Politics, polls and a pandemic – these are the key seats to watch during Sheffield’s local elections
The global pandemic means Sheffield’s local elections will be very different this year.
Helping the city to recover from the impact of Covid will be top of the agenda for all the parties following its devastating impact on the economy, jobs, education and health services.
But while politicians are wrestling with those major issues, voters still want action on grassroot problems such as fly-tipping, antisocial behaviour and housing repairs.
There are some key seats across the city which are worth keeping an eye on as Labour has a precarious majority – if it loses seven seats, the council would go to no overall control.
Last year’s local elections were cancelled due to Covid so the candidates due to stand then have rolled over to this year. That’s also why we’re looking back to 2019 for the last set of results.
Walkley is the most marginal seat in the city – Labour held on to it by just 41 votes in 2019.
Olivia Blake vacated the seat when she became MP for Sheffield Hallam in the general election so it’s only had two, rather than the usual three councillors, for the past year.
Fran Belbin will be hoping to keep it for Labour but hot on her heels is Bernard Little of the Green Party, who came second in 2019.
It’s also one of only two seats in the city which has a Women’s Equality Party candidate with Ann Butler.
Other candidates standing include Liberal Democrat Irshad Akbar; Joe Hibbert of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition and Eve Millward of the Conservative Party.
A mile down the road is Hillsborough where all eyes will be on current Council Leader Bob Johnson, who is seeking re-election. Labour won the seat by 532 votes in 2019.
The Greens are classing it as a target seat and their candidate Christine Gilligan Kubo, who came second last time, is standing once again.
Other candidates include Lesley Blyth for the Conservative Party, Adam Calvert of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition and Liberal Democrat Will Sapwell.
Gleadless Valley is also on their radar. Sitting Labour councillor Lewis Dagnall is standing down and the Green Party have it in their sights.
Labour won it in 2018 but Green candidate Paul Turpin came second and was behind by just 411 votes. A year later, he won the seat with a majority of 919.
The Greens will hope to capitalise on that win with this year’s candidate Alexi Dimond. He will go head to head with Labour’s Janet Ridler.
Also standing are Liberal Democrat John Dryden, Conservative Andrew Mustoe plus Trade Unionist and Social Coalition candidate Becky Payne.
The Liberal Democrats will be hoping for a win for Bex Atkinson in Crookes and Crosspool, where they already have two councillors.
The sole Labour councillor, Anne Murphy, is moving to stand in the safer seat of Manor. Labour’s replacement candidate for Crookes and Crosspool is Ruth Milsom.
Other candidates include Conservative Brightmore Kunaka, Green Rebecca Mulvaney and Gareth O’Shanks of the Yorkshire Party.
Over in Beighton, sitting Labour councillor Sophie Wilson is also switching seats. She is moving to be the candidate in Park and Arbourthorne – which is being vacated by former Council Leader Julie Dore who is retiring.
Labour’s new candidate in Beighton is Julie Gledhill, who was briefly a councillor before.
The Lib Dems were victorious in Beighton in 2019 when they took the seat from Ian Saunders, who had been a Labour councillor for 33 years.
They had a slim majority of 247 but will hope to build on that with their candidate Ann Woolhouse.
Other candidates include Conservative Shirley Diane Clayton, Gary Drabble of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition party and Green Anthony Naylor.
Neighbouring Mosborough is also a target seat for the Lib Dems. They took it from Labour in both 2018 and 2019 but both times the majorities were slim.
This time, it’s sitting Lord Mayor Tony Downing who will be defending the seat for Labour. He’ll go up against Kurtis Crossland for the Lib Dems; Conservative Mark Finney, Green Julie White and Adam Wood of Reform UK.
The Lib Dems won in West Ecclesfield in 2018 and 2019 and will be hoping to make it a hat trick with current candidate Ann Whitaker.
Sitting Labour councillor Adam Hurst is re-standing and former UKIP councillor John Booker is also trying again, this time for the Reform UK party.
They will go up against Green Kathy Aston, Conservtaive Kevin Mahoney and Jonathan Ogle of the Yorkshire Party.
So many different factors will affect this year’s election, not just politics but whether there’s been an uptake in postal votes due to Covid. Because postal votes are returned from now onwards, the die could be cast before the polls even open on May 6.