LABOUR will remain in overall control of Blackburn with Darwen Council whatever the outcome of next month’s local government elections.

With a 24-seat majority following last year’s all-out election, the party would still have an 11-seat advantage if it lost all 13 it currently holds to the Tories without making gains elsewhere.

Former Labour executive member for health, Mustafa Desai, is back at the table - standing for election in Little Harwood and Whitebirk where outgoing councillor Naushad Surve (Lab), is stepping down.

And former Blackburn Conservative Association chairman Imtiaz Ali, who narrowly lost out in Billinge and Beardwood last year, is standing in the same ward as an independent candidate as he bids to oust Labour’s Jackie Floyd.

Tory group leader Cllr John Slater is up for re-election in Blackburn South & Lower Darwen ward.

In Darwen East, Labour’s Kieran Richards is stepping down, with Katrina Shepherd, who narrowly missed out on a seat last year, hopeful of replacing him.

But she will face stiff competition from Liberal Democrat Paul Browne, who hopes to regain the seat he lost in 2018.

Outgoing Shear Brow and Corporation Park councillor, Mahfooz Hussain (Lab), will instead contest Blackburn Central, with Zainab Rawat standing for Labour in his old ward.

Ms Rawat could become the third female Asian councillor elected in the borough following trailblazers Cllrs Saima Afzal and Maryam Batan’s campaigns last year.

Last year, everything was up for grabs in Blackburn with Darwen Council’s election as it was fought on new boundaries and several senior politicians retired.

With just 17 three-member wards instead of 23 represented by 64 councillors, party strategists had to rethink tactics to take account of the new map.

Turnout for last year’s election was 36.2 per cent with 98,772 votes cast.