Last year I stood in the local elections as an Independent candidate. I did so because I could not see the benefits of the involvement of political parties in local government. We see far too much dogma when political parties take control of Councils. Ken Maddock’s time as Leader of Somerset County Council is a perfect example. His overarching goal has been to make the Council smaller, regardless of the impacts of this decision. He has taken an extreme, right-wing approach. For example in cutting £150,000 of funding to the arts, Somerset has lost match-funding of over £1 million from out-of-County sources. Regardless of whether we feel that arts funding should be the business of the Council, this loss of inward investment has cost jobs.
The Conservatives are in control of Taunton Deane Borough Council and Somerset County Council and they have done some fairly daft things that I have tried to stop/reverse/draw attention to. This does not mean that I am a Labour or Liberal Democrat supporter. You will rarely hear me criticise Labour in these pages or those of the local newspapers as Labour have no presence in Somerset and are unlikely to have in the forseeable future. However, if they ever did, I would be just as eager to ‘call out’ their proposals and policies where I thought they would damage our local communities. Likewise with the Liberal Democrats. If and when they retake control of one of our local Councils I will hold them to account in just the same way as I have our currently Conservative-controlled local authorities. This is the nature of Independence and why I have chosen not to ally myself with any political party.
Independence means that I can champion whatever causes, plans or policies are best for our local communities, not have to vote as my party leader tells me. I have no party. I have no leader. Take the sale of the Quantock Hills by the County Council. I’m sure that our local Conservative County Councillor, if he were candid, would probably admit to not having wanted to sell off this land. But the Conservative Party leadership at SCC has decided that this is the policy and party discipline dictates that individual Councillors invariably vote as they are told, whether this is in the best interests of their constituents.
I hope to see many more Independents elected in future elections so that we can start to break the stranglehold of political parties on local government. Perhaps then we’ll see Councils act in the best interests of their electorate rather than blindly implementing political agendas.