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Parties get set to do battle
NOMINATIONS have closed for the St Albans District Council elections on June 10, with the Lib Dems needing seven seats to take overall control.
With a third of the council up for election, seats are up for grabs in 18 of the 20 wards and candidates from the three main parties are joined by three from the St Albans Party, two Green candidates and independent councillor Tony Swendell.
The Lib Dems have set their sights on Labour seats in Ashley and St Peters wards held by councillors Ted Hill and cabinet housing chief Helen Ives-Rose, which went to the Lib Dems last year.
Another vulnerable councillor could be Tory Clare Ellis in Verulam, where her party lost a seat to the Lib Dems in a recent by-election.
All three of these contests will feature candidates from the new St Albans Party, which will be hoping to build on its by-election achievement of knocking Labour into fourth place.
Former city centre manager Melvyn Teare is aiming to take a Tory seat in Marshalswick South for the Lib Dems, which won a seat by 506 votes there last year.
The sitting councillor for that ward, Mike Bretherton, is standing down, but his son Richard will be hoping to keep the seat Conservative.
Redbourn's independent councillor Tony Swendell, who beat a Conservative candidate by more than 200 votes four years ago, is standing again and will be hoping that his local reputation is sufficient for him to repeat the feat.
The Lib Dems, who hold the other two Redbourn seats, are not standing against him.
Labour has no obvious opportunities for gains, but is near impregnable in its stronghold of Sopwell, Batchwood and London Colney.
Its candidate for Batchwood, where Councillor Andrew Rose is retiring, is Ms Eleanor Harris.
The Conservatives will be hoping to take the Harpenden East ward seat from former Lib Dem council leader Brian Peyton, as his party won there by only 295 votes over them last year.
Green Marc Scheimann is standing against Conservative cabinet member for leisure John Newman in Harpenden West and Clarence ward will also have a Green candidate.
Four other councillors are standing down Conservatives Mike Jameson, Hazel Ward and Martin Treasure, and Lib Dem John Wright.
Most wards are represented by three councillors elected for four-year terms, but Sandridge and Colney Heath have only two and will not feature in the election this year.
The poll will be simultaneous with elections to the European Parliament, which could boost turnout.