TODAY is D-Day for our political parties across Worcestershire - with nearly half a million people across the county able to have their say and go to the polls.

All 57 seats at Worcestershire County Council are up for grabs for the first time since 2009, with the controlling Conservative group hoping to retain a powerful grip on the authority.

A total of 447,997 county people can start voting in the elections from 7am onwards, with 341 polling stations open including churches, schools, community halls, chapels and even pubs.

The contest will be seen as a litmus test on the Tory administration, which holds a record 40 seats at County Hall.

Labour, which lost 14 seats in 2009 and currently has just four councillors, will be hoping to regain some former strongholds while the Liberal Democrats will be aiming to build on a tally of seven.

A host of other smaller parties and campaign groups will be also hoping to make an impact, including the Greens and Independent Community Health Concern (ICHC).

All eyes will also be on UKIP, which is hoping to make an historic breakthrough after fielding a record 42 candidates.

Some national predictions suggest the Tories are on course to lose 600 seats across the country - but the true impact on Worcestershire is unclear.

Pleas are being made for residents to get out and cast their vote - with the managing director of Worcester City Council urging people to exercise their “democratic right”.

Duncan Sharkey, who is also deputy returning officer for the Worcester division, said: “The people of Worcester get a chance to choose who is their county councillor once every four years, so it’s really important you use you vote today to have a say in the future of your county.

“Please don’t waste your democratic right.”

The polls close at 10pm tonight and the count will take place at various locations across Worcestershire from 9.30am tomorrow morning.