VOTERS across Christchurch, Bournemouth and Poole headed to polling stations to choose who they wish to represent them on the conurbation’s new unitary authority.

Hundreds of thousands of people were registered to take part in this year’s council election which has been described as “significant and historic”.

Despite being a vote for representatives of Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council, national issues were expected to play a big part in who people select at the ballot box.

This morning, it is understood that both the Conservatives and Labour have taken a hammering at the polls, with Lib Dems in particular making big gains nationally.

Speaking on Thursday afternoon, election candidates said they thought turnout would be lower than previous years.

Andy Jones, Conservative candidate for the Boscombe East and Pokesdown ward, said the number of people visiting polling stations was a lot lower than in 2015.

“From what I’ve seen myself and from what I’ve heard from colleagues in Christchurch and Poole as well it seems that polling stations are a lot quieter this time around.

“There have probably been no more than 150 through the doors at one of the one I visited.

“I’m not surprised that this is the case though given what I and others heard on the doorstep while campaigning.

“National issues have played a bit part in creating a lot of apathy among voters with many put off voting.”

Neil Duncan-Jordan, Labour candidate for the Hamworthy ward, estimated that by late afternoon on Thursday turnout was as low as 20-25 per cent.

“I did expect this would be the case - there’s a lot of disillusionment with politics in general at the moment because of Brexit,” he said.

“It’s hard to tell how this will play out in terms of how people have voted but there are definitely a lot fewer people going into polling stations.”

Turnout in the 2015 elections was boosted due to it being held on the same day as a general election.

This year candidates have raised concern about the impact national issues, including the failure to conclude the Brexit process, could have on votes for specific parties and on turnout more generally.

Party representatives and independents alike have all said that Brexit is one of the big issues to have been mentioned during the election campaign and have said it was causing “disillusion” among many voters.

Counting of the ballots cast on Thursday will take place at the BIC in Bournemouth today with the first results likely in the afternoon.

Votes cast for the elections for the new Dorset Council will also be counted today in Weymouth.

Eighty-two councillors will represent the 50 wards across the rural part of the county.

Parish and town council votes in the Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole area will be counted today with rest tallied tomorrow.