THE Liberal Democrats are not fielding candidates in two wards in Warrington in the forthcoming local elections.

Despite being senior partners in the coalition running Warrington Borough Council for the past five years, there will be no Lib Dem on the ballot paper in Burtonwood and Winwick or in Penketh.

But Lib Dem council leader Clr Ian Marks says no deal has been done with Tory coalition partners.

The Warrington Guardian understands the Lib Dems have struggled to find enough candidates to fight each of the 20 seats.

They are likely to come under intense pressure at the May 5 ballot from Labour who need to win just one extra seat to seize control of the Town Hall.

Clr Marks said: “It is fair to say these are not our target seats. But nobody should read anything into this. There has been no deal.”

And while he accepted the election promised to be ‘tough’ for his party, he was still confident the Lib Dems can do enough to remain in power.

He added: “We cannot ignore the national picture but we are very proud of what we have done here in the last five years.

“There have been tremendous achievements and we think it compares well to what Labour achieved in the previous five years.”

For Labour, the election provides a chance to take back control of the council. The party will be especially confident of winning two seats from the Lib Dems, Poulton North and Bewsey and Whitecross — where Clr Jeff Richards secured a thumping by-election win in a pre-Christmas poll forced by the resignation of former Lib Dem parliamentary candidate Jo Crotty.

The Poulton North seat is one which Warrington North campaign manager Chris Vobe believes will be crucial.

He said: “It is quite clear this is an important seat.

“Graham Friend has been doing a lot of work there and we are very hopeful.

“It is one of a number of seats where we will be putting a very clear case for our fight against the Lib Dems.”

The Conservatives meanwhile will be hopeful of adding to their six seats with strong fights in Rixton and Woolston, where they will challenge Labour’s Paul Bretherton and in some seats in the south of the town — especially Stockton Heath and Appleton.

But Tory group leader Clr Keith Bland, who is the coalition deputy leader of the council, said it would be a tough vote to predict.

He said: “It is hard to know what will happen but we are very happy with what we have achieved in the shared administration.

“We are confident of holding our seats and hope to pick up more, to counteract any that Labour might take from the Lib Dems.”

The Greens will field five candidates and UKIP fight in three wards. There is a far right BNP candidate in Bewsey and Whitecross.