POLLING stations across Wirral are welcoming their first voters this morning as both the local and European elections begin.
Labour are strongly favoured to retain control on Wirral Council even though they are defending in 11 of the 22 seats available.
They currently have 36 council seats - 15 more than the Conservatives on 21.
The Liberal Democrats trail a long way behind with six seats and there is one Independent councillor.
The Tories defend in two-thirds of their seats and the Lib Dems battle to hold on to two seats.
UKIP and Wirral Green Party are both contesting all 22 seats in the elections.
Three Independent candidates will be seeking election in Rock Ferry, Seacombe and West Kirby and Thurstaston.
A further two hopefuls will be fighting under the Trade Unionists and Socialists Against Cuts banner.
Post-election celebrations will be put on hold following a decision to delay the release of today's local election results until around noon on Friday.
With both the local and European elections taking place on the same day, verification procedures are unlikely to be completed until the early hours of Friday morning.
A spokesman for Wirral Council said: "We thought it would be better for the tellers to start fresh on Friday morning."
The results of the European elections will be announced on Sunday.
FOR A FULL LIST OF WIRRAL AND EURO CANDIDATES, CLICK HERE.
TO FIND OUT WHERE YOUR NEAREST POLLING STATION IS, CLICK HERE.
In case you are still unsure on who to vote for, The Globe asked each group leader to explain why they should get your vote.
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Labour group leader and leader of Wirral Council Phil Davies.
Councillor Phil Davies wrote: “The Labour Party is committed to improving our economy, tackling inequalities and protecting vulnerable people.
“When Labour won control of Wirral Council in May 2012 we inherited a £17 million overspend from the previous Tory/LibDem administration; bad debts of £10 million and poor standards of corporate governance.
“We also faced unprecedented cuts in our budget by the Tory-led government, amounting to £109 million over three years which equates to one-third of the council’s budget.
“In spite of these unfair cuts from the Tory-led government, Wirral’s Labour-led council has brought the budget under control, reduced bad debts and tightened our governance procedures.
“Labour has frozen the council tax for two years, retaining a discount for the poorest pensioners; invested £2million in our leisure facilities and £1.5 million in affordable housing; reinstated monthly cleaning of entries and maintained the Reach Out programme which gets unemployed people back into work.
“Under Labour, Wirral is a Living Wage Council and we have signed the Ethical Care Charter. I want to go further and for Wirral to become a Living Wage Borough.
“Wirral is punching its weight in the Liverpool City Region. I am proud to have been elected as the first Chair of the new Combined Authority. My priority will be to secure growth, jobs and investment.
“Labour’s priorities for the future include: remodelling the Council to ensure that we deliver good quality services with significantly less funding; maximising opportunities from the return of the Open to Hoylake and the International Business Festival; working with businesses to deliver growth via key projects such as Wirral Waters; developing a world class youth facility – Wirral Youth Zone; creating apprenticeships for our young people; regenerating Birkenhead Town Centre; and devolving more power to local residents.
“I will continue to lobby the government to provide a fair distribution of funding. It cannot be right that while Wirral has lost £152 per head, wealthy Tory controlled North Dorset has lost just £2 per head. Labour is committed to scrapping the government’s appalling Bedroom Tax.
“If you support our progressive agenda, then please vote Labour on May 22.
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Tory group leader Jeff Green.
Wirral Conservative group leader Jeff Green wrote: “Wirral's Conservative Group believe the costs of the council to hardworking residents must be kept low and where possible reduced.
“We know that every pound the council spends is money taken from the pockets of Wirral residents and therefore it should be essential that any money the council do spend is spent wisely and fairly in a way that is going to improve the lives of all Wirral’s residents.
“In our opinion the council should not be spending your money on extravagant staircases, plush new carpets, Trades Union officials pay, new offices for senior officers employed at eye watering expense, while they are seeking to close Lyndale School for children with complex learning difficulties, introducing a garden waste tax, putting up car parking charges, switching off street lights, cutting money for repairing pot holes, pavements and school crossing patrols.
“We are pleased, following pressure from local Conservatives and the Government that the Labour administration’s has had to carry out a highly embarrassing U-turn and finally accept Government grant to freeze Wirral Council Tax although we deeply regret that this opportunity was not taken last year which has led to unnecessary financial burdens being imposed on Wirral’s hardworking families.
“All told, since April 2013, the cost of living for an average family in Wirral has gone up by an extra £295.51 per year due to Labour approved, locally determined measures. We believe immediate action must and can be taken to reduce this additional burden.
“Money is tight for the country, after all the previous Labour Government admitted to leaving no money behind but it is still down to elected councillors to make choices and the Labour councillors who run Wirral Council have made theirs.
“However we know that by reducing duplication and spending less on itself we can reduce the cost of living burden by reverting to pre-April 2012 car parking charges, reinstating the year round ‘free after 3pm’ parking initiative, halving the charge to residents for garden waste collection and freezing for one year, at current levels, Wirral Council’s fees and charges.
“We also know that by just cutting out the shear incompetence in the way your money is spent we can protect school crossing patrols, reverse the administration’s illogical plans to turn off street lights, increase the money available to tackle the small minority of irresponsible pet owners who persistently refuse to pick up after their pets and invest £1m in an immediate programme to repair pot holes and improve Wirral’s roads, and pavements.
“We will always invest to ensure children in the council’s care are kept safe.”
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Liberal Democrat group leader Phil Gilchrist.
Liberal Democrat leader Phil Gilchrist wrote: “Most people feel that our economy is improving and that the darkest days are behind us.
"The Coalition Government gave us the cash to freeze Council Tax this year. It’s available next year too.
"They sent us £364,447 extra to repair our roads after the winter damage too.
"Our schools also have £16,800,000 through the ‘Pupil Premium’, real cash, helping children from poorer families succeed.
"But there’s another side to Wirral.
"Our council was in turmoil. It was only rescued with outside help. It was found to be unresponsive, inward looking, beset by infighting. Wirral was led by Labour during this time.
"Isn’t all that in the past? Events still suggest otherwise.
"Isn’t this the council that sought to switch off street lights, even where residents and the police raised concerns about it?
"Isn’t this the council that tried to get schools to pay for school crossing patrols, using money needed for teachers and resources?
"Isn’t this the ‘health promoting council‘ that suggested charging people for parking in their country parks?
"On all these issues we said the council was wrong. We opposed these plans and the brown bin tax.
"Of course there are still financial headaches, many of Wirral’s own making. Where we can put a case for specific funding we must do so.
"We must meet local needs as efficiently as possible, working closely with health and other public services, making the combined authority effective.”
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UKIP deputy leader and North West MEP Paul Nuttall.
By UKIP deputy leader and North West MEP Paul Nuttall. Ukip are fielding candidates in all 22 wards.
"Two things are certain - most people are fed up with the stale politics of the three major parties in this country - and the only party offering a real change is UKIP.
"This applies in Wirral as much as nationally which is why UKIP is fielding the largest ever number of candidates in the local elections, including contesting every ward in the constituency.
"Locally, our policies include reducing the number of councillors from 66 to 44, freezing their allowances as well as the high pay-offs to senior officers, who resign under questionable circumstances, and curbing top management salaries.
"We would also cut red tape and end wasteful and unnecessary expenditure while protecting front line services. We would Introduce direct democracy with local referenda on major issues so that people can really influence decision making.
"Ending the Mersey Tunnel tolls is a major issue and we would extend free parking to help shops and businesses compete with out-of-town developments.
"While unemployment rates are falling nationally there is still an urgent local need to boost employment and long-term prosperity by attracting large companies and other businesses to the Wirral.
"Everyone knows that we have an aging population in this country and UKIP would increase help for older people to be able to stay in their own homes, which is of course, what they want to do.
"On May 22 as well as the local elections the European elections are also taking place and no one should be in any doubt about how much the EU affects us.
"The majority of our laws and regulations emanate from the unelected and unaccountable bureaucrats in Brussels and they are then rubber stamped by the EU parliament.
"While this all takes place in another country it impacts on our daily lives, including our household waste only being collected every fortnight and why we pay such high energy prices.
"UKIP, the country’s the fastest-growing political party, believes that the British people are best placed to govern our country. Only by voting for UKIP will you get a real change for the better.
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Pat Cleary hopes to be elected Wirral's first Green councillor.
By Green Party candidate Pat Cleary. The Greens are fielding candidates in all 22 wards.
"These elections are set to represent a breakthrough for the Green Party in both Wirral and across the North West.
"Locally, we aim to have our first councillor elected in Birkenhead and Tranmere where our candidate Pat Cleary polled over 40% last time round.
"For the European elections, which are decided on a proportional system, latest polls put the Greens ahead of the Lib Dems and poised to claim our first MEP in the North West.
"Voting Green is also the best way of ensuring the BNP no longer has political representation in our area.
"Andfor anyone considering UKIP, the Greens offer an anti-establishment alternative with grown up policies.
"Most importantly, we offer an end to the austerity policies supported by all the mainstream parties. We stand for fair taxation with wealthy individuals and corporations paying their share; an end to food bank Britain and the assault on the poor; investment in the green economy with its rich potential for employment and an end to fuel poverty.
"And we are the only party to oppose extreme energy such as fracking.
"Still not convinced?
"Visit voteforpolicies.org.uk and take the blind policy test.
"You may be Greener than you think."