The local elections this year see nearly half the council seats in the country being contested. The Conservatives are defending seats won in 2007 which were an excellent set of results. So heavy losses are considered inevitable.
Colin Rallings and Michael Thrasher, writing in the Local Government Chronicle (£), suggest the Conservatives will lose around 1,000 of the 5,000 seats we are defending. They suggest that Conservative councils such as Medway, Brighton & Hove, Gravesham and Dover could fall to Labour.
What is harder to predict is what will happen in the large number of councils where there are no Labour councillors at all, or only a handful. Will the Conservatives make gains from the Lib Dems. Rallings and Thrasher point out that the Council byelection results suggest the Lib Dems doing better than the opinion polls suggest. But I suspect that Conservatives losses to Labour could be partially offset by gains from the Lib Dems.
All the seats are coming up for election in several district councils currently under the control of the Lib Dems. Eastbourne currently has 20 Lib Dem councillors and only seven Conservatives. Another long shot is Oadby and Wigston with 21 Lib Dems and five Conservatives.
But some others are much closer. Lewes looks more competitive with 23 Lib Dems to 17 Conservatives. Taunton Dean is on a knife edge – with the Lib Dems ahead of the Conservatives by 26 to 25. Similarly in Teignbridge where the Lib Dems are ahead of the Conservatives by 21 to 19. Even in councils where only a third of the seats are up for election the Lib Dems could be in trouble in Winchester (where they are ahead of the Conservatives by 29 to 26) – and St Albans (where their lead over the Conservatives is 29 to 24.)
North Norfolk has 31 Lib Dems to 16 Conservatives. Northampton has 26 Lib Dems to 15 Conservatives. South Somerset has 38 Lib Dems to 17 Conservatives. So those all look more distant prospects. But that still leaves at least five councils where the Conservatives are in with a shout of gaining control.