Conservatives guaranteed to win at least 18 seats in Norfolk local elections
- Credit: Nick Butcher
The Conservative party is already in effect a third of the way to an overall majority in one of the region's councils - before voters have even taken to the polls.
Eight of the 39 seats available on Great Yarmouth Borough Council are effectively guaranteed to be won by the Tories, with the party fielding enough candidates in the borough to effectively secure certain seats.
In six of the 17 wards in the borough, parties opposing the Conservatives have fielded fewer candidates than available seats, meaning while the wards are not completely uncontested, the result is certain to produce at least one Tory councillor.
The lack of competition has been branded 'bad for voters' by a political pressure group.
A similar scenario is unfolding in Breckland, with the number of Tory candidates guaranteeing the party at least seven seats. However, this represents a much smaller proportion of the total number of seats available, with 49 seats up for grabs compared with Great Yarmouth's 39.
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The Conservatives are also guaranteed to win at least three seats on West Norfolk Council, with the Airfield, Feltwell and Heacham wards certain to produce a Tory councillor.
However, Norfolk is one of the few counties nationwide where every ward has enough candidates to bring people to the polls.
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The situation has been criticised by the Electoral Reform Society, a national political pressure group.
Josiah Mortimer, a spokesman for the ERS, said: 'Elections are a cornerstone of our democracy, yet in many parts of England people are being denied a meaningful choice, with parties securing representation without a meaningful challenge. That's bad for voters and makes for poor scrutiny of our town halls.'
Meanwhile, several wards across the county are only offering the electorate choices of two parties, including 15 wards in Breckland, 11 wards in Great Yarmouth and two wards in Broadland, South Norfolk and North Norfolk respectively.
Meanwhile, voters in 12 wards in West Norfolk have the choice between either Conservative or another, seven of which are contested between a Conservative candidate and an Independent hopeful.
Mr Mortimer added: 'At at time when people want to 'shop around' more than ever, nearly 150,000 potential voters across Norfolk are in 'two-party' seats with just a couple of candidates to choose from.
'Recent polling shows huge numbers of voters no longer back the two main parties, yet wards across Norfolk as a whole are being denied real competition.'