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Independent Groups in the UK

Submitted on Wed, 02/09/2009 - 3:56pm

Numerous Independent Groups exist in the UK, providing support and guidance to Independent Councillors and candidates. It appears that East Herts People is not so unique.

Independent politicians are sometimes caricatured as lonely politicians, but this stereotype is incorrect. 7% of Councillors in the UK are Independent and contrary to popular beliefs, some are member of Independent support groups and registered Independent political parties.

You can separate Independent groups into two categories, Residents' Associations and Independent coalitions. Examples of the former include Molesey Residents' Association in Surrey and Upminster and Cranham Residents' Association in Essex. Examples of the latter include us and Barnsley Independent Group in Yorkshire.

So why do these Independent organisations exist? The biggest disadvantage of standing as an Independent is that you won't have the support of a local political party; you will have to finance your election, deliver all campaign literature, and follow strict electoral regulations all on your own. This is a daunting prospect and it's not surprising that some are put off standing as an Independent.

Therefore groups similar to East Herts People were established, offering support that a political party would usually provide, but without the party whip. Some groups, such as Better Bedford, are registered political parties, but this is only for convenience and members don't subscribe to a set political viewpoint or agenda.

Political parties should be wary of Independent Groups, not only do they challenge the political status quo, many of them are extremely successful. An example of this is Whitnash in Warwickshire. All Councillors representing the area are Independent and are members of the Whitnash Residents Assocation, which equates to 19 Councillors in all 3 tiers of local government.

There are also national organisations that support Independent Councillors and candidates. The most prominent include the Jury Team, Independent Group at Local Government Association (LGA) and the Independent Network.

Political parties argue that a majority of Independent Councillors would be detrimental to the decision making process, as they're less likely to agree or compromise, but this simply isn't true. Several Councils in the UK have a majority or high number of Independent Councillors and run successfully. Cornwall has a long history of Independent Councillors and the newly established Cornwall Unitary Council has no political party dominance and a third of Councillors are Independent. Other Councils with a high number of Independents include the Highland Council, Isle of Wight Council and Eden District Council in Cumbria.

Political parties are arguably irrelevant for the majority of the public; how many people do you know have paid membership of a political party? The expenses scandal left many disillusioned with party politics, if you can't identify with them, why vote for them? Independent politicians offer a real alternative. We hope that in the next elections for local government in Hertfordshire, we'll be able to see local Councils free from party squabbling and full of independent thinking.

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