VOTERS are heading to the polls on Thursday to deliver their verdict on Stratford District Council.

This year’s district council elections coincide with the European elections and voting will be carried out in 135 polling stations across 100 locations spread around the district from 7am to 10pm.

There are 18 district council wards are being contested by 71 candidates including Long Compton.

Contesting the seat is conservative Stephen Gray, who has represented the ward for the last nine years.

Stratford District Council is currently made up of 29 Conservatives, 14 Liberal Democrats, five Independent, two Stratford First Independent, one Labour and two vacant in Long Itchington and Southam.

Turnout at the elections in May 2010, which was for 18 wards along with two by-elections in Henley and Shipston, was 73.85 per cent.

Labour candidate Amber McNicholas lives in Little Compton and is a recent History graduate from the University of Sussex.

She would like more people of her generation to get involved in local decision-making so that their voices can be heard.

Like many young people, Amber feels betrayed by the rise in tuition fees and believes that Labour can offer a fairer, more compassionate, and, importantly, equal future.

Amber will fight hard to protect the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and will look for sustainability when planning is proposed.

She will prioritise improvements in local services and better, more affordable, public transport.

Liberal Democrate candidate Laura Nelson has lived in South Warwickshire for over 20 years.

She grew up in nearby Ilmington and appreciates both the benefits and challenges of rural living.

She and her fiance own a small business in Stratford on Avon and she has worked for two healthcare charities and is soon to start a social work degree.

She believes that it's important to protect our villages from over development and is keen to see the council's planning Core Strategy in place as soon as possible.

Neighbourhood Plans have an important part to play in determining the future of our villages and are particularly important because they're prepared by local people.

She's looking forward to seeing the completed Plan for Long Compton.

Conservative Stephen Gray has represented Long Compton Ward at Stratford District Council for the last nine years. He is a former Leader of the Council and is the current Chairman of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee which examines the decisions made at Stratford.

Stephen will continue to attend Parish Council meetings to report on District Council matters and to follow up Residents’ concerns.

The Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty is protected by the work of the Cotswold Conservation Board where Stephen is a member. He also helps to distribute their grants for sustainable projects in the AONB

As a Trustee of the Long Compton recreation ground, Stephen will continue to support the excellent work of the Sports Club there.

UKIP candidate Ben Rodan says: "If you approve of UKIP's principled call for practical, democratic accountability at all levels of government, may I ask that you vote for me to serve for the one-year term of the forthcoming election?

"I have lived in the Long Compton Ward for fourteen years and am, out of duty, seeking election as your District Councillor, on a zero allowance/expense claim basis.

"My decades of detailed experience of, but not from within, Local and Central Government, both privately and during my career, do equip me for the tasks, duties and responsibilities of a Local Councillor."