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Last Updated: Thursday, 4 May 2006, 21:08 GMT 22:08 UK
Viewing guide to election night
Postal votes being counted
Polling ends at 2200 BST but some councils won't declare overnight
It will be a long night for those awaiting the English local election results, with many of the key battlegrounds due to be declared between 0100 and 0500 BST.

However, even then a full picture will not emerge as some councils are delaying their counts until daytime on Friday.

A total of 4,360 council seats are being contested, including 144 English authorities and the 32 London boroughs.


Voting ends and polling stations close across England.


Among the first results of interest will be Manchester, where the Conservatives are keen to regain a foothold in the city after 10 years without a single councillor, perhaps in the Brooklands ward.

Labour hold a 16 seat majority but the Liberal Democrats - inspired by a nearby parliamentary victory in Withington - hope to wrest overall control from them.

The British National Party (BNP) is standing in five wards in Southend-on-Sea, and also hopes to make gains in Rochdale.


In Norwich, where under-fire home secretary Charles Clarke has his parliamentary constituency, there is currently no single party in control.

This may be Labour's best hope in eastern England. It held the council almost uninterrupted for 69 years until losing to the Liberal Democrats in 2002. The Green Party also hopes to make gains on its five (out of 39) councillors.

In Barnsley, the high number of independent candidates standing hope to gain control from Labour.

Labour's grip on St Helens on Merseyside is being threatened by a challenge from the Liberal Democrats. The council leader will be fighting to retain her marginal ward.

The BNP has been concentrating its resources in Sandwell, the most economically-deprived metropolitan district in the West Midlands, although Labour's majority should remain.

Having seized control of the council and caused two general election sensations, the Independent Kidderminster Hospital Health Concern campaigners will again be fielding several candidates in Wyre Forest in Worcestershire.


Will there be a protest vote against Labour in Coventry, where manufacturing has ended at the factories of Peugeot and Jaguar? The Conservatives need just a single gain for an overall majority.


In north London, there has been speculation that Labour may lose overall control of Camden council for the first time since 1968.

There has been a police presence at some polling stations in Birmingham as claims of vote rigging are investigated. The ruling Conservative-Liberal Democrat alliance is expected to remain in power.

Voters in Blackburn with Darwen - a fifth of whom are Muslim - recently saw a visit by US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice to the Commons constituency of foreign secretary Jack Straw. Labour currently has a majority of four councillors.


Tower Hamlets in east London is another borough facing an inquiry into alleged voting irregularities. George Galloway's Respect party is fielding 48 candidates here and is trying to become the largest party on the council.


Barking and Dagenham is being targeted particularly strongly by the BNP. It is fielding 13 election candidates, more than in any other London borough.

Employment Minister Margaret Hodge, who represents Barking at Westminster, caused a stir last month when she said the BNP could win a number of council seats.

Winchester is the parliamentary constituency of Mark Oaten, who was forced to resign as Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman following revelations about his private life. His party is in control by only a handful of seats and the Conservatives hope to capitalise on the Liberal Democrats' discontent with their MP.

Around now, deputy prime minister John Prescott should learn of the results from his local council in Hull - and whether his affair with his diary secretary may have affected Labour's standing in the city.


Two London boroughs currently held by Labour and sought by the Conservatives are expected to declare: Hammersmith and Fulham is in the west of the capital and Bexley, where Labour has a majority of one, is in the east.

The top Conservative target in eastern England is Colchester. The party has held a minority administration for the past two years and needs only three gains to take complete control for the first time in two decades.


The Conservatives see Croydon as a key swing borough, and both party leader David Cameron and shadow home secretary David Davis have campaigned locally to try to capitalise on any disillusionment with Labour.

Labour's sole hope of a gain in London is Lambeth, which is currently run by an alliance of Conservatives and Liberal Democrats, even though Labour is the largest single party.

The Liberal Democrats are hoping to make gains in Haringey in north London, where they won a seat in the general election from Labour last year.


The overall picture is likely to be looking very different to that of a few hours earlier. The first part of the night will have been dominated by the Metropolitan authorities from around England, where Labour performed poorly last time. Therefore its losses are likely to be limited.

By now, however, there will have been declarations from many councils in London. This is where Labour authorities face a greater threat from opposition parties - especially because every single seat in the 32 boroughs is being contested.


The Liberal Democrats are hoping to gain control of Richmond-upon-Thames, which they lost to the Conservatives four years ago.


There is currently a substantial BNP presence - six councillors - on the hung authority in Burnley. A total of 16 of the borough's 45 seats are being contested.


George Galloway's Respect party will discover if it has managed to tap into any anti-war sentiment among voters in Newham in east London.

Bradford, where police are investigating "a small number" of allegations of electoral fraud, is also scheduled to declare now.


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