IN TWO weeks time, voters in Swindon will be heading to the polls to decide who will be their representative on the council, with one third of the seats up for grabs.

One the same day, European elections are taking place which will return six MEPs to represent the South West region in Brussels and Strasbourg.

In many years the European elections play second, or even third, fiddle to local and general elections. However, this year they have taken extra prominence with the national media coverage surrounding the European Union.

UKIP, and more specifically their leader, are rarely out of the press and the issue of an in/out referendum are regular topics for debate in Westminster.

As a result, turnout is predicted to be higher this year than in previous elections.

Paul Morris, the returning officer for the European Election, said: “I think this year is going to be very interesting following all the national coverage Europe has been given. Often European elections get a little bit forgotten but I don’t think that will be the case this time around.

“At the last election there was a 39 per cent turnout. We have got to be ready for either 100 per cent or zero per cent turnout. We are preparing for around 52 per cent this year.

“The fact they are combined with a local election as well will probably increase the turnout as more people will be inclined to head to the polling stations.”

The South West region stretches from Gloucestershire down to Cornwall and also includes the overseas territory of Gibraltar, following a 1999 court ruling which said it should be allowed to vote.

This year eight parties will be battling it out, each fielding six candidates. Despite the increased interest in Europe, this is a significant reduction on the amount which stood in 2009, with not one independent standing.

“Voters will have a much smaller ballot paper this time round because far fewer are standing,” said Paul.

“I think one of the big reasons for this is that each party has to pay a £5,000 deposit to stand. If they fail to get 2.5 per cent of the votes then they lose that money. For a lot of candidates this is very off putting.”

The parties putting forward candidates this year are the An Independence from Europe party; British National Party, Conserva-tives; English Democrats; Green Party; Labour Party; Liberal Democrats, and UK Independence Party (UKIP).

The count of Swindon votes will take place on Sunday May 25 at the Oasis, after which they will be collated with the rest of the votes in the South West region.