POLITICAL rivals have put their differences aside and joined forces to urge the people of Wakefield to turn out and vote in the coming local council elections.

Council Leader Peter Box and opposition leader David Hopkins rarely see eye to eye.

But on the all-important question of democracy in action they are in complete agreement.

And after a particularly low turn out at the last round of local elections in May 2000 they are keen to see an increase on May 2 this year.

The turn out in the last local elections in 2000 was just over 21 per cent of the district's 231,000 voters and well below the national average of 30 per cent.

Some voters will be casting their vote in the more unusual setting of a caravan, or in a portacabin on a holidaying couple's driveway.

Coun Box said: "This year we hope the figures will be much higher. It is really important that people exercise their right to vote. It is a right which gives everyone over the age of 18 a voice in local democracy and a chance to influence the make up of their council."

Coun Hopkins added: "People can be very cynical about politics and politicians I would urge everyone to vote whatever their political persuasion. Democracy was won by our forebears' determination. We cannot have true democracy if the majority fail to take part."

Wakefield district council elections are held three years out of every four, with one seat in each of Wakefield's 21 wards being contested.

The present make-up of Wakefield Council is Labour as the controlling group with 55 seats, Conservatives four seats, Liberal Democrats one and Independents three, including the Hazell brothers, Brian and Norman who left the conservative party last year.

The two biggest parties have candidates standing in all 21 wards, the Liberal Democrats are fighting 11 seats while other parties including, Independent, Socialist Alternative, Socialist Labour, UK Independence, Socialist Alliance, are contesting 15 seats.

Twenty of the seats up for election are currently held by Labour. Two cabinet members, Peter Loosemore of Housing and Social Services and Wayne Jenkins, cabinet member for Education are both standing for re-election.

Colin Oldroyd of Ossett ward and June Bridgewater of Stanley and Wrenthorpe ward will be stepping down. After 28 years as a councillor, Mrs Bridgewater said she felt she had done her fair share and was looking forward to a break.

Polling stations across the district will be open from 8am to 9pm on Thursday May 2.

DISSIDENT councillor and one-time Wakefield Tory leader, Norman Hazell is putting his popularity on the line when he stands for re-election against his old party.

The former mayor of Wakefield and his brother Coun Brian Hazell quit the Conservative Party during the General Election campaign last year to split off and form a new party.

Now Norman will be asking the voters of his Wakefield South ward to vote for him as an Independent candidate rather than for the party he has represented as a councillor for almost 30 years.

The ex true-blue will be challenged by Conservative newcomer, Christian I'Anson, who will be hoping to grab back the seat for the Tories, along with Liberal Democrat, Stephen Nuthall and Labour, Hazel Chowcat.