Blackpool Independents hope to offer fresh choice for future voters

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The founders of the  Blackpool Independents group hope to build on their local election success by adding to their ranks.

Councillors Gary and Debbie Coleman have formed the movement after becoming the first independents to be elected to Blackpool Council in a number of decades.

Debbie and Gary Coleman celebrating their election

Debbie and Gary Coleman celebrating their election

Read more Labour holds on but Tories upbeat after Blackpool Council election results
The couple, who previously served as Labour councillors, now hope to attract more people to the group including potential candidates for future elections.

They are also offering to welcome councillors from the main political parties who want to "cross the floor and join them".

Coun Gary Coleman, who won his seat in Brunswick, will lead the group with Coun Debbie Coleman, who won in Marton by a single vote, acting as deputy leader.

Gary said: "A little over seven months ago I had the intention of attempting to recruit at least one independent candidate for each of the 21 wards in Blackpool.

Blackpool council chamber

Blackpool council chamber

"Sadly over the ensuing months I became very disillusioned with politics and didn’t follow through with the idea."

However along with Andy Higgins of Blackpool Supporters Trust he decided to stand in Brunswick which he previously represented, winning his seat with a majority of 13 votes.

Debbie Coleman won in Marton despite falling ill during her campaign.

Gary added: "Things could have fallen apart without the help of friends, family and a great small team of volunteers from the Blackpool Supporters Trust.

"We were so disappointed that Andy just missed out on joining us in the council chamber because he would be, and hopefully one day will be, a fantastic councillor."

Their success has inspired the couple to encourage more residents to stand as independent candidates in future.

Gary said: "Many people believe all councillors should be independent of the major political parties in order for them to vote as they believe right.

"Many councillors belonging to a political party are often ‘whipped’ and told which way to vote, even if they disagree with the decision.

"Power is often concentrated in a handful of councillors and their party colleagues have to simply ‘toe the line’ and be quiet."

He believes Blackpool Independents could change the face of politics in the town.

He added: "I know it can be done. I come from a little town in Nottinghamshire called Sutton-in-Ashfield.

"Labour has dominated the Ashfield area for generations. At the election a couple of weeks ago the Ashfield Independents won 30 of the 35 seats on the council.

"We can learn from how Ashfield was won and use that to elect more independent councillors here and make Blackpool a better, and fairer place.

"Hopefully now that we have got a ‘foot in the door’ we can open that door to help other independents join us in the town hall.

"Before the council meeting in June we will be asking residents for questions that they want us to ask on their behalf in the council chamber. We want to give residents a voice all year round and not just election time.

"Should any by-election arise, whether it is a perceived safe seat for Labour or Conservative, the Blackpool Independents will certainly be putting a candidate on the ballot paper with a view to winning the election.

"We would also welcome any current councillor if they wished to cross the floor and join us.

"As long as they believe in being independent and doing what is best for the people of the town we would be happy for them to sit by our side.

"We are under no illusion, we know that there is a lot of work to be done. Blackpool is a wonderful town, there is nowhere else like it and we are proud to call it our home.

"We want to make Blackpool a place where decent people want to live, visit and work in.

"Having independents elected to the council could be a blip or it could prove to be the start of a sea change in how our town is governed. "

Former Conservative councillors Maxine and Peter Callow were also elected as independents, but they are not aligning themselves with the new group.