BATTLE lines are being drawn across Hampshire as thousands of people prepare to go to the polls.
From 4pm today, nominations will close in the latest round of local elections.
Residents will then cast their votes in Southampton, Winchester, Eastleigh, Fareham and Gosport on May 22.
Southampton will have its first round of city council elections since Labour swept to power with a hefty majority in May 2012, with a third of seats up for grabs.
Since then the council has axed £30m of services and more than 300 jobs, and with up to £30m more cuts expected next year their impact on the city will remain on the agenda.
Despite two councillors having left Labour to form an anti-cuts party, their large majority means that they are likely to remain in control.
Long-standing Labour Woolston councillor and former mayor Carol Cunio will stand down, as will Conservative Sholing councillor Antony Kolker.
Labour’s Georgie Laming also resigned her position recently, meaning that two seats are up for grabs in Millbrook.
And all four of the party leaders at the council – Labour’s Simon Letts, Conservative Royston Smith, Liberal Democrat Adrian Vinson and Putting People First’s Keith Morrell – are up for re-election, raising the prospect that all parties may soon need new leaders.
There is everything to play for at Winchester City Council, with the balance of power finely poised and a third of seats up for grabs.
Both the ruling Tories and Liberal Democrat opposition currently have 27 councillors, and are defending ten and nine seats respectively.
A number of senior and longstanding councillors, including Tory council leader Keith Wood and housing boss Tony Coates, as well as Lib Dem veterans Ray Pearce and Brian Collin, will all stand down.
With 23 councillors compared to the Lib Dems’ six and two independents, the Conservatives are fairly sure to maintain control of Fareham, which will have half of its seats up for election.
Eastleigh has a third of seats up for election, but with 39 Lib Dems lining up against just four Tories and one independent currently, control of the council will not change hands.
In Gosport, where half of the seats are up for election, the Conservatives will be looking to tighten their grip on the council.
They currently have 24 councillors in comparison to five each for Labour and the Lib Dems.
Eyes will also be on UKIP’s performance across Hampshire, with the party looking to capitalise on its success at last year’s county council elections, where it seized ten seats.