Local elections 2017: Which are the areas to watch?

Jeremy Corbyn's Labour Party put to the test in ballot seen as a 'dry run' for June's general election

Polling station
(Image credit: Matt Cardy/Getty Images)

Voters go to the polls today to choose their local representatives, just weeks before the general election.

For the Theresa May and the Tories, the local elections are a trial run for what they hope will be a landslide victory next month, while Jeremy Corbyn's Labour Party will be anxiously scanning results for signs support hasn't melted in their traditional heartlands.

The Liberal Democrats, meanwhile, hope for a grassroots revival to establish them as a credible alternative voice in the June election.

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Voter allegiances are traditionally more flexible when it comes to local issues and turnout is usually low, meaning a few dozen votes can radically change the outcome. Together, this means local elections can produce very interesting results.

Where are local elections taking place?

There are 4,851 council seats up for grabs across England, Scotland and Wales.

More than 1,500 are currently held by Labour, while the Conservatives have 1,136. The Lib Dems and the SNP hold more than 400 each and Plaid Cymru, Ukip and the Greens split the remaining few hundred.

Voters in six city areas will also be asked to choose a "metro" mayor, who, unlike their traditional chain-wearing, fete-opening namesakes, will have significant powers over issues such as local transport, jobs and housing.

Metro mayors are being elected in Liverpool, West of England, Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, Tees Valley, the West Midlands and Greater Manchester, where former Labour leadership candidate Andy Burnham is predicted to win.

What are the ones to watch?

Local elections are widely seen as a bellwether for how the main parties can expect to perform at the national level. This time in particular, they're being seen as a sign as to whether Labour can defend its traditional strongholds from the Tories.

Northumberland, where Conservative candidates believe a council takeover is within their grasp, is the ultimate test of this, says the Financial Times.

At the moment, Tory councillors are "barely a presence" in large parts of north-east England, so a Conservative victory would represent a sea-change in voter attitudes in the region.

Even if Labour holds on in Northumberland, it can expect to lose control of Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire county councils and will likely suffer even more losses to the SNP in its former heartlands in Scotland, political analyst Professor John Curtice told the Daily Telegraph.

Elsewhere, results in Somerset, Hampshire and Dorset "may give us a clue about the extent of any Lib Dem revival in the south and south-west," says The Guardian.

When will the results be in?

Polling stations close at 10pm, after which the business of totting up votes can commence.

First results are expected to come in from Wales in the early hours of Friday and then trickle in throughout the day.

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