INDEPENDENTS, Green, UKIP, Labour and Lib Dems all figure in the list of 96 candidates set to fight it out for the 40 seats on Fenland District Council.

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That’s a sixty per cent rise on 2007 when only 60 candidates put their names forward including 22 councillors who were returned unopposed.

Next month just two candidates will not to have contest their seat at the poll.

Former deputy leader Pop Jolley will be returning to Fenland Council after being unopposed in the Wimblington seat currently held by Jill Tuck, who is stepping down.

In Whittlesey Martin Curtis has been given a surprise free pass in a town where the Green Party is fielding candidates in other wards.

One of the bitterest battles will be in Elm, Christchurch and Friday Bridge where Councillor Phil Webb, a Cabinet member, was de selected by the Tories and will now fight for political survival as an independent.

Council Leader Alan Melton said: “I am absolutely delighted that so many people have put their names forward to stand for election.

“Of course it is up to the people of Fenland to now decide who should represent them. Naturally I hope they decide to continue with the Conservatives.

“We have an excellent track record both of securing investment into the district and protecting front line services.”

Cllr Melton refused to speculate on the immediate future of Councillor Webb who, technically, remains a Cabinet member.

There will be growing pressure on Cllr Melton today to do one of two things- invite Cllr Webb to resign immediately or, if he refuses, to summarily dismiss him.

Although Labour is fielding 20 candidates across Fenland, they have decided not to stand against Cllr Melton in his Birch ward at Chatteris.

However he will face two opponents next month- Muriel Rylance is fighting the seat for UKIP and Christine Colbert (wife of local activist Chris Howes) for the Lib Dems.

Longest list of nominees for a ward will be in Waterlees, Wisbech, where nine candidates are vying for just two seats.

Michael and Virgina Bucknor are standing as Independents, Paul Clapp and Christopher Schooling for UKIP, Barry Diggle and Avis Gilliat for Labour, and Ray Griffin and David Wheeler for the Conservatives, and Christopher Hancox for the Lib Dems .

• Watch for election updates coming soon on our special ELECTION 2011 microsite

• And later today we hope to be able to publish the list of all candidates for district, town and parish elections.

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