East Devon District Council: When is an Independent really independent?

PUBLISHED: 15:55 26 June 2019

Eileen Wragg, Liberal Democrat councillor for Exmouth Town. Picture: Eileen Wragg

Eileen Wragg, Liberal Democrat councillor for Exmouth Town. Picture: Eileen Wragg

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In this column Liberal Democrat district councillor Eileen Wragg questions how Independent members can lead a council as a group

We are living in uncertain times, with politics in turmoil, unrest at home and abroad. We seem to have lost direction and are desperately in need of leadership.

For some years now, I have believed that the party political system has been failing, the public despairing that they are not being listened to by those in positions of power.

Recent local elections gave voters the opportunity to express their frustrations and disquiet, which resulted in the Conservatives being ousted from power at East Devon District Council (EDDC), after 45 years, and at Exmouth Town Council after twelve years.

Having attended the first full council meeting at EDDC, I found the situation bizarre.

The Independents now form the largest group on that council.

I cannot get my head around how an Independent can become part of a group.

To me it is a contradiction; either you are an Independent or you're not.

I tried to reason this view with the chief executive there, and he told me that it was due to political balance.

My beliefs became further compounded when, at that first meeting, the Independents, who sat together at the front of the council chamber, appeared to vote in unison in making appointments to the various committees.

The electorate who voted in May's elections were mostly disillusioned with how local government had been operating, and there was definitely a strong protest made.

But what do we have now?

An intake of new councillors, who, unless they are known to voters, many of us don't know what they stand for.

The next four years will be interesting, during which time the new councils will be able to prove their worth.

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