THE BATTLE lines have been drawn as Hucknall prepares for one of the most hotly-contested elections in living memory.
Voters will go to the polling stations on Thursday May 5 to elect nine councillors to represent the town on Ashfield District Council.
Nominations closed this week and the Dispatch can now reveal that a record number of 33 candidates will be involved in the scramble for Hucknall seats across four wards — North, West, East and Central.
The election will be the first major test of public feeling in Ashfield since the Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government came to power last year.
Although it is a district vote, major national issues such as stinging cuts to public services and the recession are sure to be fresh in the electorate’s mind.
Overall the breakdown of candidates is ten in Hucknall West, nine in Hucknall North, eight in Hucknall East and six in Hucknall Central. Each will return two councillors apart from Hucknall West, which will elect three.
Hucknall and the rest of Ashfield had traditionally been a Labour stronghold until the last election in 2007 when the party was wiped out.
The Liberal Democrats assumed control and for the last four years there has been a power struggle across the floor.
But Labour is now back in charge in a coalition with the Independents.
The three major parties — Labour, Conservative and Lib Dems — will compete for each Hucknall seat.
West is likely to be the most keenly-contested, although two of the councillors elected last time around — Lib Dems Austin Rathe and Louise Bradshaw — are not standing for re-election in Hucknall.
The Labour candidates are former Ashfield and Notts county councillor Chris Baron, Jim Grundy and Ken Knight.
For the Tories, current Notts county councillors Mick Murphy and Kevin Rostance stand alongside Tony Arnold. Husband and wife duo Harry and Jean Toseland and Ken Cotham are the Lib Dem hopefuls, while Independent Alan Davies completes the line-up.
In Hucknall East, Independent Rob Rankin and Labour’s Dave Shaw will be hoping to defend their seats. Their opposition will come from Keir Morrison (Lab), Trevor Peat (Con), Ian Smith (Con), James Moore (Lib Dem), Nicole Knight (Lib Dem) and Richard Darrington (Ind).
In Hucknall North, the Labour candidates are Ian Morrison and the town’s longest-serving councillor, John Wilmott.
They will go up against Tories Robert Copley and John Dymock, who is hoping to defend the seat, Lib Dems Nicola Ellis and David Paylor, Independent and former Ashfield councillor Bob Gow, Green Party candidate Lisa-Jane Brown and UK Independence Party (UKIP) hopeful Ron Nixon.
Standing for re-election in Hucknall Central is Labour’s Trevor Locke, who is joined by fellow Labour candidate Lachlan Morrison.
Rivals are Lib Dems Adam Braddow and Karen Day, and Tories Ben Marshall and Steven Sadler.
The current division of the 33 seats at Ashfield is 13 Lib Dems, ten Independents, nine Labour councillors and one Conservative.
The Hucknall split is four Lib Dems, three Labour, one Tory and one Independent.
The election also doubles up as a referendum on planned changes to the nationaiwde voting system.