Millions of Londoners are voting for mayor. The three top candidates were among the first to cast their votes. Tendai Maphosa has more in this report for VOA from the British capital.
Incumbent London Mayor Ken Livingstone of the Labor Party, the Conservative party's Boris Johnson and the Liberal Democrats' Brian Paddick were among the early voters.
The voting brings to an end a bruising campaign during the past few months, which became very personal especially between Ken Livingstone and Boris Johnson.
VOA asked Tony Travers a local government expert at the London School of Economics what the issues are for Londoners.
"What the opinion polling showed clearly was that crime and disorder was a key issue, as was transport and congestion on the roads," Travers said. "... the politicians certainly fought on those issues. They came up with new policies or attacked each other on those issues and also on others less salient in this election like the green environment, but I have to say that the question of personality also was a major element in what is a highly personalized electoral race."
The mayor of London is the elected leader of a city of eight million. He or she controls a $22.6 billion budget for public transport, police, fire and emergency services, and aspects of the city's development and its planning. Whoever wins the election will be in charge of the city during preparations for the 2012 London Summer Olympics.
Ken Livingstone became London's first elected mayor of London in 2000 and was re-elected in 2004. One of his innovations is a $16 per day traffic congestion charge on cars entering certain parts of London.
If elected, he has proposed to increase the charge to $50 per day for high fuel consuming vehicles such as SUVs. The other candidates have criticized the increase.
Londoners are also electing 25 members of the London Assembly, while voters across England and Wales are choosing 4,000 local officials.
The elections may be local, but the results will be seen as verdict on the performance of Prime Minister Gordon Brown and his ruling Labor Party. Analyst Travers explains.
"I think there is little doubt that the local election results in England and Wales and the mayoral election in London will be seen as a judgment on Gordon Brown after almost a year as prime minister of the U.K. and at some level particularly in the London context, there is a sort of war by proxy between Prime Minister Gordon Brown and opposition leader David Cameron," Travers said.
Full election results are expected Friday.