Party politicisation of local government has meant independent candidates often do not have the resources or skills to compete. The Independent Network has run a survey of Independent Councillors to determine whether there is a mandate for an organisation for Independent Councillors.
The survey showed overwhelming support for such an organisation to provide independent councillors with the same levels of support and guidance that party candidates receive from their Association of Councillors. The organisation will be called the Network of Independent Councillors (NIC).
There are over 1,200 independent councillors in England and Wales. Party councillors often get elected over them because they have the backing and resources of a party association.
The IN is striving to redress this imbalance of power and provide independent candidates with the skills and resources they need to compete with party opponents. “The IN gives candidates a sense of identity,” said Jim Thornton, Executive Committee member of the Independent Network. “That’s the independent brand image we’re trying to create – a credible alternative to political parties.”
Current associations include the Conservative Councillors’ Association (CCA) with an annual membership fee of £30 and the Association of Liberal Democrat Councillors (ALDC) charging £39 per annum. Both provide support and tools for year round local community campaigning.
At present the only national support available to local independent councillors is the LGA Independent Group, but it cannot assist candidates with campaigning and political activities.
The Network of Independent Councillors will focus around four main activities to provide the same level of assistance to independent candidates as those of party candidates. This should remove some of the disadvantages associated with standing as an independent.
1. To develop community support groups, which can create channels for assistance and advice in local communities to those wishing to stand as independents.
2. To create template campaign collateral such as posters, websites and press materials would make it easier and cheaper to create a common and professional identity for independent candidates.
3. To have a full-time coordinator role to provide campaigning advice for candidates.
4. To provide national training events for independent candidates and volunteers will help local independent candidates learn essential electioneering skills.
The organisation can feed into the Independent Network’s national campaign for independents, demonstrating that they are a viable alternative to party politics, promoting independent candidates in the media, and organising publicity events.
Over the next three years the IN would like membership of the Network of Independent Councillors to grow to 1000. It will require revenue from membership fees, corporate sponsorship, donations and advertising to contribute to the running costs of the organisation.
“If every current local councillor or candidate wishing to run as an independent just gave £30 - the equivalent of a meal in a restaurant or a pair of jeans – we’d be able to fund an organisation co-ordinator and necessary office facilities for one year,” said Brian Ahearne, Director of the IN.
As such, the IN is requesting donations. Please donate via PayPal, or alternatively you can donate via online or telephone banking or send a cheque made payable to the Independent Network. The address is: Independent Network, Omnibus House, 39-41 North Road, London, N7 9DP. If you know of any Independent councillors then please pass on the survey and request for donations.