LABOUR will be hoping to cement their control of Rossendale Council in next month's local elections after a disappointing result last year.

The Tory opposition gained a seat in 2018 and ran borough Labour leader Cllr Alyson Barnes close as she scraped in by 39 votes on a high turn-out.

But as she says: "Anything can happen in Rossendale."

The only certainty in the borough, where predictions are even dodgier than usual in politics and wards return different parties in different years often by just a handful of votes, is new faces on the council.

Long-serving Cribden Conservative councillor Janet Graham has resigned through ill-health and former Tory group leader Annabel Shipley is standing down for family reasons.

Stacksteads councillor and Labour group deputy leader Christine Lamb has been deselected while Whitewell party colleague Amanda Robertson stands down.

Another change will be Labour strategist Sean Serridge fighting Cribden rather than his current Healey and Whitworth ward after moving to Rawtenstall.

This will raise Community First candidate Dayne Powell's hopes of joining the group's existing ward representative Alan Neal on the council.

The battle for Rossendale on May 2 is mainly a straight Labour/Conservative fight but with the recent Brexit deadlock two UKIP candidates will hope to exploit the national dissatisfaction with politicians.

Granville Barker, who failed in his bid for Worsley ward last year as an Independent, will try again this year under new anti-EU colours.

His colleague Glenn Jones takes on Whitewell ward in a four-way fight including Green candidate John Payne.

Its existing councillor Pam Bromley was reinstated by Labour this month after year-long probe into alleged anti-Semitic facebook posts which may hinder party candidate Julie Adshead.

The other grit in the two-party political machine could be Terry Haslam-Jones standing as an Independent in Stacksteads.

With Labour having 20 councillors (plus Cllr Bromley) and the Conservatives 13, 12 of the borough's 36 wards are up for grabs.

Cllr Barnes said: "We take nothing for granted. Seats change hands for tiny numbers of votes."

But she must hope to keep control of the council after 36 months of problems for the opposition.

Conservative Group leader Cllr Brian Essex, the fifth in three years to hold the post, said: "We will be fighting on the manifesto of better and better value services rather than Labour's vanity projects like Spinning Point in Rawtenstall.

"We are hopeful. In the past we have taken every single seat up for election, some very marginally."

CANDIDATES LIST (Will need link to website if not printed in paper):

Cribden: Jonathan Foxcroft (Con), Sean Serridge (Lab).

Facit and Shawforth: Rachael Barker (Lab), Lynda Barnes (Con).

Greenfield: Tom Leigh, (Lab), Margaret Pendlebury (Con).

Greensclough: Peter Steen (Con), Gareth Trickett (Lab).

Hareholme: Mohammed Abdullah (Con), Patrick Marriott (Lab).

Healey and Whitworth: Marilyn Jones (Lab), Dayne Powell (Community First), Scott Turner-Smith (Con).

Helmshore: Tony Haworth (Con), Mervyn Kay (Lab).

Irwell: Janet Eaton (Con), Michelle Smith (Lab).

Longholme: Sue Brennan (Lab), Nicola May (Con).

Stacksteads: Ross Charnock (Lab),Terry Haslam-Jones (Ind), Freddy Khattab (Con).

Whitewell: Julie Adshead (Lab), Glenn Jones (UKIP), John Payne (Green), Jenny Rigby (Con).

Worsley: Granville Barker (UKIP), Adrian Lythgoe (Lab), Mark Mills (Con).