THE candidates have been declared and the countdown to May 22 has begun as politicians step up their campaigning for your vote.
A total of 20 seats are up for election in 19 of the borough’s 20 wards and with the make up of Swindon Council finely balanced, with a Conservative majority of one seat, it is poised to be a crucial ballot.
Some of the key battlegrounds could include Old Town, where current Haydon Wick councillor Claire Ellis will move in an attempt to oust Labour’s Nadine Watts, and Covingham and Dorcan sees Labour’s Julian Price face opposition from ex-Tory councillor Kevin Parry and Covingham Parish Council chairman Brian Osbourn.
The council will lose some stalwarts this time around but not due to a lack of votes. Veteran Tory councillors Mike Bawden (Con, Chiseldon & Lawn) and Michael Dickinson (Con, Lydiard & Freshbrook) will be standing down.
Meanwhile, the Liberal Democrats have 15 candidates, the UK Independence Party has fielded one for each seat, and the Green Party has entered with their biggest Swindon ticket of 12 names.
There are also three independents, Nick Kearns, in Central ward, Richard Symonds, in Shaw and John Newman in Wroughton and Wichelstowe.
Pavlos Chatzinopoulos is the sole Social Democratic Party candidate.
Other wards that have seen moves are Gorse Hill and Pinehurst, with a replacement sought for the outgoing independent Rochelle Russell, and current Shaw councillor Garry Perkins will run for the Haydon Wick seat vacated by Claire Ellis.
Tory councillor David Renard, Swindon Council leader, said he hoped the party could make gains to increase their narrow majority.
“The ambition is to increase the majority after the all-out election last time produced some unexpected results,” the Haydon Wick councillor said.
“We have a clear vision for the future of Swindon and we want to continue to deliver on it as we have been doing for the last ten years since we gained majority control.”
Meanwhile, Labour Group leader Jim Grant said: “This election will be about which party is most standing up for the interests of local residents.
“The Labour Party has set out a clear list of policies seeking to address issues residents feel strongly about, whether that be reintroducing a free and universal green waste collection policy, investing more in resurfacing roads or protecting our open spaces.”
Stan Pajak, the Liberal Democrat leader and Eastcott ward councillor, said he had hoped to field more than the party’s 15 candidates, citing admin issues, but added the aim was a boost to the four seats they already hold.
He said: “It will be a very interesting election – we have four members and we want to increase that.
Admin got in the way of fielding more candidates but I think we are giving people enough opportunity to vote Lib Dem.”
John Short, the chairman of UKIP’s Swindon branch, said he was delighted the party were able to put forward a full roster.
“We have gone through a reorgainisng and reforming and we are over the moon to have 20 candidates,” he said.
“We want more effective front-line services and we would do away with the green waste charge, bedroom tax and freeze council tax for five years.”
Green Party press officer and Wroughton candidate Talis Kimberley said the party had a broad appeal locally.
She said: “We are a grass roots political party and have a common ground across the specturm – we would like to get a Green voice on Swindon Council and we want a local voice on development issues, as well as a rethink of the green waste charge.”
For a full list of candidates see www.swindonadvertiser.co.uk.
l Are you registered to vote in elections on May 22? The deadline is May 6 so if not call 01793 464601 or visit www.swindon.gov.uk and click on the council and democracy link