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Friday August 23 2019

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In Full . . .

Independents’ day?

Posted on February 25 2019 at 3:52:29

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With local election campaigning about to begin, independent hopefuls in Bromsgrove are pooling ideas and experience as they push to change the face of local government.

Decrying party politics as failing to provide the best service for local people, they told The Village theirs was an alliance, not a party, and if elected as councillors no one would ever be told how to vote.

They say the party “whipping” system, where councillors are told to approve what the leadership has already decided, means local government fails to work in the interests of the people they represent – and who are paying the council tax bills.

It will take only a shift of two seats away from the current controlling Conservatives to bring what the independents say will be positive changes for the people of this area.

There are currently seven “independents’ alliance” councillors across Bromsgrove district, including the representative for the Barnt Green & Hopwood Ward, Charlie Hotham, and for Alvechurch Village Ward, Kate Van Der Plank.

There are two further independent councillors in Hagley and three Wythall Residents’ Association councillors who are part of the alliance. The 31-seat district then includes seven Labour members, with the remainder being Conservatives.

Coun Hotham told The Village: “We would hope to work with both Labour and Conservative for the overall benefit of Bromsgrove residents.

“At present the council operates a cabinet system which vests very significant unaccountable power in the cabinet member.

“A more democratic system is the committee route, which is currently used at Worcester City Council where no overall control exists. Each group has a committee chair rather than a cabinet position, and the others have a proportionate number of members.

“So planning policy, for example, would be established by a cross-party committee and, hence, there would be far more accountability.”

Coun Van Der Plank said: “We would like to see the Conservative majority overturned as it’s so damaging and has resulted in some really poor decisions, poor performance and complacency over recent years.

“When one party has overall control – regardless of which party that is – it stifles any kind of constructive debate or challenge.

“If we can grow the independent group by just a few seats, we can really transform the way this council operates. It will force proper debate which will result in better decision-making.

“It will drive more collaboration as all groups would need to work together to drive change. And ultimately, it will ensure the best use of tax-payers’ money – which can only be a good thing for our electorate in these current austere times.”

A number of prospective candidates are planning to stand for election as independents, including Annette English in the Alvechurch South Ward, in which she lives.

She has been an active member of the Alvechurch community for many years, from teaching at the Middle School, to chairing the Alvechurch Alight committee, being part of the Alvechurch samba band, sitting on the Village Hall Committee and helping to produce many plays as part of the Alvechurch Dramatic Society.

The elections to Bromsgrove District Council are due to take place on May 2.

Above: The seven current independent councillors are joined by other hopefuls for the May local elections.

A Conservative view: click here

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