HALTON goes to the polls today in an election like no other.

Having been delayed from last year due to the pandemic, today’s election take place under strict precautions which include voters having to wear face masks as well as bring their own pens to polling booths.

It will also mean that, despite votes being cast today – social distancing in the count rooms means they will not be totalled up until tomorrow, with the first results expected to be announced at around 3pm.

As well as being asked to choose their local councillors, voters in Halton will be in a unique position compared to those in other surrounding authorities.

Because it is the only part of Cheshire in the Liverpool City Region (LCR), voters will be asked to choose a Metro Mayor for the LCR, as well as a Police and Crime Commissioner for Cheshire. The other parts of the LCR will be voting for a Merseyside Police and Crime Commissioner.

In terms of who will run Halton Borough Council once the votes are in, as it has been a Labour stronghold for years it would take a monumental upset to see it displaced as the controlling party. But a major shakeup of ward boundaries throws up the possibility of some surprise results.

The shakeup means that, instead of the usual one third of council seats being up for grabs, all 54 seats are on the line this time, with five parties – Labour, Lib Dem, Conservative, Reform UK and Green – along with three independent candidates vying for seats.

Coupled with Covid, which has prevented some of the usual campaign activity and could have an impact on voter turnout, the uncertainty caused by the ward boundary changes has left some long-established councillors feeling nervous.

One key ward to watch is Beechwood and Heath. This new ward is a combination of a former Labour ward and Liberal Democrat ward, with both parties now having to go head-to-head.

The politics will be further complicated by the fact Green and independent candidates are standing, and it is uncertain if that may split the vote between the two frontrunners.

Another ward to watch is Birchfield, which is usually a closely run affair between the Conservatives and Labour.

There could be a surprise in the new Daresbury, Moore and Sandymoor ward.

Daresbury had been a two councillor ward and has had the borough’s only Conservative councillors for many years. But the new ward will now have an additional council seat and it remains to be seen which colour it will turn.