News In Depth
Early clues in council results race
Polls close at 10pm on Thursday in the council elections, and within as little as two hours a handful of quick-counting authorities will give an early taste of the long night - and day - to come.
Labour is set to make hundreds of gains overall but will want to pull ahead of its votes share performance last year when it was virtually neck and neck with Tories.
A clue could come from Tamworth in Staffordshire, frequently the first council to declare, and Lincoln.
Both are in marginal parliamentary constituencies which Tories gained from Labour at the general election.
Sunderland, five times first in Westminster poll counts, is also likely to be among early declarations.
In all three of these councils there was no change in the number of seats won by Tories between 2010's polls on the same day as the general election and those of last May - thought by some to be a disappointment for Labour.
The outcome is also likely to be known soon at Knowsley, a Labour stronghold on Merseyside.
Labour won every seat up for election in this borough in both 2010 and 2011.
This year the last four Liberal Democrat seats are up for grabs but holding even one of them would suggest a recovery for that party.
The wards won by parties in these areas in the last two years were:
:: Knowsley: 2010 - Lab 21; 2011 - Lab 21
:: Lincoln: 2010 - Lab 7, C 4; 2011 - Lab 7, C 4
:: Sunderland: 2010 - Lab 22, C 3; 2011 - Lab 21, C 3, Ind 1
:: Tamworth: 2010 - C 7, Lab 3; 2011 - C 7, Lab 2, Ind 1.
The first council to change hands could be Worcester, currently under Conservative control by one seat.