For those of you now in the thick of election fever, good luck. Most people see themselves as near the political centre and often do not like extremism. As we know, the trick is getting them inspired to vote and to vote for you.
Our members are well engaged locally, work hardest and understand what’s needed in our communities, freely able and willing to champion sound local causes.
Extreme dominance of the Labour and Conservative parties is a dangerous to local democracy. Instead, our members pay solid attention to the facts of the matter, listen to what local people want and we work hard for the good of all in our communities. It is vital that someone has the integrity to stand for what they believe in. Whether we are in the majority or not, our members are effective because we consistently think about the issues and craft better solutions, working with residents to match what they want and need. Being generally better engaged with the community, we can mobilise substantial forces, when needs must.
As we know, the “first past the post” voting system favours the big parties and reduces the number of smaller groups who are elected. Even so, it is astonishing how much our members achieve, through understanding the local issues, consistently speaking up on them and bringing people together behind a common objective. There will be lots of examples in your own patches, such as new affordable housing, green spaces, business networks and a host of community facilities and services that you instigate, facilitate and support. Nationally, Brexit and the environmental legislation are two cases in point, with just one UKIP and one Green MP being elected. Devolution to Wales was achieved, even with just a handful of Plaid Cymru MPs.
You will have seen the national move by some big hitters, including Tony Blair and son, Euan, and Simon Franks of Netflix, to seize the open centre ground next year. They are quoted as saying: “If you leave between the Brexit-dominated Tory party and a hard-left Labour party vast, uncultivated centre ground, at some point someone is going to come along and cultivate it”. Is that your spot?
This is your moment, and I wish you luck and enjoyment in talking to so many residents, on doorsteps and at every local event you can find, gathering support with every conversation. If, like me, you are not up for election this year and would like to help, please let me know. Honing your skills in another area is useful and helping to make best use of your time and that of your volunteers. Feel free to get in touch with the office (Independent.GroupLGA@local.gov.uk) for advice.
We have our full LGA AGM and our Independent Group AGM on 3 July in Birmingham. Our group’s strengths reflected in motions have included issues such as equality, funding adult care, planning policies, fairer voting and strengthening the local voice. Any Notices of Motion for the Group AGM must be submitted by 19 June, and though time is always limited, this can help create a positive and constructive identity of our group, where we are seen to be fighting for a better place for our residents. Motions for the LGA AGM must be received by 5pm on 2 May. Please contact the office for more information on these processes.
Meanwhile, we are working on improving the most damaging proposals in the new National Planning Policy Framework (NPFF), out for consultation now. Please add your voice. I wrote previously on how the last NPFF was dubbed a “developer’s charter”, but with thousands of permissions granted and waiting, planning is clearly not an impediment. We are also working on the future of farming and will shortly be seeking your views on standards procedures in councils.