New Independent Group on Houghton Regis Town Council

Two Independent Houghton Regis Town Councillors have formed a group on Houghton Regis Town Council so that they can have representation at 'Leaders group' meetings.

The current mix of the town councillors is 6 Labour, 3 Liberal Democrat, 3 Community Independent Alliance, 2 Independent. This doesn't reflect the way the public voted in 2015 as some have changed the label under which they were originally elected.

In a statement Cllr David Abbott, Independent councillor for Tithe Farm, wrote on social media, "We have no fixed policies, and although we will discuss issues as they arise and will work in collaboration, we are free to speak independently and vote as each feels is appropriate.'

He added, "I fully expect that there will be issues where Councillor Ellaway's view will differ from mine and thus she will thus vote the opposite way, and likewise me, her. Further to this, I understand that our stance is almost the same as those Councillors who cooperate as members of the Community Independent Alliance. At least we, and I'm sure those in the CIA do likewise, are able to have a mature and mutually respectful discussion on what each person feels is best for the Town, but not be expected to vote a particular way due to some dogma imposed by a National Party agenda."

Cllr Abbott continued, "There exists within Houghton Regis Town Council a group that is non-publicised and extra-constitutional (meaning that such a group is not mentioned in any Council policy, terms of reference or Standing Orders). It is called the Leaders Group, where the leader of each political group has regular meetings with the Town Clerk. Legally, this group is not a decision making body within the Council, but it does meet and decisions are made, plus issues are discussed which then affect the agenda of Council and its committees. One example last April was the agreement to suggest to Council that a Working Group be disbanded. It is part way towards Cabinet government, but without openness and transparency."

"Councillor Ellaway and I are the only councillors who are not party to what goes on in this group as we have no group registration. Shortly after I [was] voted in as a Councillor in the 2015 election, I (as the only Independent at the time) put forward the view and argued that I should be entitled to attend and represent myself: this was refused. Thus Councillor Ellaway and I only get a précis version of what was discussed and any outcomes days, and sometimes weeks after each meeting."

"To me it has always been unfair, and I feel has put me at a disadvantage since being elected. Councillor Ellaway agrees with me, and by forming a group, even one that has no policies, no common view, and no requirement to vote a particular way, we have levelled the playing field."

Councillor Hillyard responded  "The Community Independent Alliance in Houghton Regis was formed at the 2015 election because the 3 independent members elected wanted to put the needs and voice of the local community to the council table and like everything lots of voices together are stronger than one. We are able to openly discuss issues arising in the Town with out any party policies and work together with others to find a collective way forward in a timely manner. Sometimes we will vote differently but this is rare, because together Houghton Regis and its current and future residents is our first priority.
"Party politics should not belong at this local level, it makes no difference to the CIA which "party" someone belongs to, we will work with any person/people to ensure Houghton Regis gets the best it can get."

For Labour, Cllr Martin Kennedy wrote, " All Labour Party members of HRTC have the interest of our town at heart. We are all volunteers as well. We aren't dictated to by the national or even the local constituency party -we decide, as a group of Houghton Regis residents how we can best serve the community. However, by standing as Labour councillors we give voters a clear indication of our priorities which will always be for the many, not the few. We are people who have personal experience of dealing with individuals problems in a variety of situations for, collectively, dozens of years. We are putting this knowledge and experience into our town because we are proud of where we live and the people who live here. Stating that you are not political because you don't align to a particular party could be seen as allowing you to promise all sorts of things without taking responsibility for the promises made."

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