More than 200 hopeful candidates will be chasing 41 seats at the Birmingham City Council elections on May 4.

The Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition, which has run Britain's largest local authority since June 2004, is confident of retaining power and perhaps even increasing its majority. With only one-third of the total number of council seats being contested, it is almost impossible for the Labour opposition to gain the 17 it needs for a working majority.

Conservatives are targeting Labour-held seats in Longbridge, Oscott and Erdington, where Labour's former social services cabinet member Susanna McCorry could be unseated by an extensive Tory leafleting campaign.

The Liberal Democrats are riding high following their deal with the People's Justice Party, which saw the disbandment of the PJP and the transfer of its two councillors and 400-strong membership to the Lib Dem ranks.

Success for the Liberal Demo-crats, who go into the elections with 32 councillors against 40 Conservatives, could force a cabinet reshuffle. The Lib Dems have only three cabinet seats at the moment, compared with seven for the Conservatives, and are known to want a more equitable division of places based on the relative strengths of the two coalition partners.

In addition to the mainstream parties, several fringe groups are also putting forward candidates.

The British National Party is contesting all 41 seats for the first time.

George Galloway's Respect party has candidates in several inner city wards, where the electorate is mainly composed of Asian voters.

The Monster Raving Loony Party is contesting Bournville, while the Legalise Cannabis Alliance has a candidate in Sheldon.