PEOPLE across Swindon have been heading out to the polls today to vote in the local and European elections.

The polls opened at 7am and will stay open until 10pm this evening.

The exact turnout in Swindon is expected to be in the region of 30 per cent.

Despite forecasts of heavy rain, the bad weather has stayed away for much of the day so it was hoped it would not have had an impact.

For many polling stations, located at schools, community centres, churches and even a pub, it was a slow start but as people are finishing work there is set to be a spike in numbers coming in to vote.

In the local elections there are a total of 20 seats up for grabs. In most wards there is one contested seat with the exception of Ridgeway, where there were none, and St Andrews, where there are two.

The count for the European elections will take place on Sunday night so the results of Swindon’s contribution to the South West region, of which there are six MEPs, will be announced then.

Despite concerns that people would not be interested, those who have voted say it is important everyone has their say. 

Casting his vote at Commonweal School, 43-year-old Matthew Simpson said: “I vote every time but I think this year is important because of all the contentious issues around Europe.

“Because there is so much going on it is important everyone has their say.”

At Stratton, Rachel Loveless, 20, said: “I think it’s important everyone votes no matter how old. If you don’t vote then you can’t moan if something happens you don’t like.

“I think a lot of older people vote because they have know a lot more about the world. A lot of younger people don’t really have an interest in politics.”

A significant factor in this year’s vote is the increasing popularity of postal voting.

More than 28,000 forms were sent out, of which around 60 per cent will be returned.

Among those using a postal vote is 84-year-old David Walden, of Redhouse.

He said: “I have already sent my vote. It makes things a lot easier and saves going out on the day.

“I think these days a lot of people struggle to find the time to go out and this makes it a lot easier. Everyone should vote as it’s very important.”

However, despite some people’s thoughts on voting, not everyone has headed to the polls today.

Louis Eton, 21, said: “I do not think it is the politicians which make a big difference in my life. It is more important what I do – that affects my life more. Most of the parties are the same so I do not bother.”

Follow our LIVE ELECTION BLOG here.