HYNDBURN'S master of political mischief Peter Britcliffe returns to the political fray in this year's election campaign.

The veteran Tory is seeking to return to the always bitterly-contested borough council in the Oswaldtwistle's St Andrew's ward seat vacated by his Conservative MP daughter Sara.

It guarantees that the campaign will be lively despite coronavirus restrictions and raises questions whether current opposition group leader Cllr Marlene Haworth will keep her job after the May 6 poll.

With 12 wards up for election including two seats in St Andrew's there is little chance of Labour losing control but the Tories will be hoping for big gains following Miss Britcliffe winning the Parliamentary seat from Labour in December 2019.

The party also has former Labour councillor Gareth Molineux, who quit the ruling party in June claiming it had 'a culture of bullying', standing in his former Overton ward in Great Harwood.

This promises to be a bitterly fought contest after sitting Tory councillor Patrick McGinley left the Conservative group to sit as an Independent in January.

Labour have closed veteran left-wing former Euro-MP Michael Hindley to fight the ward while the waters are muddied by the presence on the ballot paper of Wayne Fitzharris of the new Reform UK.

He is one of four candidates from the grouping - a successor to Nigel Farage's UKIP and Brexit Parties in a borough that voted heavily to leave the European Union.

Labour is also welcoming back former deputy council leader Clare Pritchard who is contesting Church ward vacated by the retirement of the long-serving Jean Battle.

The ruling party has 25 councillors against seven Conservatives and Cllr McGinley with two vacancies - one caused by the April death of Tory leader Tony Dobson in Barnfield and one by the retirment of Stephanie Haworth in Overton.

Husband and wife team Adam and Beth Waller-Slack, 2019 General Election candidates, are hoping to become the first Liberal Democrat councillors in Hyndburn since the 1990s in Rishton and St Oswald's wards respectively.

With Labour seeking to hold 10 of the seats being contested and the Conservatives three, council leader Cllr Miles Parkinson admits it is going to be a 'tight contest'.

Four wards - Overton, St Oswald's, St Andrew's (with two contests) and Rishton - could easily go either way.

Labour boss Cllr Parkinson said: "We would like to make gains of course but will do well to hold all our seats. It is going to be a difficult election.

"We will be highlighting our handling of coronavirus grants for businesses praised by Downing Street, our transformational proposals for leisure in the and our plans to revive town centres.

"If Peter wins he will be challenging opponent in the council chamber and with his experience a power within Conservative group. Who leads that group is a matter for its internal politics.

"I don't expect the smaller parties to make much headway but their votes could influence what happens in the marginal wards."

Cllr Haworth said: "We are fighting on the basis that it is time for a change. Hyndburn has been run by Labour for too long. It will be good to have Cllr Britcliffe back. What he doesn't know about politics is not worth knowing. I am confident he will support me."

Mr Britcliffe, who stood down from the borough council in 2018 to successfully fight sexual assault allegations, said: "I am very much looking forward to getting back into Hyndburn borough politics.

"The council need to do more to tackle the causes of litter and crack down on fly-tipping. I have no intention of challenging our very capable leader Marlene Haworth.

Independent candidate Andrew Harris is standing in Rishton where sitting Labour councillor Jeff Scales has retired.