TODAY’S the day Wiganers go to the polls for the local elections with a bumper turnout expected due to it being a general election year.
The results, announced on Friday, will determine whether the borough’s council chamber will be subject to a major shake-up or just maintain its status quo.
Last year the ruling Labour Party claimed a 51 per cent share of the vote, securing 23 out of 25 seats, and will be hopeful of winning all 25 available this year.
Boosted by an expected higher turnout due to the national poll, a 100 per cent hit rate this year would see the party have 66 out of the 75 chamber seats.
The Conservatives have a candidate in every ward and will be looking to add to their two seats.
Whereas Ukip will want to build on their 16 per cent share in 2014 and are fighting hard to gain their first council berth.
We have picked out a number of wards where the results could have wider ramifications.
STANDISH WITH LANGTREE
The battle for Standish has become a bitter affair as we get closer to polling day with several candidates getting themselves involved in social media based spats.
Labour lost a presence in the ward when former Coun Emma McGurrin was deselected prior to last year’s elections with her vacated seat claimed by Standish Independents’ Coun Debbie Fairhurst.
This year sees father-in-law Coun George Fairhurst fighting to retain his place with four other candidates aiming to break up the Fairhurst family triumvirate, completed by George’s son and Debbie’s husband Coun Gareth
Debbie Parkinson is Labour’s hope with Sharon Holden standing for the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition and Ray Whittingham for the Conservatives.
Ukip candidate Emma Appleton has been involved in a Twitter dispute with Coun Gareth Fairhurst last week and each party has been hitting the streets on the campaign trail throughout the last month or so.
Standish is gearing up to be one of the most interesting stories of election day.
A total of six hopefuls are vying for Bryn’s seat, making it the most keenly contested ward in terms of candidate numbers.
Official opposition leader Coun Gary Wilkes, of the Wigan Independent Network, is fighting to retain his seat although he will be pushed hard by his five opponents including the potentially confusing namesake David Wilkes, who is standing as an Independent.
Labour’s Nathan Murray will be hoping an increased turnout due to the general election will boost his cause while Stephen Jones (Ukip), Catherine Aspey (Community Action Party) and Judith Atherton (Conservatives) are also bidding to de-seat the WIN leader.
A win for anyone but Coun Wilkes could have wider implications for the make-up of the council chamber as if WIN loses a member, it could potentially lose its official opposition status.
The result in Atherton may also have repercussions across the council chamber with another WIN candidate fighting to retain his seat.
Party deputy Norman Bradbury is up against Toby Hewitt (Conservative), Quinton Smith (UKIP) and Craig Wilson (Left Unity).
Meanwhile Martin Aldred (Labour) will be hoping to join his mother Karen and father Mark (who is trying to retain his seat in Atherleigh) in the chamber.
This means that if the night does not go to plan for the official opposition, WIN could be looking for both a new leader and second in command.
Coun Bradbury has been campaigning for Atherton to be given its own town council but has so far been unsuccessful, with his support, or conversely, lack of support, on this issue potentially having a big influence on the result.
Former mayor of Wigan Michael Winstanley is bidding for a return to the council for the first time since losing his seat in 2011.
Having lost out by a narrow margin of 72 votes in last year’s poll against Coun David Arrowsmith, he will be hoping for an extra push to get him over the line.
Michael is up against Philip Easton (UKIP) and David Stazicker (Green Party) along with Labour’s Stephen Murphy who is hoping to hold onto his seat.
The UK Independence Party made major gains across the borough last year without winning a seat but claimed second place in a number of wards.
They will be hoping to build on that performance and Mark Bradley, their parliamentary candidate in Wigan, is also standing in the ANSW ward, and could represent one of the party’s best hopes.
He does, however, face an tough challenge against long-time councillor and cabinet member Coun Chris Ready and a result in UKIP’s favour would be a major upset.
The uphill nature of the task is perhaps best represented by last year’s result where UKIP’s branch chairman Maureen McCoy (who is this year standing in Worsley Mesnes) lost out to Labour’s Coun Ron Conway by 754 votes.
Polling booths are open between 7am and 10pm, get in as early as you can to avoid queues.