LONDON — British voters cast ballots Thursday in local elections considered a test of the public mood less than a year before the U.K. leaves the European Union.
Voting was taking place to fill more than 4,000 seats on 150 local councils in towns and cities across England, including all of London's 32 boroughs. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are not holding elections Thursday.
The Conservatives, who have been in power nationally since 2010, braced for losses amid anger over unsteady Brexit negotiations, an explosive immigration scandal and years of public spending cuts that have seen local officials close libraries and slash services.
The local elections come less than a year after a snap election delivered a divided Parliament and a minority government for Conservative Prime Minister Theresa May.
The main opposition Labour Party was hoping to pick up hundreds of seats and wrest control of several councils from the Tories. But the party has been tarnished by allegations that its leaders have failed to clamp down on anti-Semitism in Labour ranks.
Tony Travers, professor of government at the London School of Economics, said voters often punish governing parties in mid-term elections, so "other things being equal, you would expect the Conservatives to do badly and Labour to do well."
But with Labour divided between centrists and supporters of left-wing leader Jeremy Corbyn, "it doesn't look like Labour's going to make a great leap forward, which is what an opposition party really needs to do."
Polls are open until 10 p.m. (2100GMT), with results expected Friday.
There were scattered reports of some voters being turned away from polling stations in several areas where the government is testing new rules requiring voters to show proof of identity. Opposition parties say the voter ID plans disenfranchise legitimate voters.
Labour lawmaker Cat Smith said Britain had seen few cases of fraud at polling stations and the proposals were "a sledgehammer to crack a nut."
The elections will determine who controls the councils, which collect garbage, fix potholes and run schools, and many voters will choose firmly on local issues. In London, many residents fret about the lack of affordable housing. Campaigning in the northern English city of Sheffield has been dominated by a controversial decision to cut down thousands of trees as part of road-improvement plans.
But the results will also be viewed partly as a verdict on Brexit. The U.K. voted by 52 percent to 48 percent in 2016 to leave the EU, and the country remains split down the middle over the decision.
Both the Conservatives and Labour say they will deliver on the decision to leave, but Labour wants to seek softer terms and retain closer ties with the bloc. The party hopes anti-Brexit feeling will help it win in pro-EU Tory areas such as the affluent London boroughs of Wandsworth and Westminster.
Labour could pick up votes from some of the 3 million EU citizens living in Britain, who could not vote in the referendum but can cast ballots in local elections.
The Liberal Democrats, the third-largest party that's firmly against Brexit, also hope to sweep up votes from "remain" supporters.
The last time these elections were held, in 2014, the euroskeptic U.K. Independence Party won 17 percent of the vote. UKIP went on to help lead the successful Brexit "leave" campaign. But the party has faltered since the 2016 referendum, going through a series of leaders as voters switched back to bigger parties. It is likely to see its share of the vote plummet this time around.
Polls suggest a lack of enthusiasm for all the main parties. Turnout in local elections is usually only 35 to 40 percent, and Travers said that if it remains low, Thursday's elections could deliver a form of political stalemate.
"But if that happens the stalemate's better for the government than the opposition," he said.