On May 5, voters across the Greater Bristol area will go to the polls to elect representatives who will be making tough decisions about which services to cut and which to preserve in the coming years. Local government reporter Sam Rkaina looks at what might happen in Bristol.
BRISTOLIANS could be forgiven for having election fatigue.
Like waiting for a bus – though perhaps not in this city – it seems that barely has one gone past that another comes along shortly after.
The system of electing Bristol City Council by thirds means there’s a local election every year for three years then a year off.
It doesn’t help that Bristol councillors do not have the best reputation in the world.
Residents who brave the lengthy full council meetings every month frequently walk away in despair and exasperation at what they’ve seen.
Debates frequently descend into the kind of tedious political point scoring that Mr Cameron and Mr Clegg promised to do away with.
Councillors on all sides doggedly stick to party lines on almost every topic and that’s when the insults start flying.
In the last two years alone, two councillors have faced suspension for making either alleged racist or homophobic comments.
The Tories have been accused of being Nazis, there have been three party walkouts in the last six months and they’ve all accused each other of being hypocrites over the green spaces sell-off plan.
The “coconut” comment that started it all
While there are many who won’t welcome a hung council, it’s likely that’s exactly where we’re headed on May 5.
There’s even the chance it might actually force them to work together better.
The current makeup of the council is 38 Liberal Democrats, 17 Labour, 14 Conservatives and one Green.
The Lib Dems only have to lose a few seats to drop below the 35 threshold that gives them an overall majority. Frankly, it’s not looking good.
On paper there are plenty of traditionally “safe” Lib Dem seats like Clifton, Cotham and Cabot.
For the first time though, they’re having to fight a war on two fronts. Labour and the Conservatives may be used to answering for their national party’s policies in government, but the Lib Dems aren’t.
These elections are the first since they did a “deal with the devil” and brought the Tories back into government after 13 years.
The amount of anger among Lib Dem’s more left wing supporters on this cannot be underestimated.
You only have to look at the absolute drubbing the party received at the Barnsley by election last month – the Lib Dems didn’t even get their deposit back.
Then there’s the row over tuition fees. Increasing the maximum universities can charge is exactly the kind of policy that appalls your average Lib Dem voter.
Bristol West MP Stephen Williams has already taken a huge amount of flak for his stance on this.
There’s every chance Lib Dem supporters either won’t turn out to support their party or they’ll vote for a minority party like the Greens in protest.
Locally the Lib Dems have enjoyed the benefits of a majority to push through their policies but that has come at a price.
There’s no better example than the ongoing controversy over the £87 million parks improvement plan.
The Lib Dems say selling parts of more than 40 open spaces is the only way to raise enough money for upgrades to more than 150 others. Thousands of members of the public disagreed but feel their concerns are not being listened to.
By sticking with the land sales policy despite the public backlash, the Lib Dems have effectively given the opposition parties an open goal, electorally speaking.
But there have also been successes for the Lib Dems that will no doubt fill their campaign leaflets in the coming months.
Arguably the biggest ace the party has to play locally is that their handling of the budget.
There’s no doubt people will be affected by £28 million of cuts being made this year, it would be impossible for them not to be.
But unlike cities like Manchester or counties like Somerset, Bristol is not looking at thousands of job losses, or libraries closing.
Public anger at Bristol City Council cuts
The introduction of 20mph zones in east and south Bristol has proved popular, and Bristol has been named as one of the best placed cities in the country to recover from the economy. Recycling rates continue to among the best in the country and the council is promising landfill will be a thing of the past within three years.
But there can be little doubt the May elections are the biggest challenge the Bristol Lib Dems have faced since they came to power in 2009.
It’s not just the Lib Dems who will be tested though – the city council itself will also come under the microscope in May.
The handling of last year’s Bristol elections – both national and local – was widely perceived as a farce.
From votes being mixed up because the wards sounded similar to names out of a hat being used to choose the councillor for Avonmouth, there were a lot of red faces at Council House that night.
All eyes will be on the officers to see if this time round they actually can organise a certain kind of an event in a brewery.
A hung council: 1/100
The Liberal Democrats increasing their majority: 500/1
The Green Party gaining at least one more seat: 5/4
Council leader Barbara Janke holding onto her Clifton seat: 1/1
All of the election counts running smoothly on the night: 1,000/1
The Tories and the Lib Dems forming their own Cameron and Clegg style local coalition: 5,000/1
For the full list of candidates go to: