VOTERS in Rossendale will be confused when the borough goes to the polls on May 2 but those who sharpen their pencils to vote for veteran politician Jimmy Eaton will be most mystified of all.

Every single seat will be up for election on new ward boundaries while the number of councillors is reduced from 36 to 30.

But in Bacup the residents face an unexpected challenge as 74-year-old Cllr Eaton who for three decades represented the Conservatives for the town before being expelled from the party in 2021 to become an Independent is now standing for Labour

He said: "It's been an ok political journey.

"The Conservatives didn't want me. End of story."

Labour council leader Cllr Alyson Barnes, hoping Cllr Eaton's joining up will help keep her party's narrow hold on power from a year ago despite the new map, said: "Jimmy became disillusioned with the Tories both locally and nationally a few years ago and when they deselected him he decided that he would continue to represent his residents as an independent councillor.

"However, he found that his influence as an independent councillor was very limited and since, during his term as an independent councillor, he supported the policies we put forward, he decided to join the Labour Party and work with the team to the benefit of Rossendale.

"Rossendale Labour Group tends to work well with others."

In all 84 candidates are standing in the 12 wards after the previous phased system of electing one-third of councillors year-by-year was recently ended.

The change means voters will be marking crosses next to multiple names on this May’s ballot papers. And the next whole-council elections will not be expected for another four years.

Topics during the campaign are likely to include town centre and market regeneration schemes in Haslingden, Bacup and Rawtenstall; housing, planning, leisure centres and swimming pools, council finance, the local economy, tourism, green spaces, transport and renewable energy, judging on themes raised at council meetings.

And perhaps Lancashire devolution?

Well-known councillors standing for re-election include Cllr Barnes; Conservative Jenny Rigby and Community First’s Alan Neal.

Labour’s Andy MacNae is also standing again and, will be the party's Rossendale and Darwen candidate for the forthcoming Westminster general election.

However, David Foxcroft, the borough’s outgoing Conservative opposition leader is not standing for re-election. After eight years in local politics, he said he is taking a break to focus on his family. But he said local politics remains vitally important.

He, Jenny Rigby and Scott Smith have all made headlines in recent weeks regarding accusations and rows at Rossendale Council meetings about issues including the former Lancashire Empty Homes scheme.

Cllr Foxcroft had potentially faced a councillor standards investigation after refusing to withdraw some claims, which some opponents and an officer said were inaccurate. But, for clarity, there is no suggestion that this was a factor in him not seeking re-election this May.

Elsewhere, veteran councillors standing again include Anne Cheetham for the Conservatives.

There are also Green Party challengers across the borough, which has had one elected Green councillor in recent times, Julie Adshead. And independent Janet Whitehead is standing for re-election too.

Community First councillor Dayne Powell is not standing in this election. But a new candidate, Mike Royds, is standing for the party in Whitworth.