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Polls have closed in local elections taking place across England and Wales.

More than 2,600 council seats across 107 councils are up for grabs in England, alongside 11 mayoral elections, a parliamentary seat and police and crime commissioners throughout England and Wales.

Polls opened at 7am, and closed at 10pm, with counting now under way.

Local elections: Follow the results live

Sky News will be covering the results overnight with a special programme hosted by Jonathan Samuels beginning at midnight, and coverage into the weekend.

The results unfolding in the next hours and days will give an indicator of public opinion on the political parties as the UK heads towards a general election.

Labour is hoping to make gains across the country, while the Conservatives will hope to minimise losses as they sit around 20 points behind the opposition in the polls.

More on Conservatives

Keen attention will be paid to the mayoral races being held in the West Midlands and the Tees Valley – Red Wall seats that the Conservatives won under Boris Johnson with mayors Andy Street and Lord Ben Houchen respectively.

Losses there could prove difficult for Prime Minister Rishi Sunak – with rumours that if both turn red it could spark a leadership contest.

Labour‘s Sadiq Khan is hoping to win a record third term as the mayor of London, running against the Conservative’s Susan Hall, with 25 seats on the London Assembly also up for grabs.

Read more on local elections:
What does victory and defeat look like – Beth Rigby

How key areas are predicted to vote – Sam Coates

Sky’s election coverage plan – how to follow

Thursday into Friday: From 12am until 6am, Jonathan Samuels will be joined by political correspondents Tamara Cohen and Gurpreet Narwan, as well as teams from across the country.

Friday: Lead politics presenter Sophy Ridge and chief presenter Mark Austin will be joined by political editor Beth Rigby and deputy political editor Sam Coates throughout the day, as well as economics and date editor Ed Conway and election analyst Professor Michael Thrasher.

Friday night: From 7pm until 9pm, Sophy Ridge will host a special edition of the Politics Hub, offering a full analysis and breakdown of the local elections.

The weekend: Sophy Ridge will host another special edition of the Politics Hub on Saturday from 7pm until 9pm. And Sunday Morning with Trevor Phillips will take a look back over what’s happened from 8.30am until 10am.

How do I watch?: Freeview 233, Sky 501, Virgin 603, BT 313, YouTube and the Sky News website and app. You can also watch Sky News live here, and on YouTube.

And the Electoral Dysfunction podcast with Beth Rigby, Jess Phillips and Ruth Davidson will go out on Friday, and Politics at Jack and Sam’s will navigate the big question of where the results leave us ahead of a general election on Sunday.

There are further mayoral elections in the East Midlands, Greater Manchester, Liverpool City Region, the North East, South Yorkshire, West Yorkshire and York & North Yorkshire. An election is also taking place for the Salford city mayor.

A parliamentary by-election is taking place in Blackpool South to replace the former Conservative MP Scott Benton, who left parliament following a lobbying scandal.

The Tories are defending a majority of 3,690 – much smaller than several of those overturned by Labour in recent years.

In total, 37 police and crime commissioners are being elected across England and Wales – although two of those PCC roles are being absorbed into a mayor’s responsibilities, in South Yorkshire and York & North Yorkshire.

Speaking on the Political Currency podcast, former Conservative chancellor George Osborne said losing the West Midlands would be “pretty bad” for Mr Sunak, while losing the Tees Valley would be “armageddon”.

“There will be people in the Conservative Parliamentary Party saying, ‘Change course, change leader’,” he said, adding: “You would never have guessed 20 years ago that the future of the Tory leadership would depend on how people are voting in Teesside. But I think right now, that is the case.”

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The last time these council elections took place, the then prime minister Boris Johnson was riding high in the polls following the success of the vaccine rollout – taking his party to their best performance in the locals since 2008.

Transport Secretary Mark Harper said it was going to be “difficult to achieve on that”.

Asked if this was an admission the party is less popular under Mr Sunak than it was under Mr Johnson, Mr Harper said it was the context of having a “vaccine bounce” and coming out of the pandemic that made the party popular in 2021.

And Mr Sunak was at the time “the chancellor, who found the money to pay for rolling the vaccine out”.

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Local elections: Why they matter

In last year’s local elections – which were for different areas – Labour snatched key battlegrounds from the Conservatives but not at a rate high enough to indicate the opposition was on course to win if a general election took place.

This key metric, known as National Equivalent Vote (NEV), will be tracked over the weekend by Sky News election analyst Professor Michael Thrasher.

Asked what success would look like, Labour’s shadow chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Pat McFadden said his party is looking at the Blackpool South by-election “which is the only result where Rishi Sunak and the government are really on the ballot paper”.

A win there will show “real progress”, Mr McFadden said.

Asked about his party’s prospects in Tees Valley and the West Midlands, the veteran Labour MP said the Tories hanging on would “only be because they put as much distance as possible between themselves and Rishi Sunak and the Conservative Party brand”.

How many seats/councils are parties defending?

The Conservatives are defending 985 seats, Labour 965 and the Liberal Democrats 410.

The Greens hold 107 seats, while independents have 112 and other parties the remaining 57.

Labour currently has majority control in 45 of the 107 councils. The Conservatives control 18 and the Lib Dems 10.

Just under a third, 34 councils, are under no overall control.

Key battlegrounds

After a survey of 9,000 people, this is how YouGov thinks these key votes will go
Image:
After a survey of 9,000 people, this is how YouGov thinks these key votes will go

When it comes to councils, areas to watch out for include Hyndburn, Milton Keynes, Norwich, Tamworth, Reigate and Banstead, Hull, Walsall, Colchester, Stockport, Sheffield, Solihull, North East Lincolnshire, Lincoln, Peterborough, Rugby and Thurrock.

Sky News and YouGov asked around 9,000 people how they intend to vote, and used this to forecast how these will change.

Labour looks set to make a number of gains – although some races are too close to call.

Follow our live coverage of the election results from midnight – find the full details here

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Gareth Bale warns greed could harm footballer welfare as matches pile up – and backs calls to scrap VAR

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Gareth Bale warns greed could harm footballer welfare as matches pile up - and backs calls to scrap VAR

Gareth Bale has revealed to Sky News concerns football could become “too greedy”, with players’ mental and physical well-being endangered by growing fixture demands.

The former Wales captain, who won every major honour with Real Madrid, urged football authorities to act so “it doesn’t take something bad to happen for that to change”.

In his first notable interview since retiring in January 2023, Bale reflected on the highs and lows of an illustrious career, assessed the wider state of the game – including what he describes as the need to scrap VAR – and expressed admiration for Jude Bellingham’s immediate impact at Madrid.

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Bale on why he doesn’t like VAR

Bale retired at 33 as a five-time Champions League winner with Madrid – becoming Britain’s most successful male footballing export while still facing difficult times winning over fans in Spain.

The pressures he felt are now only growing as competitions add matches, much to the frustration of global players’ union FIFPRO.

Bale said in an exclusive interview with Sky News: “The intensity and the quickness [are] only getting higher, and it’s very difficult to continue playing at that high level.

“And then when the level comes down, you only get scrutinised.”

He said that while “everybody understands that money … plays a big part” and “more games means more money”, players “want to play the right amount of games where you can cope with it without it being dangerous”.

He added: “It’s a very fine line, but hopefully everybody can come together and come to a right resolution for player welfare.”

Gareth Bale lifting the Champions League trophy for Real Madrid. Pic: PA
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Gareth Bale lifting the Champions League trophy for Real Madrid in 2018. Pic: PA

Some players now could be required for more than 85 matches in a season for club and country with FIFA introducing a new 32-team Club World Cup every four years and UEFA expanding the Champions League.

“The amount of fixtures is becoming more and more and it’ll just become more demanding – and hopefully it doesn’t take something bad to happen for that to change,” Bale said.

“Looking after the players is an important thing. They’re the ones who are growing the game, bringing the fans in to watch them.”

Asked about hopes for football, Bale replied: “It’s just about staying together as one and without certain things getting too greedy.”

‘VAR only made it worse’

One thing he certainly doesn’t miss is video assistant referees delaying celebrations and ruling out goals.

Premier League clubs are set to vote next week on whether to scrap VAR.

VAR, Bale says, was “supposed to take away the controversy in football and it’s only made it worse – I like the human error aspect”.

“Things in slow motion look a lot worse than they do in real time. So, when you slow things down, a handball looks way more of a handball than it does in real action.

“So I don’t like it. I would like to see it gone personally.”

‘Fantastic’ Bellingham

Bale led Tottenham into the Champions League for the first time before an £85m move to Madrid in 2013.

Jude Bellingham has been 'fantastic'. Pic: PA
Image:
Jude Bellingham has been ‘fantastic’. Pic: PA

The 14-time European champions are back in the final on Saturday at Wembley Stadium against Borussia Dortmund – a notable homecoming for Jude Bellingham after a wondrous first season in the Spanish capital.

The 20-year-old English star has already won LaLiga with 19 goals and six assists.

“At such a young age to be doing what he’s doing is fantastic,” Bale said. “It’s great to see, it’s refreshing and it’s important.”

It is especially important to get off to a good start at a club of such history and tradition like Real Madrid, he said.

“The intensity, the pressure that you can feel under…,” said Bale.

“So, he had a great start so far. Obviously, they still have a big game to come and it’ll be great for him to win a Champions League in his first season, that really settles the pressure and, hopefully, he can kick on from there.”

Ups and downs in Madrid

Life in Madrid wasn’t always easy for Bale, with jeers from his own fans despite being so integral on the big occasions with memorable goals like the scissor kick in the 2018 Champions League final win over Liverpool.

Gareth Bale scoring a spectacular overhead kick against Liverpool. Pic PA
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Gareth Bale scoring a spectacular overhead kick against Liverpool. Pic PA

“Of course, there’s always going to be ups and downs,” Bale said. “It’s how you deal with those, how you bounce back, how your character comes out.

“There were obviously some great times, there were obviously some bad. But, I think normally the good outweighs the bad in the end.”

Undoubtedly the biggest moments of pride came with his country – leading Wales to the Euro 2016 semifinals and ending their 62-year World Cup exile in 2022.

“If you’d told me when I was a young kid that I would have the career I did, I probably would never have believed you,” Bale said. “I feel like I overachieved”.

“But I think as you get older, your goals change, your body changes, your talent kind of takes over, the hard work kicks in.”

Read more:
The caretaker’s son who became Wales’ greatest footballer
Bale ‘very proud’ after receiving MBE from Prince William

Now there is more time for golf and family.

“It’s been really nice just to take a step back and have that pressure just relieved a bit,” he said.

“So it’s been good. Obviously I’ve spoken to people when they’ve retired. It’s all about keeping stuff a little bit busy.”

Climate concern

Bale also expressed concern over how football impacts climate change – and stressed the importance of not neglecting the environment while chasing sporting glory.

His message for collective action on sustainability features alongside those of other players, clubs and fans on a Pledge Ball made from recycled boots by Champions League sponsor Mastercard.

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“It’s difficult to make big changes,” Bale said. “It’s always about making those little changes.”

Bale urged the media “to write about the good things, not the bad things”, mentioning Lewis Hamilton as an example of somebody who is “doing a lot of good” and gets “unfair” treatment.

“He made such a massive effort to kind of change his environment and to do right,” Bale said of the F1 driver.

“And then people forget all the hard work he’s done and write maybe about just the small, I guess, negative where he drives an F1 car, which is obviously CO2. So, people need to realise that he’s doing a lot of good and not just that little bit of not bad.

“So, I think for him to make such a big change was massive. But to get the scrutiny I guess he got was very unfair.”

The sense is Bale also prefers life without scrutiny, away from the football spotlight with no desire to become a coach.

“I’m enjoying time, being at home with the family, spending more time with the kids,” he said.

“Enjoying life, to be honest.”

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Bournemouth: CCTV images released of suspect after woman stabbed to death on beach

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Bournemouth: CCTV images released of suspect after woman stabbed to death on beach

Detectives investigating the fatal stabbing of a woman on a beach in Bournemouth have released CCTV images of a suspect.

Dorset Police were called to reports of two women who had been stabbed on Durley Chine Beach at around 11.45pm on Friday.

A 34-year-old woman from nearby Poole was pronounced dead at the scene, while a 38-year-old woman who sustained serious injuries is still in hospital receiving treatment.

A 17-year-old boy from the Lancashire area, who was arrested on suspicion of murder, remains in custody.

Police have issued CCTV images of a suspect who is wearing dark clothing with his hood pulled over his head.

Officers believe there was only one offender involved and the CCTV images are of the suspect at the scene, with inquiries continuing to confirm his identity, the PA news agency reported.

Police officers at the scene on Saturday. Pic: PA
Image:
Police officers at the scene on Saturday. Pic: PA

Detective Superintendent Richard Dixey said: “Since this tragic incident was reported to us, we have been driving the investigation forward, collecting as much information as possible to get answers for the loved ones of the young woman who has tragically lost her life and for the surviving victim. Our thoughts remain with them.

“We are now in a position to issue CCTV images of the suspect. I would urge anyone who was in the area of Durley Chine beach during the night from Friday 24 May to Saturday 25 May 2024 and may have seen the person pictured or anything unusual to please come forward.”

The officer said anyone who was in the area of Durley Roundabout, West Cliff Gardens, Durley Gardens or West Cliff Drive may have “vital clues”.

Read more from Sky News:
Pilot killed in Spitfire crash named
PGA golfer took his own life, parents say

Appealing for witnesses, DS Dixey said: “Did you see anyone acting strangely, mainly between 10pm and midnight? Do you have dashcam or CCTV footage that may assist the enquiry?

“Anyone who thinks they recognise the person in the CCTV images should contact police.”

The beach where the stabbing took place is one of Bournemouth’s most popular, according to Visit Dorset, and is located west of the pier.

“We are of course acutely aware of the concerns this incident will have created and indeed continues to create,” said DS Dixey.

“The impact on our communities and the protection of our public remains at the forefront of our minds.

“The enhanced police presence in the area will remain as long as is necessary and if you have any concerns, please do not hesitate to speak to an officer.”

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General Election 2024: Sunak ‘to double down on National Service plan’ as Tories and Labour focus on security

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General Election 2024: Sunak 'to double down on National Service plan' as Tories and Labour focus on security

Rishi Sunak is expected to continue championing his controversial plans to revive National Service by urging employers to prioritise job applicants who have served time in the military.

The prime minister said all 18-year-olds would be made to undertake a form of “mandatory” National Service if the Conservatives are re-elected on 4 July.

Despite growing criticism of the plans – which Tories estimate would cost £2.5bn a year by the end of the decade – the Financial Times reports the prime minister is set to double down.

Mr Sunak said one way to “get the most out of National Service” would be to encourage bosses to “consider those who complete the armed forces placement during job applications”, the paper reports.

Critics from across the political divide have dismissed the plan as unserious, while leading military figures are sceptical over how it would work.

But Mr Sunak will hope his pledge could boost his bid to narrow a yawning gap in the polls between the Tories and Labour as campaigning enters the first full week.

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Is National Service a good idea?

Security will also be the focus of the day for Labour, with Sir Keir Starmer expected to say in a keynote speech “economic security, border security, and national security” will form the “bedrock” of the party manifesto.

“The very foundation of any good government is economic security, border security, and national security,” the Labour leader is expected to say.

“This is the foundation, the bedrock that our manifesto and our first steps will be built upon.”

Read more:
Which countries have National Service and how does it work?
National Service pledge derided as ‘deeply cynical’ by defence insider

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Acknowledging some voters may be unsure of Labour’s credentials around national security, he is expected to say: “Whatever the polls say, I know there are countless people who haven’t decided how they’ll vote in this election.

“They’re fed up with the failure, chaos and division of the ­Tories but they still have questions about us.

“Has Labour changed enough? Do I trust them with my money, our borders and our security?

“My answer is yes you can – because I have changed this party. Permanently. This has been my driving mission since day one.”

Sir Keir Starmer during a visit to Tapa Military Base in Estonia, where British armed forces are deployed as part of NATO commitments. Pic: PA
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Voters can trust Labour on security matters, Starmer says. Pic: PA

According to The Times, Labour would bring together MI5, police and Whitehall departments to carry out a 100-day review of all the threats that Britain faces, including from Russia and Iran, if it wins the election.

Campaigning for the election is expected to ramp up in the coming week.

Sir Ed Davey will be north of the border launching the Scottish Liberal Democrat campaign with Scottish leader Alex Cole-Hamilton.

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