Town ready to go to the polls

EASTBOURNE goes to the polls today in a crucial election which will determine the political make up of the town's borough council for the next four years.

For the first time ever, all 27 seats on Eastbourne Borough Council are up for election and whoever wins will remain a councillor until 2011.

At present, the Conservatives hold the reins of power at the Town Hall with a three-seat majority but the main contender, the Liberal Democrat Party, is hoping to tip the balance in its favour tomorrow.

The Liberal Democrats and Conservatives may be the main challengers but also fielding candidates are the Labour, Green and UK Independence parties.

There are three seats in each ward up for grabs and nine wards — Langney, Sovereign, St Anthony's, Devonshire, Upperton, Ratton, Old Town, Hampden Park and Meads — across the town. A record number of 89 candidates are standing.

At the last election in 2006, the Tories romped to victory taking the Old Town seat from LibDem veteran councillor Maurice Skilton, a borough councillor for more than 40 years.

That dominance was strengthened when Langney LibDem councillor Irene Sims resigned her seat earlier this year and St Anthony's LibDem, Councillor Norman Marsh, resigned from the party and stayed on as an Independent.

Thursday's election though marks the end of an era for four councillors who are stepping down.

Meads stalwart David Stevens is retiring from the council after more than 25 years as a councillor along with fellow Tory Patrick Bowker from Sovereign ward, Langney's Robert Slater from the Lib Dems who moved to Scotland earlier this year and the Independent Norman Marsh who is quitting politics.

One key battleground in the election is Old Town - last year it had the biggest electoral turnout, with more than 50 per cent of people voting.

Conservative councillors Anne Angel, Simon Herbert and Ian Lucas are facing opposition from three Liberals and a Labour and Green candidate.

Another interesting ward to watch will be Langney, which had the lowest turnout last year, with 32 per cent, and where the Lib Dems face opposition from three Tories, two Greens and a Labour candidate.

Also coming under the political spotlight is the Conservative stronghold of Upperton, where the Liberal Democrats will be hoping to win votes from residents angry at the Conservative pay to park scheme which will see them having to pay to park outside their homes from next year.

Sovereign is also a political hot potato because the Tories have borne the brunt from people who complain of overdevelopment of the area.

Those behind the election say it is vital people cast their vote on Thursday because the political make up of the council will remain the same for the next four years.

Polling stations are open from 7am to 10pm and the count is at Eastbourne's Winter Gardens.

The earliest results are expected to be announced at around 1am.

For a full list of results as it happens at the Winter Garden, see the Herald's website,