LABOUR will be betting on Warndon to remain red when voters go to the polls next week.

The two-member ward is home to city mayor and Labour’s long-standing councillor Jo Hodges and Ceri Stalker who is seeking re-election after first winning in 2018 – 241 votes ahead of the nearest Conservative candidate.

Ceri Stalker is also running for re-election in the Gorse Hill and Warndon division on Worcestershire County Council.

Results in Warndon at the last five city council elections show Labour picking up 53 per cent, 54 per cent and 40 per cent. Even Alan Amos picked up 75 per cent of the vote, as a Labour councillor at the time, in 2012.

The Conservatives pushed Labour closest last time out - when both seats were up for grabs - and have a familiar face in Warndon elections standing.

Owen Cleary stood in the ward for UKIP in 2016 and 2018 - finishing second but still 265 votes behind Labour and sixth - but is now hoping for greater success with the Tories.

Sarah Murray is standing again for the Liberal Democrats having finished fourth in the contest in Warndon Parish North in 2018 and 2019.

Sarah Dukes is standing for the Green Party in Warndon having finished fourth behind Owen Cleary - then standing for UKIP - in St John’s in 2019.

It’s worth noting that in 2014 a major shock nearly happened here, where a rise in UKIP support very nearly shook Labour to its core. At the time, Labour councillor Jo Hodges clung on by just 40 votes after being pushed by Worcester’s UKIP branch chairman James Goad.

It will take something similar to prise it away from Labour this time around, with the Conservatives the most likely contenders, if indeed any party can achieve an upset.

Warndon is home to the Oasis Academy Warndon and the Building Block, a purpose-built facility which teaches people skills like bricklaying and DIY, which will be extended after receiving government funding.

Owen Cleary (Conservative)

“I want to change our city for the better. I want to give residents the opportunity to vote for someone who does things, rather than talk about them.

“Knocking doors has shown me that many residents have never even heard of their councillors. I plan to change that. I will work with residents, the police and the council to make Warndon a safer and cleaner place to live. Residents’ concerns over anti-social behaviour must be addressed immediately. We must protect our green space. It’s not hard to find sites for bins, benches, shrubs and flower beds nor is it hard to find residents who’ve been asking for them for years. It just needs a councillor prepared to do something about it. If elected, I’ll be visible all year round, not just in the run up to elections. I’ll hold regular drop-in surgeries for residents’ concerns to be channelled immediately to the council. Lip-service will end, common sense and hard work will begin.”

Sarah Dukes (Green)

“Climate breakdown is the pressing issue of our time, and the Greens are the only party committed to fixing the future of our planet. This is a chance for you to ensure Worcester secures a bigger voice for the environment, and for social justice.

“I’ve lived in Worcester with my husband and two children since 2005, and am an English teacher and eco co-ordinator at a high school in Malvern. The Green Party has already made such a positive impact in Worcester, by increasing the number of solar panel installations, working on new cycling and walking infrastructure, and planting more trees. These achievements not only help ease our city’s traffic, they also help protect Worcester’s beautiful open spaces, plus ensure better air quality.

“You can help keep up this momentum by voting for a party who are prepared to put the environment first, offering viable alternative solutions that will bring change.”

Sarah Murray (Liberal Democrat)

“Sarah moved to Worcester five years ago. An active member of the community, Sarah teaches in libraries and online, supporting a wide range of people across all age groups and helping them to achieve education and career goals. Sarah lives in Warndon with her partner and her Spaniel. They have a campervan and enjoy travelling. Sarah is passionate about the environment and has a love of the outdoors.

“Sarah cares about the community. She works with people and is passionate about fairness, equality and well-being as well as caring about the environment and acknowledging the impact of the outdoors on our physical and mental health. Previously a runner, due to injury she has taken up cycling and wants to see safer cycling for families so that we can all enjoy our beautiful, historic city to the fullest. If elected, Sarah would dedicate her time to representing local residents in resolving issues which impact on their daily lives.”

Ceri Stalker (Labour)

“I have represented Warndon for the past three years, attending meetings to make decisions that we all hope will bring benefits to the areas we work for and to the wider Worcester as a whole. Being a councillor is undoubtedly the most diverse role I have ever had – helping residents resolve issues that are important to them including housing, errant seagulls, benefit entitlement, car parking, dog poo, play areas, overhanging trees, fly-tipping and food banks.

“I have worked closely with a variety of providers to help relieve hunger, to offer access to exercise, to help groups support specific needs such as the DAWN and JOY projects at Worcester Community Trust and the food offer from Oasis Community Hub and WCT which were invaluable during the lockdown. I have enjoyed every minute of these interactions, meeting and getting to know so many different people has been an absolute privilege.”