THE control of Woking Borough Council is again in the hands of the voters when they take part in local elections next week.

A third of the council seats will be on the ballot papers on Thursday 5 May, one in each of the 10 wards.

They are currently held by five Conservatives, three Liberal Democrats, one Labour and one Independent.

The council is run by a minority Conservative administration, with their party holding 13 of the 30 seats, opposed by 12 Lib Dems, three Labour and two Independents.

Both the Tories and Lib Dems will be seeking to gain seats, one to consolidate their position and hold on to power, the other to become the majority party and perhaps form the executive committee.

The two biggest parties are standing in all 10 wards, while Labour has three candidates and the Independents two.

The Green Party is contesting six seats and the Heritage Party – a right-leaning Eurosceptic group made up largely of former UK Independence Party members – has three candidates.

Four councillors are retiring: Lib Dem Ken Howard in St John’s; Independent Mary Bridgeman in Byfleet and West Byfleet; Lib Dem Deborah Hughes in Hoe Valley and Conservative Nancy Martin in Horsell.

Cllr Howard is the second-longest-serving councillor, elected for the first time in 2000, and he was Woking Mayor in 2011-12.

Such changes generally make the seats targets for takeover. The Greens are standing in all three of the Lib Dem seats that are being contested. Elsewhere, the council’s deputy leader, Tory Simon Ashall, is up for re-election for the first time in Heathlands and faces a Heritage Party candidate, along with Lib Dem and Green candidates.

The Heritage Party is also standing against the current mayor, Lib Dem Liam Lyons, in Mount Hermon and is hoping to grab St John’s from the Lib Dems.

As well as targeting the three Lib Dem-held seats, the Tories will be seeking to take the Labour stronghold of Canalside while adding a second councillor in Byfleet and West Byfleet – where they replaced Independent John Bond last year, after he retired from the council.

The Lib Dems will be looking to take the Goldsworth Park seat, which they failed to gain by only 10 votes in 2018, and Horsell, which had a margin of less than 500 in favour of Cllr Martin when she was elected in the same year.

Labour will be fighting to keep Canalside and at least raise their profile elsewhere. The Independents hope not only to keep Byfleet and West Byfleet but to make a headline-grabbing acquisition of the Knaphill seat when Hassan Akberali takes on Conservative Debbie Harlow.

The winning margins are small and upsets are not impossible, with the possibility of a low turnout amid big national and international concerns.

With their national party doing badly in opinion polls, Woking’s Conservatives will be hoping that their change in leadership in October 2020 will encourage the electorate to look more favourably on their administration.

Pledges by the new leader, Ayesha Azad, of a more open approach and better consultation with council tax payers could help to convince voters to keep the Tories in power.

But residents will also have in mind that the borough’s debt is approaching £2billion, along with the continuing controversy of building work and tower blocks in the town centre.