arnsley Independent Group

The Only Way

© Copyright 2011
All rights reserved

Phil Birkinshaw - Chairman

Who are we:

Background: There has been Independent councillor representation on Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council for many years prior to the local elections in 2004. Some of these councillors related together in an informal arrangement. In the the 2004 elections the number of Independent councillors went up dramatically. However since the 2010 General Election and television's unremitting day-in day-out, week after week concentration on the three Westminster parties we have lost some ground. There are now 12 Barnsley Independent Group councillors.

Representation: The Barnsley Independent Group are the only effective opposition to the ruling faction on Barnsley Council. No other group or party challenge Labour for on policy or issues.

Barnsley Independent Group: In January of 2006 the majority of the Independent Councillors took the decision to register the group with the Electoral Commission as the 'Barnsley Independent Group'. This was done simply to enable us to clearly identify and differentiate ourselves to electors.

We find that we are like minded and have a common sense practical approach to the running Barnsley Council. We have no hidden party political agendas concealing policy from Barnsley people. Neither do we find it neccesary to play Punch & Judy politics. We accept no external funding and cannot be influenced. Membership of the group is limited to Councillors and Candidates for Election to avoid control being exerted in the background by a party structure or powerful individual. All candidates (including councillors up for re-election) pay their own election expenses, which we regard as important because it is the candidate's commitment to their electors.

Group Structure:
The structure of the Barnsley Independent Group is simple and the same as any local voluntary group. There are members ('Councillors' and 'Candidates at Election time'), of whom some are officers. The officers are Chair, Vice-chair, Secretary and Treasurer. In addition we have a Membership Officer and a Nominating Officer. The Electoral Commission require us to have the latter for co-ordination purposes and to identify whom can use the Group's name and logo in elections. At the moment the Vice-Chair holds the position of Nominating Officer. The Treasurer is a nominal only position because we do not have a Barnsley Independent Group bank account but the Electoral Commission cannot envisage an organisation without one. Each Independent is an individual and if funding is needed all share it individually.

Council Structure:
We have no Whip. Each person votes according to their own opinions. In our view whipping leads to autocratic political dictatorship. It is particularly damaging when combined with the hierarchical structure of political parties. People at the top take all decisions and whip party members into line. Where there is an overall majority, as in Barnsley, these decisions also apply to the whole council; much to the detriment of good governance. In our view whipping destroys democracy, particularly where hidden party agendas are not revealed to the public.
Spokespersons: We elect members to represent the group on specific council related subjects. Malcolm Price speaks on Finance, Fred Clowery on Education and Bill Gaunt on Development. This is flexible, for instance Malcolm and Bill switched responsibilities about two years ago; firstly to gain experience and also to maintain interest.