ONE OF the most hotly contested county council elections in Powys is set to take place as candidates hit the campaign trail.

In the lead-up to the announcement, the electorate was greeted with the news that a raft of councillors were stepping aside, 23 in total, with 50 councillors standing again for their seats on May 4.

Of the prospective candidates, the Conservatives are attacking Montgomeryshire, with 27 candidates vying for seats.

Welsh Conservative Manager in Montgomeryshire, Simon Baynes, who will sit as candidate in Llanwddyn, said at the campaign launch: “A vote for your Welsh Conservative candidate will deliver a council which is accountable to local people, delivers high quality and efficient public services and which offers value for money for Powys taxpayers.

“Welsh Conservative candidates from across North Powys are putting forward a positive alternative to the current administration – a group of independents which by virtue of their independence can never provide the strong and stable local government which Powys desperately needs.”

In Radnorshire, the Tories will go for a further 17 seats.

Currently the council is operated by an Independent Group, of three different parties, and a high number of independent candidates will once again go to the polls.

59 independent candidates are listed overall, 28 in Montgomeryshire, and 31 in Brecon and Radnorshire.

Independent Group leader Graham Brown, who is standing down in Llandrinio, said: “It is hard to predict the make-up following May.

“But I think independents will be a major force again.”

Over the 73 wards in total, 56 are being contested, and 16 are uncontested with candidates returning unopposed, and one ward, Yscir, not receiving any nominations.

Five Labour candidates will return unopposed, including leader Cllr Sandra Davies, who said: “It shows that people are happy with what we are doing and it is rewarding.

“We are now hoping the new candidates are also successful.”

The Green Party will go for a total of 17 seats across the county.

Wales Party Leader Grenville Ham was optimistic and said the party is targeting Caersws with Pippa Pemberton as a key seat.

He said: “The numbers going forward show growth and we want to focus on supporting people in the communities.

“Other parties have campaigned for cuts, but we are about looking at what we can keep.

“All candidates are 100 per cent committed to their communities.”

Plaid campaign co-ordinator Aled Morgan-Hughes believes they appeal to all voters and people are fed up with the independent run council.

He said: “This is a historic election for Plaid Cymru in Powys. Last time round in 2012, we only had one candidate standing across the county. This year we have 11 – a new record for us. And we’re not just standing in order to make the numbers up.

“People are fed up with the visionless independent rule on Powys County Council. A vote for Plaid Cymru is a vote for change.”

As a result the council will have at least 22 new councillors, two already elected unopposed, and 20 contests where all the candidates are new.

Some long serving councillors will not be standing again, including Llanfihangel Cllr and Leader Barry Thomas and deputy leaders Graham Brown and Wynne Jones.

Newtown is set to see changes, with Gemma Bowker, Russell George, Bob Mills and Peter Harris all standing aside, as Joy Jones returns to her Newtown East seat unopposed.

Beguildy’s John Brunt steps down, as does Cllr Tony Thomas and Llanfair Caereinion’s Viola E Evans.

As a result PCC will have at least 22 new councillors, two already elected unopposed and 20 contests where all the candidates are new.