CAMPAIGNING is under way in Eastbourne's most important borough council election for years.

The town goes to the polls on Thursday May 3 to elect the entire council.

The 27 successful councillors will retain their seats at the Town Hall until 2011.

The Conservatives who currently control the reins of power on the council and have a three seat majority will be battling to retain that control, while the opposition Liberal Democrat party is working to claim back seats in crucial areas such as Old Town, Upperton and Sovereign Harbour.

With Labour fielding only a small number of candidates in each ward, the Green Party will also be looking to increase its share of the vote - last year in all but one seat, the Greens pushed Labour into fourth place.

This week the deadline for nominations closed and Wednesday saw the unveiling of the list of 90 candidates standing for election in Eastbourne's nine wards - Meads, Ratton, Old Town, Upperton, Hampden Park, Devonshire, St Anthony's, Langney and Sovereign.

Three councillors will be elected in each ward.

The Conservative, Liberal Democrat, Labour, Green and the UK Independence parties are all fielding candidates and this year sees the largest ever number of candidates being put forward for election.

The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats are each fielding 27 candidates, Labour 12, the Green Party nine and the UK Independence Party five.

The record breaking number of candidates beats the 81 that stood in 2002, which was the last time the entire council was up for election.

Because the elections are being seen as such a landmark, politicians and Town Hall bosses are hoping the apathy of voters in previous years will be turned around with a healthy percentage of the electorate turning out to cast their vote.

The changes in the way the council is elected follows a decision last year when members voted unanimously in favour of applying to the Minister for Local Government for a shake up.

In the past Eastbourne voters have elected a third of the council - nine councillors - each year but this was scrapped in favour of the council being elected in its entirety for a four-year stint.

A number of long-standing council members are standing down this year.

Meads Conservative David Stevens and Sovereign ward's Patrick Bowker are both retiring from local politics and earlier this year former Liberal Democrat councillor Norman Marsh resigned from the party and stayed on as an Independent representative.

Langney Liberal Democrat Irene Sims also resigned recently citing personal and health reasons, and fellow Langney LibDem Robert Slater, a relative newcomer, is stepping down from the council after moving to Scotland.