Voters will head to the polls today in crucial local elections across the region.

Polls to elect councillors are being held across the Tees Valley with every seat on four councils – Darlington, Middlesbrough, Stockton, Redcar and Cleveland - being contested. One third of seats on Hartlepool Council, are up for grabs.

Polling stations will be open from 7am until 10pm with voters having to show photo ID in order to cast their ballot for the first time ever.

Read more: Local elections 2023: How to find your polling station in County Durham and Teesside

Areas in the Tees Valley were last up for election in 2019, when Labour received a trouncing as councils fell out of their majority control or into Conservative or Independent hands in what became a precursor for that year’s General Election result.

Labour will be hoping to win back seats across the Tees Valley while the Conservatives will be looking to prove their success in 2019 was not a one off.

Results will be announced throughout Friday (May 5) with some counts taking place overnight on Thursday and others starting on Friday morning.

The spotlight will be on Darlington as a key battleground as the only council which flipped directly from Labour to the Conservatives last time around.

In Middlesbrough voters will cast two ballots as they also elect a mayor, with four candidates vowing for the position.

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While voters in the majority of County Durham won’t be heading to the polls, those in the Chester-le-Street East ward will vote to elect a new councillor following the death of Durham County Council Chair Cllr Beaty Bainbridge in February.

Votes are also being held in the five areas of Tyne and Wear – Newcastle, Gateshead, Sunderland, North Tyneside and South Tyneside – with a third of the seats on each council up for grabs.

Elections in the rest of County Durham and Northumberland are not due to be held for another two years, until 2025.

Voters will have to show photo ID with only certain forms accepted. The Government says the move will help stamp out voter fraud.

But concerns have been raised that the move could disenfranchise some voters and see them turned away from the ballot box on Thursday, especially those from poorer communities, who may have no form of ID.

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Almost a quarter of people in Hartlepool (22.4 per cent) and 21.3 per cent in Redcar and Cleveland, which are both up for election, have no passport according to Census data.

A free photo ID known as the Voter Authority Certificate was launched by the Government, but fewer than 60,000 people had applied by the April 25 deadline of an estimated two million people in the UK who do not possess any form of identification accepted under the new restrictions.

Anyone unable to vote because they have lost or do not have any ID will have until 5pm on polling day to apply for an emergency proxy vote, whereby they can nominate someone to vote on their behalf. That other person will need to have a valid ID.