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Sutton Coldfield Conservatives will not stand aside in town council ballot

Residents group calls on political parties to give way in town council elections and allow local independent candidates to win seats.

Sutton Coldfield Town Hall
Sutton Coldfield Town Hall

Sutton Coldfield Conservatives have rejected a plea to stand aside in the first town council elections next year, claiming that such a move would be "going down the route of North Korea".

The group, which successfully campaigned to set up the town council last summer, wants to see local independent residents filling a majority of the 24 council seats.

So they have asked the Conservatives, Labour and Liberal Democrat parties to limit their candidates across the town in the May election.

Read: Sutton Coldfield will elect new council in May

In a letter to the political parties, Ken Rushton, chairman of the Sutton Coldfield Independent Residents' Group, said that "party colour was not important at a community level".

He added: "May we, therefore, please seek your help in supporting an initiative that all parties encourage independent councillors to stand by joint agreement to limit the number of their own candidates on the ballot paper to two per ward?"

But, while the local Labour group is considering playing along, the Conservatives, which are dominant in Sutton Coldfield politics, are not.

Chairman of the Royal Sutton Conservatives Ewan Mackey said: "We are glad that people are willing to stand for election representing all parties as elections are of utmost importance in any democratic society.

"They allow residents to choose their representatives from a field of candidates which is healthy for democracy.

Councillor Ewan Mackey

"What Ken is suggesting is for all parties to stand aside so Royal Sutton Coldfield's Town Council will be a one-party council. I feel it is astonishing that Ken Rushton should suggest we go down the route of North Korea."

He said they believed the independent group was trying to engineer the election in their favour.

But Rob Pocock, Labour's only elected councillor in Sutton Coldfield, argued that the Tories would use the system to secure as many of the 24 seats as possible.

He said: "We see a lot of merit in the independence suggestion, it would be good for democracy and good for Sutton Coldfield to have a mix of representatives - some of who have no party political affiliation.

"Under the first past the post electoral system, there is a chance the town council will be dominated by Tory councillors and what could be more North Korean than a one-party state."

The Sutton Coldfield Independent Residents' Group was formed from the two council campaign groups which raised a petition of 10,000 signatures calling for the new tier of local government and triggered a referendum on the issue last summer.

The royal town enthusiastically voted for the extra tier, even though residents were warned each household would pay an extra £50 a year on its council tax.

The town council, an urban equivalent of a parish council, will be responsible for services like community centres, parks and litter collections although negotiations are under way with Birmingham City Council over handing over more powers.

Other areas of Birmingham, including Shard End, are looking at their own parish councils to run community services and generate local funding for projects.

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