THE balance of power could swing at this year’s council elections. Local Democracy Reporter JOSEPH TIMAN looks at the key battlegrounds and possible outcomes in Bury.

THE ruling group at Bury Council would lose its majority if it fails to defend five seats and make no gains in the upcoming elections.

Labour will be defending a third of its council seats on May 2, but could end up tightening its grip on power.

The Conservatives would have to win seven Labour seats in order to become the biggest party.

But they will be defending more “swing seats” than any other group at this election.

A total of 17 seats will be up for grabs next month – 10 Labour, six Conservative and one Lib Dem.

The two largest parties will be battling it out in Radcliffe and Ramsbottom where they took seats from each other last year.

The Tories gained two seats from Labour, in Pilkington Park and Radcliffe North, in 2018, while the ruling group gained one seat from the Conservatives in Ramsbottom.

The opposition party will also be fighting for votes in Elton where Cllr Michael Hankey, the only Conservative councillor in the ward, is defending his seat.

The Liberal Democrats are defending one seat in Prestwich where their former deputy leader Mary D’Albert will be stepping down after eight years as a councillor for Holyrood.

They will be hoping to gain a seat from Labour in St Mary’s Ward where they narrowly missed out last year when cabinet member for finance and housing Eamonn O’Brien won by 57 votes.

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A total of seven wards in the borough are considered to be safe Labour seats, while three are likely to return Tory councillors.

Some wards, like Sedgley, Radcliffe North and Ramsbottom, are currently represented by more than one party. No seat is safe in these mixed wards which, together with Elton, have two Labour and two Conservative seats between them up for re-election.

Another key battleground will be in Radcliffe North where Cllr Paul Cropper beat the Labour incumbent last May.

New party Radcliffe First could make a dent in the non-Labour vote in Radcliffe where two candidates will be running as “Independents”.

But the hyper-local party will not be fielding a candidate in Radcliffe North, giving Cllr Jamie Walker a greater challenge in defending his seat for Labour.

The Green Party is fielding candidates in every ward but two, while UKIP will have candidates on the ballot in Holyrood and Pilkington Park.

In Labour stronghold Besses, there will be one candidate running for the English Democrats.