Marple is on the border between Derbyshire and traditional Cheshire; it used to have an Urban District Council but was brought under the auspices of Stockport MBC after the re-organisation of local government in 1974.
It is beautiful place standing as it does on the edge of the Pennines and the Peaks, with the River Goyt running through. Its major industry was cotton until that went the way of all the cotton towns.
It is presently represented on the Council by 6 councillors, 3 for North Marple ward and 3 for South Marple ward. The statistical make-up of both wards is similar.
Presently, all 6 councillors are Liberal Democrats.
Marple North covers the areas of Mellor and Compstall, bordering High Lane to the south, New Mills to the south east, Romiley and Hazel Grove to the west.
Last year, the Labour vote rose by 8.2%, the Lib Dem vote fell by 11.5%, the Conservative vote rose by 2.4%, the Green fell by 1.9% since 2007. UKIP took a 5.9% of the vote, not having stood in 2007.
The Liberal Democrats have dominated politics in North Marple for 30 years with the Conservatives last successfully winning this seat (or its predecessor) in 1982. The arrival of the SDP and the Alliance with the Liberals gave an opening for what was to become the Liberal Democrats and they have held on, sometimes with a very high share of the vote, ever since.
Labour have had some success in the sense of achieving fairly respectable vote shares in the past, under their long-running candidate Ms S Townsend who, in 1995, took 19.2% of the vote and challenged the then very weak Conservatives for 2nd place. She ran in an energy-sapping 7 successive elections in this seat; after a break, she stood again in 2006 and 2007.
The Liberal Democrats defending candidate, Counciller Martin Candler, will remember her well as they both stood for the first time in 1994, he with more success, and he has been the councillor here for 18 years.
Over the years the Lib Dem vote share has been pared back by the Tories but they have remained comfortably ahead with over 50% of the vote. This slipped to 48.1% in 2010 (General Election year) and then fell back badly last year to 40.1%
It is a fairly affluent ward with 36.8% of the population described as being in managerial or professional occupations, 11.4% in intermediate occupations (Sales, clerical work, service industry), over 17% in lower supervisory/technical/semi-routine and routine occupations, 7.35% are Self-employed. Unemployment according to the census figures is very low (1.57%) but this might not include some from the large 'not classifiable' group of 19.22%. Either way, the unemployment figure may have changed significantly over the last year or so.
It is a much older population than most wards with 26.08% over 60 (an impressive 9.58% over 75). The median age is a high 43. This reflects the high number of retirees who live in the area and are the most motivated group to vote.
7.51% of the population are single-parent households. 11.47% of the population were 'people of working age with a limiting long-term illness'. This is a relatively large figure for a more affluent community. Government targeting of those claiming sickness benefit will have an effect here.
The UKIP candidate is again Ray Jones who will be hoping to soak up protest votes from those unhappy with the national Coalition Government and the Local Authority under Lib Dem control. It will be the concern of the Conservative's Annette Finnie to try and take votes from UKIP and the Lib Dems to try and close the gap enough to take the seat from the Lib Dems. It is unknown what effect the Independent candidate, Barry Minshall, will have - he last stood in 2010, garnering 3.3% of the vote.
The Green's Maggie Preston is standing again and she has enjoyed a couple of good results in the past - over 10% in 2006 and 9% in 2007. The Liberal Democrats will be concerned not to lose the votes of disgruntled left-of-centre voters to the Greens or Labour so will be targeting them with the old "Labour can't win here" and "Don't let the Tories in". This has been pretty effective in the past but whether it will be so successful in this difficult time for the Lib Dems locally and nationally, we will find out in a couple of weeks.
As ever, the older voters are the most determined ones and, whilst the Tories would hope to win them over, it will depend on how they are feeling about the low interest on their hard-earned pensions, the 'Granny Tax' debate and any cuts they are facing to local amenities due to the economic situation. Labour are not the first home of choice for the older voters in this area but I think they could pick up quite a number; their candidate, David Rowbottom, will be looking to improve his vote share and that could have an effect on the Lib Dem hopes.
I have to guess and I cannot really see the Liberal Democrats losing here but if their share of the vote falls below 39% then they may be in danger from the Conservatives. I expect local MP Mark Hunter, former local councillor, will be working hard here.
Liberal Democrat hold.
M Candler LD 2162 51.2% (40.1%)
C Walsh C 1502 35.6% (32.7%)
M Preston Grn 340 8.1% (7.4%)
D Rowbottom Lab 215 5.1% (14.8%)
Full Candidate List: Martin Candler(Lib Dem), Annette Finnie (Con), Ray Jones (UKIP), Barry Minshall (Ind), Maggie Preston (Green), David Rowbottom (Lab).
Marple South covers High Lane, with Hazel Grove to the west, Offerton to the north-west and Mellor to the north.
Last year, the Labour vote rose by 11.8%, the Lib Dem vote fell by 11.1%, Conservative vote rose by 1.5%, the UKIP vote rose by 3.5%. The Greens didn't stand so lost 5.7%
This was a good result for the Labour party and their candidate, Clifford Stanway (standing again this year), who have no recent history of success in either of the Marple wards . The Conservatives will have been disappointed not to achieve a bigger swing to them from the Liberal Democrats and probably feel unhappy with the large UKIP vote of which they would probably garner the majority.This was a fairly comfortable victory for the Liberal Democrats who will hope that last year is the worse that could happen to them given as there seems to have been a fairly clear swing from them to Labour (11.45%). It is hard to see them losing here although there is a big anti-supermarket campaign ongoing and it might cause problems for their candidate, Councillor Shan Alexander who, whilst claiming to lead the campaign against it, is running to catch up with local campaigners. There is also the unfortunate car accident she was involved in a couple of years ago which lead to calls for her resignation; I don't know enough about it and I only mention it here because it may effect her vote.
It is a fairly affluent ward with 35.7% of the population described as being in managerial or professional occupations, 10.4% in intermediate occupations (Sales, clerical work, service industry), around 19% in lower supervisory/technical/semi-routine and routine occupations, 8.4% are Self-employed. Unemployment according to the census figures is very low (1.13%) but this might not include some from the large 'not classifiable' group of 20.56%. Either way, the unemployment figure may have changed significantly over the last year or so.
It is a much older population than most wards with 28.04%; over 60 (an impressive 9.87% over 75). The median age is a high 46. This reflects the high number of retirees who live in the area and are the most motivated group to vote.
6.6% of the population are single-parent households. 11.57% of the population were 'people of working age with a limiting long-term illness'. This is a relatively large figure for a more affluent community. Government targeting of those claiming sickness benefit will have an effect here.
Whilst it will be argued that the 'Granny Tax' isn't really true, it may be hard for the Lib Dems and Conservatives to completely shake the frustration of older people who have worked hard to live off their pensions only to see them decimated by low interest rates. They will want to blame somebody, though they aren't too likely, on the whole, to vote Labour in this area. Maybe the UKIP candidate, Mr Moore, will hope to reap the whirlwind a little here.
The Liberal Democrats are already running their traditional "Labour can't win here" campaign, but it is not likely to produce enthusiasm from those who might want to make a protest and don't want to vote for the Lib Dems, be it for national, local or personal reasons.
I really don't know what to say here - do I think the Liberal Democrats could lose here for the first time since 1984 (the last time the Conservatives successfully fought a seat in South Marple)? It is difficult to see, especially with UKIP taking part. In the end, it will depend on the level of the Labour vote and UKIP vote and who managed to successfully harness the 'no to the supermarket' campaign. This is probably the best chance the Tories and their candidate, Carl Rydings, have had in years but I predict a Lib Dem hold here.
S Alexander LD 2051 51.6% (42.3%)
W Wragg C 1391 35.0% (32.4%)
T Moore UKIP 201 5.1% (8.3%)
G Reid Grn 180 4.5%
K Vickers Lab 151 3.8% (17.0%)
Full Candidate List: Shan Alexander (Lib Dem), Tony Moore (UKIP), Carl Rydings (Con), Clifford Stanway (Lab)