ON Thursday, May 22, the voters head to the polls to deliver their verdict on Worcester City Council. Our ward-by-ward coverage continues with a look at Claines.
CLAINES is one of the most hotly contested wards in the city - and every vote is likely to count for something in a two-party showdown.
Unlike many other parts of Worcester, where either the Conservatives or Labour are the likely winners, here it is all about the Liberal Democrats.
What makes Claines unique in Worcester is the historic stranglehold Nick Clegg's party has on the area.
It has three city councillors, and up until 2012 could always be relied upon to vote in a trio of Liberal Democrat politicians.
All that changed two years ago when after years of slowing creeping up the popularity stakes, the Tories grabbed one Claines seat after Councillor Mike Whitehouse beat Sue Askin by just 65 votes.
But then Claines has a history of being excruciatingly close - in 2011 Councillor Liz Smith clung on for the Lib Dems with a majority of just 17.
The result was a cruel one for Mrs Askin, who is still a county councillor and retains a large level of popularity in the area.
The Conservatives now have a vital foothold in Claines and are targeting another scalp this time around.
What makes it all the more interesting is that Councillor Ken Carpenter is stepping down for the Liberal Democrats, meaning the party's hopes rest on activist Mel Allcott.
Her biggest challenge is sure to be Conservative candidate Matt Lacey, with all the signs leaning towards it being another two-horse race - Cllr Carpenter's majority was 127.
Claines is a large, leafy ward, with more than 6,000 potential voters, among the biggest pool in the city, and last time around the Lib Dems and Tories both got more than 1,000 votes each, very high figures.
Labour did not contest the ward in 2012 after former party councillor Bob Peachey pulled out at the last minute, leading to Tory claims it was a deliberate tactic to try and help the Lib Dems.
But Labour always firmly denied that was the case, and has found a candidate this time around in activist Robert Lodge.
Both the Green Party and UKIP are also fielding names, so expect that to be a factor in deciding the winner, given how close it could once again be.
One of the prime concerns for residents is maintaining Claines’ appearance as a tranquil location with plenty of open space nearby.
The ward also takes in a large chunk of the A449, where concerns about speeding cars and congestion have always been prevalent.
WHAT THE CANDIDATES HAVE TO SAY
MEL ALLCOTT (LD)
I live in Claines with my partner, Andy and my daughter, Abbey.
Twice I have reluctantly moved out of Claines, to meet family/work commitments and twice I have gladly returned.
I am very fortunate to live in such a delightful area and have absolutely no plans to move again.
Five generations of my family have lived or live in Claines so it is particularly special to me. There is a real sense of community here.
I want to ensure Claines remains the safe and particularly pleasant area it is.
To do this I will oppose any further large scale development, preserve the valuable green spaces much used and enjoyed by all, and support local employment opportunities.
I appreciate the budget constraints the Council faces and will look to work within these constraints, to provide the best services possible, as efficiently as possible.
MATT LACEY (CON)
I work for Worcester Community Housing, I thoroughly enjoying working for them, everyday brings new challenges.
In my spare time I am renovating a house I have recently purchased with my partner, this and plenty of gardening.
I wanted to involve myself in local sports the city had to offer, so I joined Worcester Rowing Club and successfully passed a rowing course. I also enjoy running in the lovely green spaces Worcester has to offer.
I have always had an interest in politics and this desire to do more was lit when I moved to Worcester. Worcester is a great place in live, with lots to offer.
Having spoken to many residents I understand how passionate people are in wanting to keep Claines a safe, clean, community spirited section of the city, with lots of green spaces for residents to enjoy.
If elected I will endeavour to look after the residents’ interests in everything I do.
ROBERT LODGE (LAB)
Having lived in Claines all my life, I am extremely proud of our community and am delighted to have the chance to be your local Labour candidate.
I have always been a keen user of our community’s green spaces and amenities and developed an interest in local politics when I put forward the argument for more litter and dog bins to a local councillor and realised that residents' voices were not being heard.
If elected, I will be a tireless and committed champion of the views of Claines residents, prioritising the issues that matter locally and building on the vision Labour has outlined for Worcester.
I am very proud that the Labour city council has made a strong commitment to tackling youth unemployment, one of the biggest worries facing young people today.
ANDREW NEWMAN (UKIP)
I have been a resident in Worcestershire 44 years, Droitwich from 1970-1997 and Barbourne from1997.
My work has been in the engineering industry, management consulting, and I have had my own own consulting business in Worcester.
My community involvement has been with cricket, education, health, church, neighbourhood fund-raising, and sponsorship.
I have had no previous political affiliation and see the issues at this election as city centre access and parking, urban sprawl, fit-for-purpose taxi ranks and financial realism.
UKIP has a simple theme, with real authority at a local level.
Members apply individual responsibility with honesty of purpose, Former members of extremist parties explicitly excluded.
I offer respect for and commitment to electors, fresh eyes, local familiarity, clear thinking, energy, maturity and the will to make the right things happen.
I need your vote.
PETER ROBINSON (GREEN)
I have lived in Worcester for over 15 years.
I work in the city and have been actively involved in Green politics and environmental issues for almost 20 years.
I want to preserve the beauty of the local area for all the residents and wider citizens of Worcester.
We should be working to create sustainable and self-reliant communities living in harmony with a flourishing and diverse natural environment.
In Worcester we are fortunate to live in, and be surrounded by, a beautiful natural environment.
That environment needs to be actively protected if it is to be preserved and enjoyed by future generations.
Local decision making and economic management coming from the council should be supporting production of the local goods, services and infrastructure needed to enhance the resilience and sustainability of our natural environment.
Current austerity and government cost-cutting should not be allowed to push the environmental agenda off the table.