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Final countdown to election day
8:30am Monday 30th April 2012 in Local
POLITICIANS are getting set for the final stages of one of the most hotly contested Dudley elections for years.
Labour and Conservative candidates will be hoping their party will be the one to have an overall majority by holding 37 or more seats on Dudley Council after votes have been cast on Thursday.
A total of 26 places are up for grabs on the 72-seat authority and Labour, who currently have 28 councillors, need to make gains in just under half to wrestle control from the Tories, who hold 40 seats while three seats are currently vacant.
Across the borough the UK Independence Party is looking to build on its current tally of one councillor while The Green Party has a candidate in all 24 Dudley wards and is eyeing the Netherton, Woodside and St Andrews seat to provide a chance for a breakthrough.
As well as the 24 scheduled elections, triggered by councillors coming to the end of their four year terms, voters will also be making their mark in two by-elections.
In Kingswinford North and Wall Heath the resignation of Tory cllr Paul Woodall created an earlier than expected chance for Lib Dem turned Labour candidate Lynn Boleyn to fight for a return to the council chamber.
The death of cllr Margaret Cowell means an extra seat will be contested in the key marginal of Wollaston and Stourbridge Town, where the Tories held off a Labour challenge by 272 votes last year.
UKIP councillor Malcolm Davis may be buoyed-up by national opinion polls showing his party overtaking the Lib Dems but he will need all the support he can muster to hold off Labour in the St James's ward.
His 2008 majority of 218 is significantly smaller than Labour's winning margin last year of 961.
In the Halesowen seat of Belle Vale, Tory cllr Jennifer Dunn has seen the party's majority cut from 756 when she was elected in 2008 to 243 last year.
Campaigning has been overshadowed by the recent sudden death of cllr Dunn's partner, leading Conservative cllr Angus Adams.
His death happened too close to the election for his successor be decided on May 3 and his Norton seat to will remain empty until a by-election on a date to be arranged after polling day.