TODAY South Tyneside voters go to the polls in what promises to be the most intriguing Local Elections in years.
The Labour Party currently has a firm hold on power in the council chamber, holding 49 of the 54 electoral ward seats.
Today, 18 wards are up for grabs, with 59 candidates fighting it out from across the political spectrum.
Polling stations across the borough opened at 7am, with people having until 10pm to cast their vote.
Many political observers will be interested to see how the UK Independence Party (UKIP) performs at a local level.
Nigel Farage’s party finished second in last year’s South Shields Parliamentary by-election, when its candidate, Richard Elvin, polled a quarter of the vote in finishing second to Labour’s Emma Lewell-Buck.
On the back of that result, the party is fielding 16 candidates. Meanwhile, Labour and the Conservatives have candidates in all 18 wards up for grabs.
The Liberal Democrats, which has no councillors in the borough, is putting forward just two candidates, with five independents making up the field.
There are a number of key seats which will help decide the political make-up in the council chamber come this time tomorrow.
They include Jarrow’s Fellgate and Hedworth ward, held by UKIP’s Steve Harrison, who will be up against Labour newcomer and community campaigner Geraldine Kilgour and Conservative Ian Armstrong.
Another hotly-contested ward promises to be Cleadon Park in South Shields.
Sitting councillor Jim Foreman, a member of the council’s decision-making cabinet, faces a challenge from June Elsom, who is hoping to join husband and fellow independent George Elsom, in the council chamber.
Also on the ballot paper in the ward is housing landlord Colin Campbell, standing as an independent, alongside the Conservatives’ Barbara Surtees.
Another candidate trying to make it a family affair is Conservative Fiona Milburn, in the Cleadon and East Boldon ward.
She aims to topple sitting Labour candidate Margaret Meling, and make the Tories the dominant force in the ward again by joining forces with husband Jeff Milburn.
UKIP’s Russell Sanderson is also contesting the seat.