2 May 2013

Council elections in England

8:02 am on 2 May 2013

Party leaders in Britain are making a final push for votes ahead of council elections in England and Wales that will show how the ruling coalition is doing.

More than 2300 seats are at stake on Thursday in elections regarded as an important barometer of political opinion two years before a general election is expected.

The BBC's deputy political editor says senior members of the main party in the ruling coalition, the Conservatives, are preparing to lose 350 seats with much of its support going to the UK Independence Party, an anti-European group.

UKIP has increased its number of candidates in the elections and is targeting voters disillusioned with the big three parties at Westminster.

Prime Minister David Cameron urged voters to focus on which councils delivered the best value for money.

In 2006 he dismissed UKIP as "fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists".

That is a welcome part of the political debate," he told The World at One on BBC Radio on Wednesday.

"I welcome the scrutiny of other parties. That is only fair in a democracy. Where they come up short, they have to explain themselves."

As well as council polls, a by-election will also be held for the Westminster seat of South Shields, while elections will also be held for mayors in Doncaster and North Tyneside.

Labour has declined to say how it expects to do on Thursday.