WHATEVER the composition of Argyll and Bute Council after the local elections on May 4, the local authority's future is likely to be more uncertain than ever after its long-serving leader decided not to stand.

And Dick Walsh's decision not to throw his hat into the ring isn't the only interesting development in the run up to the May 4 poll.

In Helensburgh Central, independent councillor Vivien Dance has decided not to contest the election, while James Robb, who resigned from the SNP after failing to win the endorsement of the party's Helensburgh branch, will fight for a third term – this time as an independent.

Both have been councillors for the town centre ward since 2007.

Cllr Dance said: "I intend to continue my voluntary work and am really looking forward to having more time to devote to that in the years ahead."

In total, 20 people will do battle for the ten council seats in the Helensburgh and Lomond area – seven in Lomond North and eight in Helensburgh and Lomond South, where three seats are up for grabs in each ward – and, perhaps a little surprisingly, only five in Helensburgh Central, which has four of the 36 seats in the council chamber.

Cllr Walsh, meanwhile, has had three separate terms as leader since Argyll and Bute Council was formed in 1996 – though he has represented residents of Dunoon, Innellan and Toward for almost 40 years, on the old Argyll and Bute District Council and Strathclyde Regional Council as well as the present-day unitary authority.

Other notes of interest from the list of candidates published this week include the decisions by Cllr Dance's colleagues in the authority's Reform Group, Michael Breslin and Bruce Marshall, not to seek re-election for the Dunoon and Cowal wards respectively.

In total, 77 people are seeking election to the 11 Argyll and Bute Council wards this year – including two who have already held political office at a rather higher level.

Alan Reid, who was Argyll and Bute's Liberal Democrat MP at Westminster for 14 years until his defeat by the SNP's Brendan O'Hara in May 2015, is standing for the Lib Dems in the Dunoon ward, while the Conservatives' Jamie McGrigor, who spent 17 years in the Scottish Parliament representing the Highlands and Islands region before retiring last year, is the party's candidate in Oban South and the Isles.

But even at this early stage, more than a month before polling day, three current councillors already know they will serve another term: in South Kintyre, the three sitting councillors, John Armour (SNP), Rory Colville (Liberal Democrat) and Donald Kelly (Conservative) have all been returned unopposed after no-one else decided to stand for election in the area.

A total of eight current councillors are not seeking re-election – in addition to Cllrs Walsh, Dance, Breslin and Marshall, Neil McIntyre (Labour, Oban South and the Isles), Iain Stewart MacLean (SNP, Oban North and Lorn), former provost Isobel Strong (SNP, Isle of Bute), and Maurice Corry (Conservative, Lomond North) have chosen not to stand again.

Cllr Corry announced last year that he would not seek another term on the council following his election to Holyrood as a Conservative MSP for the west of Scotland.

Several people who have previously served as Argyll and Bute councillors, but who do not currently hold office, are hoping to return to the council chamber.

There will be 15 SNP candidates in Argyll and Bute at the May 4 poll, along with 11 Conservatives – one per ward - and 10 Liberal Democrats, seven Labour candidates, three Greens and one representing UKIP.

But the largest group – if it can be called a group – of candidates is those representing no party at all, with 30 independents seeking election.

Voters go to the polls on Thursday, May 4; there are 14 polling stations located throughout the Helensburgh and Lomond area.

Your polling card indicates which polling station you should attend to vote – although in four polling areas in Helensburgh, replacement polling cards have been sent out after the original versions mistakenly directed voters to the Helensburgh and Lomond Civic Centre in East Princes Street, rather than East Clyde Street.