Labour on course for big council gains as voters head to polls in local elections
Voters across England will head to the polls for local elections today in the first major test for the parties since the snap general election last year.
Labour is expected to make gains in local authorities - especially in London - while the Conservatives are expected to fall back.
Some 150 areas are holding elections, with 4,371 seats up for grabs and six mayoral contests taking place.
An analysis by experts Michael Thrasher and Colin Rallings said Jeremy Corbyn was on course to gain an extra 200 council seats while Theresa May would lose 75.
A separate analysis by Stephen Fisher, another expert, suggested Labour might win 135 seats with the Tories even making a small gain of eight.
In a final Prime Minister’s Questions clash before the polls, Mr Corbyn blasted Tory policy in the face of rising homelessness and a struggling health and care system.
“With council tax rising by more than 5% all over the country - isn't the truth facing voters tomorrow that with the Tories you pay more and you get less?" he fumed.
But Mrs May insisted there was "more funding going into the NHS, more funding going into our schools, more funding going into social care,” and said Tory councils “cost you less” in tax.
Today Mr Corbyn has launched a fresh attack, claiming Tory austerity has “almost certainly” increased the death rate, while his Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell has argued voters could be willing to face council tax hikes.
In an interview with the Guardian, Mr McDonnell also played down expectations Labour could seize the Tory boroughs of Westminster, Wandsworth, and Kensington and Chelsea.
“It will be a good night, but we’re being set up by the Tories and the media, so if there’s a single Tory councillor left in this country we’ll have failed,” he said.
“Taking individual councils is difficult - I think it’s really difficult - I know that in my own patch.
“In Wandsworth there’s a real grassroots campaign going on there. But we’ll have to see how that goes on the night.”
Results of the local elections will begin to be announced overnight and will stretch into the following afternoon.
Voters in Swindon, Woking, Watford, Gosport and Bromley have to take ID to their polling stations today as part of a trial. Click here for a major breakdown of some of the key seats up for grabs in London.