Kingston and Merton.

But major upsets, they say, are also possible in eight boroughs; Camden, Ealing, Harrow, Hounslow, Lambeth Southwark, Tower Hamlets and Waltham Forest.

BBC News examines how controversial issues in Tower Hamlets, Hounslow and Camden could sway the vote and produce some unexpected results.

Tower Hamlets

George Galloway's Respect party is putting increasing pressure on Labour in Tower Hamlets, east London, where the party holds a small majority of seven.

Crossrail and the planned tunnel shaft in Spitalfields as well as the Olympics have proved contentious issues here.

Labour councillor Michael Keith said the party intended to build on the strength they had built up over the last 12 years in power.

"We are investing 3m in youth clubs across the borough in recognition of the scale of demand.

Brick Lane
Plans to tunnel in Brick Lane caused outrage

"A further 300m will be invested in new affordable homes... and refurbishing estates, addressing the problem of overcrowding.

"New children's centres, offering childcare support, will be set up within pram-pushing distance of every mother in response to the large number of women who are not in education, employment or training."

The Conservatives have promised to carry out a review of the housing list system so places are allocated fairly.

"We would stand up to the Government over the Crossrail fiasco and proposals to bore a hole in the middle of Brick Lane.

Ensuring police stations are "fully operational and open" as well as putting "proper police officers on the beat" not community support officers is also a priority.

Leader of the Lib Dems in Tower Hamlets, Janet Ludlow said they would advocate a "common sense" approach to businesses and residential areas which would be affected by the Olympics development.

Costs for the RichMix entertainment complex, which she claimed have risen from 3m to 26m, would also fall under scrutiny.

Camden

Analysts claim aggressive campaigns by opposition parties in Camden, north London, could reduce Labour's majority of 18 sufficiently to push the council into no overall control (NOC).

Determined to remain in power the Labour party is pledging to invest in services and to "take the fight to the criminals".

They are promising a robust approach to crime and anti-social behaviour while investing in community facilities to give young people an alternative.

Keen to close the gap on Labour, the Tories are focusing on keeping council tax low, ridding the area of drugs and providing adequate housing.

Boroughs on the edge
Bexley - Tories looking to overturn Labour majority of 1
Brent - Labour's overall majority under threat
Croydon - Tories targeting the Labour majority of 5
Hammersmith and Fulham - Labour defending a majority of 12
Hillingdon - Council currently in no overall control
Kingston - Lib Dem majority of 15 under threat
Merton - Labour defending a majority of 8

Adrian Oliver, chairman of the Camden Green party, said: "We would reopen public toilets in Kentish Town and Highgate, where there are none, and reverse post office closures.

"For example there are 13 estate agents in a parade of shops in Highgate, we would change planning guidelines to ensure there is a proper range of shops and improve the character of the village."

The Liberal Democrats' campaign targets crime and advocates the "appropriate" use of ASBOs, which they say should not be used with convicted criminals.

It also tackles the "Draconian" controlled parking scheme by proposing to get rid of clamping and retrain parking wardens to help cut the number of fines.

Hounslow

With a majority of 12 the Labour party is in power in the west London borough of Hounslow where housing provision and Heathrow Airport dominate the political agenda.

Here political commentators have said if the Conservatives enjoy a revival, and the Liberal Democrats are able to put up candidates in every ward, the political makeup could change.

Vice chairman of the Hounslow Lib Dems Andy Dakers said their policy centred around the themes "Safer, Fairer, Greener".

"We want to introduce matching schemes which address the needs of elderly people by developing friendships as well as bring in Agreement Behaviour Orders, with a support package, to tackle anti-social behaviour.

He said they also wanted to "get advanced planning permission for groups of homes... to accelerate the introduction of micro-power generation of solar and wind energy".

Labour's focus is on investment in infrastructure and services for local people as well as promoting value for money for residents.

The Conservative party is pledging to keep council tax down, upgrade pavements and provide "decent family homes".




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