Today’s article by Cllr David Hayward:

Five years ago, there were no independent councillors elected to Tunbridge Wells Borough Council.  Now there are twelve, nine of whom belong to the local party, The Alliance, which was founded just four years ago in 2018.

Nationally, the number of independent councillors has grown by around 50% since 2017. Our council is part of this trend with an increasing number of councillors free from the reins of a national party, focussing on local services and local issues.

Why is this happening? Many independent parties have their roots in residents’ groups formed when people have become disillusioned with the way their council is run. Their focus is purely on local issues and their motivation is to make their Borough a better place to live. Many who vote for independents in local elections will vote differently in general elections. Others may be disillusioned with national politics. Either way, there is a growing realisation that local and national issues are very different.

Last month, the Conservative Party lost control of Tunbridge Wells Borough Council to the new Borough Partnership made up of 16 Liberal Democrats, 7 Labour, and 10 independents – the 9 Alliance councillors and the independent councillor for Paddock Wood East. This is good news for residents and businesses in Tunbridge Wells.

Why? It will no longer be possible for the council to push through schemes without proper consideration and scrutiny. 30% of the Borough Partnership is made up of independent councillors who are free from national party influence and whipping and whose allegiance is only to the residents in their wards.

The Leader of the council is no longer an autocratic role; the Cabinet of 8 councillors have to work closely with each other to set the strategy and direction, and to make decisions that have cross party support.

As well as improving democracy within the council, the new administration of Tunbridge Wells Borough Council is pushing to increase engagement with residents and businesses. One of the first steps is to take the Cabinet meetings on the road and move the scheduled time from mid-week mornings to evenings so that more members of the public are able to attend. The first Cabinet meeting is due to take place tomorrow evening from 6.30pm in Cranbrook.

My role in Cabinet is to improve transparency and engagement with residents. I am also responsible for overseeing governance – how our council is managed – something many have questioned over recent years. Governance spans all areas of the council and across the responsibilities of all Cabinet members. There is a lot of work to do, and this job is best done by a councillor who is fully independent, free from the control or influence of a national party.

We are honoured that residents have placed their trust in us and we are all working together to repay that trust by delivering a better run council.

The full paper can be read here: http://timeslocalnews.co.uk

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