HYNDBURN goes to the polls on May 3 with three of the borough’s biggest political figures missing.

Former council Conservative leader and current Mayor Peter Britcliffe is standing down after 34 years with a police investigation hanging over him.

Former First Citizen Bernard Dawson, who served as a Labour councillor for 38 years representing Peel and Huncoat wards, has also hung up his political cudgels.

UKIP’s Paul Thompson, who died in October aged 68, having represented St Oswald’s ward since 2014, is the third notable absentee.

Following his passing, sitting Milnshaw councillor Malcolm Pritchard has left UKIP to stand as one of five Independents contesting the 11 seats up for election this time.

The former Labour councillor hopes his opposition to the council and Accrington Stanley’s plans for a controversial £2million sports hub on Higham Playing Fields will help him hang on.

He also hopes he will not be the only Independent in the council chamber on May 4 with former Conservative Nick Collingridge fighting Clayton-Le-Moors and two opponents of landlord licensing - John Baron in Peel and Paul Brown in St Oswald’s - hoping to upset the two-party system in the borough.

The fifth Independent, Nick Whittaker, is contesting Huncoat following Cllr Dawson’s retirement, although Labour is confident Dave Parkins will return to the council.

Mr Pritchard said: “After the passing of Paul Thompson and what has happened nationally I think the day of UKIP in Hyndburn is over but hope the day of the Independent will dawn on May 4.”

Also seeking to upset the main parties is 68-year-old Green Party official Joan West, standing for the council for fourth time in Overton ward in Great Harwood.

Although she admits she stands more to make sure the Green voice is heard than to win, she hopes to increase her vote from 2016’s 71 as opposition to fracking grows.

Hyndburn is unlikely to see Labour’s grip on the Town Hall shaken on May 3 with 26 councillors to the Tories seven. Both parties are standing in all 11 wards.

Conservative leader Tony Dobson is hoping for consolidation in Oswaldtwistle with retiring Cllr Britcliffe’s daughter Sara holding St Andrew's ward and former Mayor Marlene Haworth regaining St Oswald’s.

The two wards, along with Rishton and Overton in Great Harwood, all saw Labour majorities of less than 150 last time they were fought in 2016.

Mr Dobson said: “We will be fighting on Labour’s poor management of the borough and the way they refuse to take action to make Hyndburn better like neighbouring authorities in Blackburn with Darwen and Burnley. Instead of doing something they just blame ‘the cuts’ by the Government.”

The council’s Labour leader Miles Parkinson also fancies adding councillors in the former Tory stronghold of Oswaldtwistle to join St Andrew’s representative Stewart Eaves and St Oswald’s Glen Harrison, with sitting Conservative Julie Livesey standing down in Immanuel ward.

He said: “We are fighting on our good financial management keeping council tax rises down and improvements to the borough in terms of investment, jobs and waste collection and recycling.”

Even Cllr Parkinson admits that a Hyndburn Council election without Cllr Britcliffe fighting his seat and leading the Tory charge will be an unusual experience.

He said: “Peter was a well-known and much respected figure in Hyndburn politics for more than three decades. It will be a different and less colourful election but I understand his reasons for stepping aside.”