Group to offer support for independent candidates

East Devon Alliance

East Devon Alliance - Credit: Archant

A brand new alliance for independent candidates - with roots in Sidmouth - is vowing to change the political landscape across East Devon.

On Tuesday, 93 days before the nation goes to the polls, campaign group East Devon Alliance (EDA) announced it has registered with the Electoral Commission, unveiling a website and list of principles.

The alliance, which does not regard itself as a political party, has offered its support to the scores of independent candidates expected to contest district council seats up and down East Devon on May 7.

At the launch at the Axminster Heritage Centre, its driving forces urged residents - tired of the old political parties - to rally to the cause and sign up as members.

Its leader is Woodbury and Lympstone’s independent district councillor Ben Ingham, with freelance BBC documentary maker Paul Arnott as chairman and Ian Mckintosh, founder of the EDA, and retired circuit judge, its president.

Councillor Ingham said: “For years the three main national political parties have been telling us what they want to do instead of listening and then delivering what we need to have.

“People are so fed up they have even been voting for the nationalist parties as an alternative, but these alternative parties prey on people’s gravest fears... they preach division and separation instead of unity, respect and understanding.”

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He said things did not have to be like that and insisted that prospective parliamentary candidate Claire Wright, EDA’s council candidates, and other independent councillors had a ‘definite set of ideas’.

“Our campaign is like a breath of fresh air in a stagnant room,” said Cllr Ingham. “So, over the next few weeks, all of us in East Devon should open the windows to change, breathe in deeply and take part in the most exciting political event to happen in East Devon for decades.”

The EDA’s policies range from ensuring that East Devon District Council (EDDC) is more accountable, supporting local businesses, preserving the environment, keeping local hospitals open and backing new developments - but only if they are ‘sensitive’ to what local people want.

Mr Arnott said: “We will allow vulnerable independent candidates to stand as independent East Devon Alliance candidates in May.

“We know how hard it is for independents to stand without the help of a party machine.”

He said that the EDA had heard many complaints from residents about the way things were done at EDDC ‘because of national parties first standing in local elections 40 years ago, it has led today to an atrophied one-party disaster at EDDC’.

“There’s no point just moaning about it from the sidelines...the only way to reform our council is through the ballot box,” said Mr Arnott.

“In May, the people of East Devon will be offered independent candidates across the district on a previously unknown scale.”

It was a mass march, organised by Save Our Sidmouth and attended by around 4,000 people from across the district, in November 2012, which sparked the idea of an East Devon Alliance.

That led to a meeting, appropriately held in the Dissenters’ Room in All Saints Road where the East Devon Alliance was born.