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Last Updated: Monday, 1 May 2006, 08:34 GMT 09:34 UK
Fight for voters in bigger cities
A polling station
Voters go to the polls for some councils on Thursday
A close fight is expected for control of the biggest English local authority.

Any of the three main parties could end up with the largest number of seats on Birmingham City Council - although no one party is likely to be in control.

Tories and Lib Dems now work together to run Birmingham, even though Labour is the biggest party.

A third of the seats are up for grabs across the seven Metropolitan authorities in the West Midlands.

Eyes will also be on Solihull, one of the few Tory-strongholds among the urban councils.

In one of the biggest shocks of the 2005 general election, Lib Dems took the Solihull parliamentary seat last year.

Chris Game, from the Institute of Local Government Studies at Birmingham University, described last year's win as "quite remarkable and really unexpected" and said the party would be looking to follow up the success on the council.

COUNCIL ELECTION PAGES

Power is divided in the Black Country with the two larger parties each holding two councils.

Dudley and Walsall has been warming to the Conservatives who have overall control, while Labour are in power in neighbouring Wolverhampton and Sandwell.

Sandwell is one of the BNP target areas in the region. The party is also fielding candidates in all 40 seats in Birmingham. Sandwell also has four Independent candidates standing.

Other candidates standing in Birmingham under Respect, Green, Independent, Official Monster Raving Loony, Legalise Cannabis Alliance and UKIP banners.

Mr Game said of the likelihood of Tories taking over in Birmingham: "Taking it with a majority party control, I honestly don't think there is a chance.

"The Lib Dems are looking at least as seriously as emerging as the largest single party - not least because in many of the split results where candidates from two different parties were elected in 2004, Labour are defending against the Liberal Democrats, and they are going to be some of the ultra marginal seats we are going to be looking at on the night."

Polls are open from 0700 to 2200 BST on Thursday.




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