Kingston residents will go to the polls on 5 May to decide who runs their council, as the local elections take place across London and the UK.
While most London boroughs are a battle between the Conservatives and Labour as the two majority parties, Kingston bucks the trend as it has been a Liberal Democrat stronghold for the past four years.
The Lib Dems won 39 council seats out of 48 with the Conservatives gaining the remaining nine in 2018’s elections.
But this year some factors could sway the decision of residents with the Conservatives suspected to pose a threat to the controlling Lib Dem council.
A key voting issue for residents is Kingston’s sky high council tax.
The borough has the highest rates in London and this month rose by 1.99% to £2,097.90 a year, or £175 a month for the average Band D property.
Kingston’s Conservative party said the Lib Dem council rejected its proposals for a council tax freeze and has now included the freeze as a pledge in its manifesto to help with the rising cost of living.
Another important topic for residents is controversy surrounding the proposed redevelopment of the popular Kingfisher leisure centre and swimming pool.
The Lib Dem council voted last year to go ahead with plans to demolition and re-build the beloved leisure centre despite a petition opposing the redevelopment gaining over 1,500 signatures.
Some residents voiced anger in feeling ignored by their local leadership and the Conservative party criticised the council’s delayed construction plans and costs to the taxpayer.
The Lib Dems uphold the state-of-the-art centre is due to open in 2024.
Housing issues also extend to debates surrounding new tower blocks built across the borough, with some locals complaining it will spoil the landscape.
The Lib Dem council defended construction plans as a path to more affordable and sustainable homes in line with the Mayor of London’s legally-binding housing targets.
These issues could all translate to votes at the local elections with residents taking a stand on the things that matter to them.
The Lib Dem council has also suffered infighting with resignations changing the composition of the council.
Councillor Sharon Fachikov-Sumner defected to the Green Party before resigning from the council entirely this year and her seat is vacant until the local elections take place.
Councillor Liz Green was ousted by her own party in March 2020 having led the Lib Dems for seven years, and was replaced by Caroline Kerr who then resigned in October 2021.
And Councillor Jon Tolley resigned from the party in September 2021 primarily over the Kingfisher demolition plans.
Andreas Kirsch now runs the Kingston Lib Dem council.
This year the number of wards in Kingston has increased from 16 to 19 following a review by the Local Government Boundary Commission.
This change in wards means local polling stations may have changed from previous elections.
The Lib Dems, Labour and the Conservatives each have 48 candidates standing across all wards, while the Green Party have 26 candidates and the Kingston Independent Residents Group have 18.
A full list of the candidates in May’s elections for all Kingston’s wards can be found here.