With all 84 seats on Sheffield Council up for re-election next Thursday after changes to ward boundaries, the council’s Labour group will be looking to maintain and consolidate its control as the ruling party, while the Liberal Democrats hope to make gains on the back of major campaigns about issues such as tree felling and controversial changes to bus services.
The Green Party is targeting eight wards, aiming to create a stronger opposition by increasing its current group of four councillors.
The last election at which every seat was contested was in 2004.
Polling expert Professor Charles Pattie, from Sheffield University’s geography department, said it was a ‘rare thing’.
He said: “Certainly for Sheffield this is relatively unknown territory – quite how it will work out is difficult to say. The great unknown is because all of the seats are up for grabs, everyone will have three candidates to select, so people will have more votes than usual. The easy thing is people will just ‘vote the ticket’ – the Labour supporters will tick all the Labour candidates, for example.”
Prof Pattie said this could lead to two complications, the first being ‘vote splitting’, where many votes among similar candidates can hand the advantage to a rival.
“Possibility two is what the Americans call ‘roll off’ – we could see more people using only one or two of their votes.”
He expressed scepticism about Sheffield experiencing any effect from Jeremy Corbyn’s election as the national Labour leader.
“The bigger effect may be down to turnout, which is usually about 40 per cent.
“I don’t see much evidence of strong, on-the-ground shifts, either to or away from Labour or the Liberal Democrats.
“Staying with the status quo will, I suspect, be what happens.”
The campaigns over buses and the felling of street trees will be a factor in voters’ decisions, he predicted.
“Undoubtedly it will swing it for some people.
“The question that’s genuinely hard to answer is will that have a material effect on the overall outcome of the election, particularly because there’s going to be a core vote of people who will vote for their party through thick and thin.
“Some local issues are in wards currently held by the parties which are running in the same direction as the protesters.
“If that’s the case, you may find local issues reinforce the parties which are strong already.”
Twenty serving Labour councillors are standing down from their wards, including Geoff Smith in Crookes and Nikki Bond in Nether Edge.
Coun Paul Wood has stood down from his Richmond seat to stand in Woodhouse, Coun Peter Rippon aims to swap Shiregreen for Richmond and Coun Penny Baker will stand down in Ecclesall to bid for Stannington.
Former council leader and peer Lord Paul Scriven also has his sights set on a return to the Town Hall with the Liberal Democrats.
He is standing in Ecclesall.
The role of South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner is also up for re-election next Thursday, and the by-election to choose a new MP for Sheffield Brightside and Hillsborough, following the death of Harry Harpham, is happening on the same day.
Mr Harpham’s widow – Southey councillor Gill Furniss – is a candidate.