Voters flock to the polls
PEOPLE from all over the area were heading for the polls today to decide who governs their communities.
In Reading there is a real chance that Labour could lose control of the borough council after 22 years in the majority. West Berkshire is not voting this year, but in Wokingham borough there are some very close contests between the Tories and Lib Dems in Woodley, Earley and Winnersh.
Polls do not close until 10pm, giving everyone time to get to a polling station after work.
The close contest in Reading should persuade more people to vote, after only 35% turned out last year.
The Tories are saying it is time for a change, while Labour claim their record is strong despite their party's national problems, and the Lib Dems say they want to shift power from the Civic Centre to local communities.
The current make up of the council is Labour 25, Conservative 14, and Lib Dem 7, giving Labour a four-seat majority. If they lose this, the largest party could try and run a minority administration, or two of the parties could go into coalition.
There will be close contests in Labour-Tory marginals including Minster, Kentwood and Church wards, and between the Lib Dems and Labour in council leader David Sutton's Katesgrove ward.
The Lib Dems also have a good shot in Redlands ward to make it three wins in a row, while the Tories will be very confident of gains in Caversham and Peppard wards.
They should easily defend their seats in Mapledurham and Thames wards, while Lib Dem-dominated Tilehurst seems safe for them.
The Greens have been talking up their chances of a breakthrough in Park ward, which has seen intense four-way campaigning between the major parties.
The voting is being watched nationally as an indicator, along with the Mayoral election in London, of just how deep the Tory revival goes. The party has been polling way ahead of Labour nationally ever since Gordon Brown called off the snap general election last October, and the Lib Dems have also recovered from their low point under former leader Ming Campbell.
A strong result for the Tories in Reading, Labour's last council in the South East, will be seen as a bellwether for the next general election.
Across the boundary in Wokingham borough, turnout last year was 38.8%, down slightly on 2005 and 2006. The borough's total electorate is 117,871, but seven of the 25 wards are not voting today.
The council is heavily Tory - they hold 43 seats to the Lib Dems' 11 - but some individual wards like Loddon, Hillside, Winnersh and Charvil will see close fights.
Votes will be counted on Friday and each result will be posted on the Reading Chronicle website as they come in.
Here is a full guide to the Reading Borough polling stations:
Abbey: New Hope Community Church, Sir Herman Gollancz Hall, Wesley Church Hall and St John and St Stephen Parish Centre
Battle: Reading Education Centre, Battle Library and Oxford Road Primary (canteen)
Caversham: New Bridge Nursery School, Thameside Primary School, Amersham Road Community Centre and Caversham Primary School
Church: Scout and Guide Joint HQ, The Ridgeway Primary School, South Reading Youth and Community Centre and Christ the King Church Hall
Katesgrove: Katesgrove Primary School, Christchurch Centre and George Palmer Infant School
Kentwood: St Mary Magdalene Church Hall, United Reform Church Hall, Upcroft Primary School (drama room) and Norcot Community Centre
Mapledurham: Mapledurham Pavillion
Minster: Coley Primary School, All Saints Hall and Coley Park Community Centre
Norcot: St Georges Church Hall, St Michaels Primary and Ranikhet Primary School
Park: New Town Primary and Alfred Sutton Primary School
Peppard: Emmer Green Youth and Comm Centre, Milestone Community Centre and Micklands Primary School
Redlands: St Lukes Hall, Redlands Primary School, Hexham Community Centre and Museum of English Rural Life
Southcote: Southcote Primary School, Manor Primary School, Southcote Library Hall and Prospect College (drama room)
Thames: Highdown School gymnasium, St Andrews Hall, Caversham Primary School
Tilehurst: Moorlands Primary School, Park Lane Primary School, Tilehurst Village Hall
Whitley: Whitley Park Infants, Geoffrey Field Infant School, Whitley Wood Community Centre
This article appeared in Reading Chronicle 01 May 08