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Voters transfixed by two burning issues
PLANNING and council tax. They are to be the two main issues that will get Fareham's voters out to the ballot boxes on Thursday.
Cursed by voter apathy and plagued by the shadow of national politics, the local council elections usually see a turnout of just a quarter of the electorate.
This time around 15 of the 31 council seats are to be contested - one of which, in the Fareham South constituency, is unoccupied.
Will recent events in Iraq have a bearing on the elections or will local issues be the voter's bug bear?
On the streets of Fareham council tax and housing developments frequently cropped up.
Retired George Green, 73, of Orchard Grove, Portchester, was worried about possible land development in Cranleigh Road.
He said: "There used to be fields as far as the eye could see in Portchester but it's all built up now."
Earlier this year residents of Sarisbury expressed their concerns after the government declared its intention to build 1,000 homes on the 170-acre Coldeast site.
Chairman of the Sarisbury Residents' Association Mike Pengelly told the Daily Echo: "You would be building another Whiteley but there is not infrastructure to cope with it."
But Locks Heath resident Jim Rigger, 48, said: "I think national events always have a bearing on who you vote for - especially with the recent Iraq war."
Retired Sue Gatskill, 64, from Portchester, was concerned about levels of council tax.
She said: "It's getting harder and harder for pensioners to pay it."
The current make-up of Fareham Council sees the Conservatives holding 18 seats, the Lib Dems 12 and no representation for Labour.
One seat in Fareham South is vacant after former Lib Dem councillor High Pritchard was fined £300 by Fareham magistrates for falsely claiming £1,251.65 in council and housing tax benefits. He later paid the sum back in full but was expelled from the party.
Some of the most hotly contested seats will be in the east of the borough where the Fareham East, Portchester West and Stubbington wards could be regarded as swing seats.
Titchfield Common, Fareham South and Fareham North-West may also see changes.
Meanwhile, the former leader of Fareham's Labour group Mick Prior, who lost out in 2002 after 12 years as a member, is back to contest the Fareham North-West seat.
Another 2002 casualty, Conservative Nick Walker, who was beaten to the second seat in Portchester West by Stephen Clark after a tense second recount, again stands for election.