ALTHOUGH Labour cannot realistically lose power in Blackburn with Darwen, the local election campaign is set to be colourful.

The Conservatives hope to make gains on May 6 in the hope of executing a long-term strategy of taking control of the all-purpose unitary council.

The Liberal Democrats are concentrating on their power base in Darwen with just one candidate in Blackburn offering a 'third party' alternative.

Labour currently has 33 of the council's 51 wards with 17 up for election of which it won 11 the last time they were contested.

The party was rocked by bitter resignation speeches by expelled former deputy leader Andy Kay and standards committee chair Saima Afzal at the last Council Forum in March so it is little surprise they are adopting a 'steady as she goes' campaign strategy.

The Conservatives are hoping promises of the return of weekly burgundy general waste bin collections, free town centre car parking and an hour's free use of council leisure centre for four to 16-year-olds will attract voters.

And they have picked some interesting new candidates.

In Audley and Queen's they have chosen colourful taxi drive Tiger Patel - previously an Independent poll hopeful- to take on Maryam Batan who along with Mrs Afzal was feted in 2018 for being first two South Asian heritage females elected to the council.

In heavily Euro-sceptic Mill Hill and Moorgate they have picked former Brexit Party Parliamentary candidate for Blackburn Rick Moore to tackle one of Labour's rising stars, education boss Julie Gunn -the wife of Coronation Street actor Peter.

Their third new boy Mark Russell who has developed a reputation as thorn in Labour's side by asking awkward questions a public council meetings.

He should hold Livesey with Pleasington ward whose former councillor John Pearson died suddenly in May last year.

Other changes see Neil Slater, brother of Tory group leader John, shift from Darwen South to West Pennine ward (where former council leader Colin Rigby has stood down) while his son Ryan bids for election in Darwen East held by LibDem Roy Davies.

Labour has opted for reliable faces from the past to plug its gaps with veteran Ashley Whalley fighting Ewood after former councillor Jamie Groves emigrated to Spain and former education boss Tony Humphrys slotting in for Mr Kay in his old Blackburn South East ward where Connor Plumley is the lone LibDem candidate in Blackburn.

The third party has also gone for familiar faces and veteran campaigners as it seeks to make gains in Darwen with town councillor John East standing in West Pennine and Simon Hugill seeking to wrest the town's South ward from the Tories.

Labour agent Cllr Phil Riley said: "This will be a difficult election with many people not wanting to knock on doorsteps or willing to open their doors to candidates so we are doing a lot on social media.

"We are campaigning on our record of efficiently handling the coronavirus pandemic and our record on growth.

"It's not surprising the Conservatives have put forward Rick Moore in a heavily Brexit-voting ward. We are hopeful of making a few gains."

Cllr John Slater said: "We cannot take control but we can make gains on the way to taking power in the future. We are campaigning on our pledges of one hour's free use of leisure facilities for young people, weekly burgundy bin collections and free town centre car parking as opposed to Labour's mismanagement and policy of building on every piece of green space."

Mr East said: "We are offering a third, more liberal alternative to two main parties. While we are concentrating on Darwen where we are strong, we have candidate in Blackburn to show we have not forgotten about it."

There are also two Independent candidates Ismail Ibrahim Bapu Patel in Billinge and Beardwood, Sue Prynn in Darwen East