In May I got mullered in the local elections. I got a beating that was so bad that an expert dominatrix would have been embarrassed at the markings left on my body (that is a lie – she would be proud) but the defeat at the hands of Dr. Vel was to be expected. Dr. Vel has is now in his third term as an independent councillor for the Westborough ward on Southend Council. He had previously served as a Labour member on the council.
Well Dr. Vel has ‘officially’ now left the independent group on Southend Council and now considers himself a true independent. We have long known that this was going down as the relationship between Cllr. Velmurugan and the leader of the independent group Cllr. Terry has been strained for some time. We aren’t talking weeks here we are talking months. So a parting of the ways officially was in reality a Fait accompli.
Cllr. Terry though has fired a broadside at Cllr. Velmurugan telling him via the local rag that he should quit and open up a by-election in Westborough ward if he wants to serve as an independent councillor. What horse shit says I.
The whole role of the ‘independent group’ on Southend council is one that is to be frank – quite laughable. They claim to be independent and spend most of their time raging against party politics but yet they are themselves a recognised group on the council and in doing so they get facilities at the Civic Centre and their leader takes home extra money based on the fact that he is the leader of their group. If I’m correct this decision now means that the independent group are now not the official opposition to the Conservatives on the council and therefore financially Cllr. Terry is hit by this as now both Cllr. Longley (Lib Dems) and himself lead a group of people on the council with the same number of councillors.
If Cllr. Velmurugan sees himself as a ‘true independent’ then so what? The ballot papers that the people of Westborough faced on May 3 had the line ‘Dr. Vel – Independent’ on them not ‘Dr. Vel – Member of the Independent Group’ (as shown below) therefore I have zero problem with him staying on as long as he puts in the work that his fellow Westborough councillors (Cllr. Terry and Cllr. Collins) do for the people of the ward. If he doesn’t sit on any committees that doesn’t diminish his right to be a councillor. He hasn’t hoodwinked the people who voted for him by going to another party. He was elected as an independent and is still an independent. Just not part of the independent group on the council.
I’d have so much more time for the independent group if they labelled themselves as something else. Maybe the ‘Southend First’ group or the ‘Southend against Party Politics’ group but they aren’t independent and this is a case in point. Someone leaves the group but stays as an independent and they are getting attacked by their group leader. Yes the group can (and do vote) in different ways but so do other councillors and groups. The Thorpe Bay three went into a voting pact with the Tories to get the best deal for their constituents in Thorpe Bay (although their failure to act on getting Christmas lights down The Broadway despite collecting money from all the shopkeepers along The Broadway hasn’t exactly gone down well amongst the shopkeepers down the parade of shops).
If the independents are truly independent then they would have no issue with Cllr. Velmurugan not being part of their group and being a ‘true independent’ but as they clearly do then I think it is safe to say that they aren’t truly independent. A lot of people like the idea of having independents involved as they see that they will not have party politics to answer to but the independent group on the council do have party politics and that is becoming all the more clear by the day.
Edit 21/12/12: As Cllr. Ware-Lane points out in the comments. The numbers are now 10/9 not 9/9 and therefore my financial points are not relevant about group leader salaries/allowances are not valid.