The Conservatives have run Wealden for the past three decades and it would be a shock if they lost control.

But they are being pushed hard by the Liberal Democrats, who are benefiting from the anti-war vote and this year's council tax rises.

There is even talk of Labour winning its first seat in Wealden.

Rupert Thornely-Taylor, who has led the Conservatives since the last local elections in 1999, said: "The anti-war feeling is taking people into the Liberal Democrat fold.

"The other thing is the Liberal Democrats saying they want to abolish the council tax, for some peculiar reason people think that will benefit them."

Mr Thornely-Taylor, who is not standing on May 1, said Wealden Tories had delivered on their pledge to keep council tax rises low.

Wealden bills went up by 5.1 per cent this year but when the county council's far larger share is added voters have faced an 18 per cent increase.

The Tories blame the Government for the rises, which has altered the way it distributes cash in an attempt to divert money to the North.

Among the other local issues is the shortage of low-cost homes for key workers and people on low incomes, according to Mr Thornely-Taylor.

He said: "Housing prices are phenomenal here in Wealden.

"The big thing is how do we house essential workers, like firefighters, police or teachers, who almost cannot afford the smallest dwelling in the area."

The Conservatives promise to try to release land for low-cost homes, a clampdown on littering and to continue the council's much admired household recycling service.

The main parties are united in calling for a better deal for Uckfield, which was devastated by flooding in 2000 but has been promised few improvements to flood defences.

The Lib Dems are targeting the towns and larger villages and may benefit from boundary changes, which mean there are more seats in Crowborough and Uckfield and some of the rural wards have been combined.

Lib Dem leader Eddie Rice said the overriding issue was the council tax, which had hit everybody, and particularly people on low or fixed incomes.

He said: "People have just had their bills and they are extremely upset. We are very much in favour of a local income tax.

"We really feel it should be those who can afford to pay who should pay and the easy way to do that is a form of income tax."

He said there was anger about the 3,000 homes expected to be built in the district and about the poor infrastructure in rural Wealden's 323 square miles.

He said: "The area here is desperate for buses, better public transport and better roads."

He said better policing was a priority and the Lib Dems would modernise the council, where a Cabinet has replaced the old-style committee system since the last local elections.

His party could suffer in Hailsham, where four Lib Dems split from the party last year. The four are among six former Lib Dems standing as independents in the town.

They are campaigning against 1,300 homes being built in Hailsham, claiming more should be directed towards the district's Tory-dominated northern villages.

Labour, meanwhile, is running localised campaigns in Hailsham and Uckfield, again opposing house building.

At Uckfield, where Labour has polled strongly in recent elections, it has high hopes of winning at least one seat.

The party also wants the new council to abolish the 50 per cent reduction in council tax for second homes, in line with government policy.

About 113,000 people will be able to vote for all 55 seats on the council, down from 58 in 1999 because of the boundary changes.

At the last local elections the Conservatives won 34 seats, the Lib Dems won 22 and two seats in Crowborough fell to independents.

The number of Tory seats later rose to 35 because of by-elections, while the Lib Dems were reduced to 16.

As well as the district council elections, voters will also be electing about 455 parish councillors in 42 parish and town councils on May 1.

There are 133 candidates fighting for 55 seats. (Key: C Conservative; G Green; I Independent; L Labour; LD Liberal Democrat; UKIP United Kingdom Independence Party)

Alfriston (1 seat): Caroline Adcock (LD); Keith Whitehead (C).

Buxted and Maresfield (2): Norman Buck (C); Patricia Kennedy (C); Graham Morgan (LD); Ken Ogden (I); Peter Selby (G).

Chiddingly and East Hoathly (1): Sylvia Tidy (C) No contest Cross-in-Hand and Five Ashes (1): Michael Bryant (LD); Jennifer Evans (G); Jonica Fox (C).

Crowborough East (2): Carolyn Clark (LD); Anthony Edwards (C); Ian Mein (LD); Derek Sivers (L); Neil Waller (C).

Crowborough Jarvis Brook (1): Peter Bucklitsch (LD); Brian Hewitt (C); Ian McKirgan (I).

Crowborough North (2): Sonja Le Vay (L); Nigel Mahony (LD); Hector Munro (C); Michael Wallman (none); Chantal Wilson (I).

Crowborough St Johns (1): Richard Broughton-Tomkins (C); Hilary Lyon (LD); Jean McCarthy (L).

Crowborough West (2): Brendan Clegg (L); Diane Phillips (C); Antony Quin (C); Edward Willis (LD).

Danehill, Fletching and Nutley (2): Bernard Brown (C); Sylvia Martin (C); John Stevens (LD).

East Dean (1): Robert Hillman (LD); Brian West (C).

Forest Row (2): Linda Graham (LD); Norma McNamara (L); Rowena Moore (C); Raymond Parsons (C).

Framfield (1): John Gore (C); Susanna Mockridge (LD); Keith Riddle (UKIP).

Frant and Withyham (2): Lord Abergavenny (C); Michael Clare (L); Lynda Myers (C): Keith Obbard (G); Briony Taylor (LD)

Hailsham Central and North (2): John Ball (C); Madeleine Ellwood (I); John Glover (I); Paul Holbrook (LD); Steven Jordan (L); Laura Murphy (LD); Richard West (C).

Hailsham East (1): Brian Cock (LD); Nigel Coltman (C); William Crittenden (I); Dudley Rose (L).

Hailsham South and West (3): Sybil Bentley (C); Jeffery Bentley-Astor (C); Gavin Coggins (LD); Sharon Cottingham (LD); Jonathan Ellwood (I); Ian Haffenden (I); John Kent (C); Edward Powell (LD); Geoffrey Rowe (I).

Hartfield (1): Jeremy Hollins (C) No contest Heathfield East (1): Janice Dunk (C); John Evans (LD).

Heathfield North and Central (3): Richard Angel (C); David Hall (LD); Margaret Kirkpatrick (C) Veronica Oakes (C); Timothy Rayner (G).

Hellingly (2): John Blake (LD); Barby Dashwood-Hall (C); Brian Smith (C); David White (LD).

Herstmonceux (1): Andrew Long (C); Graham Love (LD).

Horam (1): Richard Benson (LD); Susan Stedman (C).

Mayfield (1): Brian Redman (C); Allan Thurley (LD).

Ninfield and Hooe with Wartling (1): Pamela Doodes (C) No contest Pevensey and Westham (3): Dianne Dear (C); Linda McKeever (C); Laura Parker (LD); Christine Thomas (LD); John Vincent (C).

Polegate North (2): Christina Berry (LD); Gerald Carter (I); Anne Hampson (C); Michael Hampson (C); John Harmer (I); Roy Martin (LD).

Polegate South (1): Michael Richards (C); Ivy Scarborough (I); Patrick Trowell (LD).

Rotherfield (1): David Heritage (I); David Logan (C); Edwin Rice (LD).

Uckfield Central (1): Michael Cooper (LD); Claire Dowling (C); Eileen Wolley (L).

Uckfield New Town (1): Daphne Mainprice (C); Ian Nottage (LD) Ian Smith (L).

Uckfield North (2): Leonard Ashby (L); Duncan Bennett (L); Michael Heap (C); Paul Sparks (LD); Alan Whittaker (LD).

Uckfield Ridgewood (1): Silvia Buck (C): Jane 'Espinasse (L); Anthony Parker (LD).

Wadhurst (2): Rosalyn Bucklitsch (LD); Robert Hodgson (C); Anna Monaghan (C); Emma Sanderson-Nash (LD); Jane Zacharzewski (L).

Willingdon (3): Patricia Brinson (L); David Burtenshaw (C); Raymond Ingram (C); Margaret Piper (I); Gillian Roles (L); Anthony Seabrook (LD); Helen Sedgewick (L); Stephen Shing (LD); Andrew Watkins (LD); Guy Woodford (C).