Stoke-on-Trent City Council is a unitary authority with all the seats up for elections on May 5th. That is the simple bit. The political composition is more complicated. The Council has a Labour leader but also a Cabinet that includes Conservatives, a Lib Dem and councillors from the City Independents. There are also five BNP councillors, a Christian Independent, a Libertarian, three "non-aligned" and five from "Community Voice."
Of course in good year for the Labour Party this is an area where they would be expected to take overall control. But predictions seem rash as this is not a city that follows national trends. There is a good local political blog called Pits n Pots. It notes that the BNP are only fielding ten candidates and says that while Labour are "clear favourites" to win and also that even if they don't the composition running the Council would be likely to change.
Conservative Group leader Cllr Ross Irving says that:
"Stoke has gradually come out of the dinosaur age of local government where every last thing was delivered by the council.
"We've realised now that we have to bring in the private sector and move forward. It won't do Stoke-on-Trent any good at all to have people elected who are hell-bent on confrontation.
The decision of the Conservatives to join a Labour-led coalition has sparked some disquiet. One Conservative councillor, Shaun Bennett, has been deselected and is standing an an independent. He argued that the administration were cutting services when they could be cutting wasteful spending. It sounds to be as though Shaun is good ideologically but his reluctance to accept collective responsibility makes for a political problem. Mind you I suspect if Con/Lab coalitions existed more generally there would be similar tensions.
In contrast the Labour Party are facing six candidates standing on a "Socialists and Trade Unionists against the Cuts."