RURAL voters hold the power to change the political make-up of Harrogate Borough Council when they go to the polls next Thursday.
Voting is taking place in all 16 rural wards and, with just one seat currently separating the Conservative and Liberal Democrat numbers on the council (24 - 23), it would not take much to shift the current balance of power.
And, while the rural wards don't usually throw up many election surprises, hot local issues could have more of a bearing on how people vote than just party politics.
Controversial Issues such as the storage of toxic chemicals at Melmerby, near Ripon, could influence the way people vote in Wathvale, currently held by Conservative Chris Brown, while the threat of a waste recycling plant on their doorstep will be on the minds of Boroughbridge voters.
Adding to the unpredictability is the appearance of candidates from outside the three main political parties. The UK Independence Party is fielding two candidates – in Killinghall and Ribston – while the BNP is contesting five seats in Kirkby Malzeard, Marston Moor, Nidd Valley, Pateley Bridge and Spofforth with Lower Wharfedale.
Voting will be taking place at local polling stations on Thursday between 7am and 10pm. The count will begin the following morning, at 9.30am, in the Queen's Suite of the Conference Centre. Full results will be available on all our websites next Friday