ELECTION PREVIEW: Everything you need to know about Knowsley’s local elections
Knowsley will go to the polls in May as last year’s delayed council elections take place with added protection against Covid-19.
Last year’s Knowsley Council election was postponed due to the pandemic, but as the borough was not due to have an election in 2021 only 17 seats are up for grabs this year.
These include the 15 seats that were due to be filled last year, plus two others where there have been unexpected vacancies due to resignation or death.
Voters will also be able to make their choices for mayor of the Liverpool City Region and Merseyside’s police and crime commissioner.
In the mayoral race, current Labour mayor Steve Rotheram has announced he will be seeking re-election, while Police and Crime Commissioner Jane Kennedy is standing down.
A very different election day
Like elsewhere in the country, Knowsley will be making changes to how polling stations are run this year, with regular cleaning, protective screens and queuing systems to maintain social distancing.
Voters will also be required to wear masks inside polling stations and hand sanitiser will be available. It is not yet clear whether there will be more polling stations or if different venues will be used to further aid social distancing.
Given the pandemic, it is also expected that more people will choose to vote by post rather than attend polling stations in person.
The deadline for applying for a postal vote is April 20, and applications need to be sent to the council.
Races to watch
Each of Knowsley’s 15 wards will be electing at least one councillor in May’s election, but St Gabriel’s and Halewood South will both elect two councillors.
In St Gabriel’s, the extra councillor will replace former mayoress Dot Johnson, who resigned from the council in July 2020 over a Facebook post about the Black Lives Matter movement.
In Halewood South, the extra seat has been vacant for more than a year following the death of independent councillor Allan Harvey in December 2019.
The first national lockdown meant a by-election to fill Cllr Harvey’s seat could not be held, leaving the ward with only two councillors for the whole of last year.
Knowsley remains a Labour stronghold, so it is likely that the party will win the majority of seats up for election in May.
However, there are a few wards where Labour may be nervous about their prospects.
The party’s chief threat comes from the Greens, who will be looking to secure another seat in Prescot South where they already hold two out of the three council slots.
Convincing wins for Cllr Jo Burke in 2019 and Cllr Kai Taylor in 2018 mean remaining Labour councillor Stef O’Keeffe could be at risk.
The Greens could also be looking to oust Cllr Terry Byron in Whiston and Cronton, where they won in 2019.
Previous results suggest cabinet member Margaret Harvey’s seat in Roby could be tightly contested. In 2019, Cllr Hugh Malone only narrowly saw off a challenge from Green candidate Kirk Sandringham, winning by just 101 votes.
Meanwhile, Labour will be hoping to defeat Lib Dem leader Carl Cashman in Prescot North. However, previous years have seen strong wins for the Lib Dems in the ward and taking back the seat will be a big challenge for Labour.
Elsewhere, the incumbent councillors have commanding majorities that will be difficult to overturn while social distancing rules that prevent leafleting and campaigning door-to-door could also hinder challengers.
Words: Chris McKeon, Local Democracy Reporter
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