A LEADING Liberal Democrat helped launch South Lakeland’s local election campaign with a visit at the weekend.

Baroness Shirley Williams was in Kendal to speak with candidates and Westmorland and Lonsdale MP Tim Farron ahead of the May ballot.

A third of South Lakeland District Council’s 48 seats are up for grabs in the elections.

The make-up of the council at present is that 32 seats are under Liberal Democrat control, 18 are held by the Conservatives and Labour has one.

Baroness Williams said the Liberal Democrats were bouncing back after a poor year in 2011.

“We suffered nationally in the last local elections but that haemorrhage has stopped and we’re beginning to see more members being attracted back to the party,” she said. “We’re finding our identity in the Coalition more and that has helped.”

Baroness Williams is no stranger to the area. Her great uncle Henry Leigh Groves was a benefactor in Windermere in the 1920s and 1930s, and he helped Windermere Council buy the bed of the lake.

She recounted tales of when she cycled to the town to visit him, adding that the area had changed since her younger days.

“South Lakeland has certainly changed from when I was younger. There used to be a very low level of political activity but that is much higher now.

“On the whole the Liberal Democrats seem to be in good spirits both here and nationally. There is a good chance that we’ll do better than in 2010.”

Baroness Williams said the success of Lib Dem councillor Jo Stephenson winning the Windermere by-election this month was a sign the party was looking strong in South Lakeland.

She added the crisis affecting the University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Trust and social housing would be high on the agenda for the area.