ROSSENDALE'S controlling Labour group is defending 10 wards in May 6's local elections where a poll disaster could hand the borough to the Tories.

A total of 13 out of the 14 wards are being contested with 33 candidates standing.

Currently Labour has 19 councillors and also has the support of retiring Whitewell Independent Pam Bromley kicked out of the party over allegedly anti-Semitic social media posts.

The Conservatives have 12 councillors and the support of expelled members David Stansfield and Val Roberts.

To make life interesting the two are standing as Independents in their Helmshore and Greenfield wards against official Tory candidates.

One of the wards up for grabs - Stacksteads - is a by-election caused by the death of Independent Terry Haslam-Jones in March.

Long-serving councillor Andy McNae has moved from Hareholme ward to fight the seat for Labour.

Neither of the two sitting Community First councillors in Healey and Whitworth ward - Alan Neal and Dayne Powell - are up for election this time round.

With just 36 councillors in total for a borough where most wards are tightly contested, Labour's current majority could be under threat as it defends 10 of the seats in won two years to the Tories two.

Council leader Alyson Barnes said: "It is going to be a tough contest.

"One a good day we could win every ward and one a bad day lose the lot.

"All the wards are fairly marginal although we are stronger in Rawtenstall than elsewhere in the borough.

"Key campaign points are that we think government targets for more than 3,000 new homes in Rossendale are too high.

"We also promise to invest more money to tackle fly-tipping and keep our streets clean.

"We believe the council has done a good job in dealing with the pandemic and hope voters will recognise that."

Conservative group leader Cllr Peter Steen said: "This Labour administration is good on vanity projects which come to nothing and cost council taxpayers money.

"There is the empty homes fiasco which has already cost £9million and will continue to do so for another five years and the restructuring of Rawtenstall town centre which has cost another £250,000.

"We are challenging in every ward and pledge to listen to residents."

The Green Party is running candidates in Irwell, Longholme and Whitewell wards while two more Independents are standing - Janet Whitehead in Facit and Shawforth and John Payne in Whitewell.