Tories look to keep their grip on rural wards

THE Conservative Party will look to retain its grip on the rural wards when it fields a candidate in all 16 seats in the May 1 district elections.

The Tories will hope to bolster their narrow majority on Harrogate Borough Council and improve on last year's local elections when they lost two seats to the Liberal Democrat party.

But the Labour Party will also be looking to make gains of their own, fielding five candidates and contesting the rural seats for the first time.

The British National Party will also contest six of the wards, with the UK Independence Party fielding three candidates and one independent candidate standing for election.

A third of Harrogate Borough councillors are elected every three years in four and the Tories currently hold a total of 24 of the 54 seats on Harrogate Borough Council with the Liberal Democrats holding 23 and the Independents having six.

Of the 16 rural seats up for grabs this year, the Conservative Party hold 12, with the Liberal Democrat Party having three. One seat, Lower Nidderdale, remains vacant following the death of Coun Elwyn Hinchcliffe.