Voters are going to the polls on Thursday on a busy day of local elections.
Around 48million people across the country will have the chance to cast a ballot in a massive range of elections, with the day being dubbed ‘Super Thursday’.
Here is a guide to what is happening in the North East:
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Which elections are being held here?
There are a lot of different elections being held on Thursday and how many ballots you can cast depends on where you live.
Councillors will be elected to serve on Newcastle City Council, Gateshead Council, North Tyneside Council, South Tyneside Council, Sunderland City Council, Northumberland County Council, and Durham County Council.
Durham and Northumberland only hold elections every four years and every seat on the council is up for grabs – 126 in Durham, 67 in Northumberland.
But other councils hold their elections on a rolling basis, with only one third of their councillors voted in at each election – plus any other vacancies that have arisen if councillors have resigned before the end of their term.
Newcastle will have 28 seats up for grabs, at Gateshead Council there are 24 seats up for election, 23 in North Tyneside, 20 in South Tyneside, and in Sunderland there are 28.
If you live in North Tyneside, you can also vote for candidates standing for the elected mayor position.
Police and crime commissioner elections are also being held for both the Northumbria and Durham force areas.
Parish or town councillor elections are being held across Northumberland and County Durham, and also for Hetton Town Council.
There are a couple of other big elections to watch out for elsewhere in the North East too – a Parliamentary by-election in Hartlepool and the Tees Valley mayoral race.
When are the counts being held and when will we know the results?
Newcastle, Sunderland, Gateshead, South Tyneside and Northumberland County Councils will count their results overnight from Thursday into Friday, with results expected to be announced between midnight and 6am.
North Tyneside Council’s count will take place on Friday and Saturday, with counting of the ballots taking place in blocks and results expected at around 12pm and 3.30pm on Friday, and around 11am and 3pm on Saturday.
The North Tyneside mayoral election count is taking place on Saturday and a result is expected around noon.
Durham County Council’s count will be split between Stanley and Spennymoor on Friday and Saturday, with the Durham Police and Crime Commissioner Count taking place on Saturday. The time of results is to be confirmed.
Ballots in the Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner race will be counted on Friday across Newcastle, Gateshead, South Tyneside, North Tyneside, Sunderland, and Northumberland. The declaration of the winner will be made at the Silksworth sports centre in Sunderland, expected to be late afternoon on Friday.
When do polls open?
For those people voting in person, polling stations will be open from 7am to 10pm.
The deadlines to register to vote and apply for a postal vote have now passed.
What are Covid era polling stations going to look like?
Safety measures in polling stations will be similar to those in shops and pubs, such as the use of face coverings, hand sanitiser, queuing and social distancing.
Voters are also being encouraged to bring their own pens or pencils.
What are the stories to watch out for?
The two most high profile races in the North East are without doubt the Hartlepool by-election and the Tees Valley mayor race, as the Conservatives look to claim another ‘Red Wall’ seat from Labour and strengthen incumbent Tory mayor Ben Houchen’s position.
But at a council level, a lot of eyes will be on Northumberland and it promises to be a fascinating race – again!
At the county’s last elections in 2017, the Tories took control but just missed out on an overall majority of the council by a single seat – with the final result South Blyth, decided by the drawing of straws. There had been a tie between the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats, who went on to win by virtue of length of straw, which meant the Conservatives won 33 seats out of a total of 67.
The turnout was 40.5% of the electorate.
The Conservatives will be hoping to make further inroads into Labour territory, after claiming ‘Red Wall’ seats like Blyth in the 2019 general election.
But after a turbulent past year at the council, Labour will be desperate to regain control of the authority.
Peter Jackson, the council’s former Tory leader, was ousted from the top job last September after a vote of no confidence – amid a major scandal over the council’s development arm, Advance Northumberland. He was replaced by Glen Sanderson.
Six out of the seven councils in our area are held by Labour with substantial majorities, but the national polls give the Tories a clear lead at the moment so it will be interesting to see whether that leads to more red seats turning blue here.
Commentators are seeing Thursday’s local elections, and certainly the Hartlepool by-election, as the first big test of Keir Starmer’s popularity with voters – plus a chance to gauge whether the general public has been swayed by the sleaze allegations against Boris Johnson and the Conservatives that have dominated headlines recently.