SIX of Peterborough’s independent councillors have come under fire after setting up their own political party.
Peterborough Independents has been registered with the Electoral Commission, the independent body which oversees election procedure, as a new party for Peterborough City Council.
Critics say that the move means the councillors would no longer be truly independent
However, the new group has denied this, saying they would have no whip or group manifesto.
The six councillors – Charles Swift, John Fox, Judy Fox, Keith Sharp, David Harrington and Stephen Lane – are currently not aligned to a party, but fall under the umbrella arm of Peterborough Independent Forum.
The Independent Forum also includes members Cllr Adrian Miners, Cllr Chris Ash and Cllr Bella Saltmarsh, who are all affiliated to The Liberal Party.
Secretary of Peterborough Independents, Cllr John Fox said the main aim of the group was to be able to use an identifiable logo.
However, he also said it allows them to choose new members of Peterborough Independents.
At the moment, all independent councillors elected onto the city council are grouped as the Peterborough Independent Forum.
Cllr Fox said: “When it comes to election time, we can’t use a logo. Our constitution is short and sweet.
He said: “Conservative, Labour and the Liberal Democrats have a system to select a councillor.
“Anyone can stand as an Independent, but we can now chose who stands for us. We get called an Independent group now, but we aren’t.
“We’re the second biggest group , but we can’t get a place on the police authority because the six of us aren’t recognised as in a party.”
The constitution for Peterborough Independents, who will be led by councillor Charles Swift, states that its members have joined together for the “single purpose” of creating, protecting and using a mark or logo.
An initial logo – featuring a handshake – is currently being used, but an official brand is being designed.
The constitution also states the group will have no subscription fee and it will be up to individual members to pay for their election expenses.
Meanwhile, it also says each member will determine their own manifesto and all members will be required to respect and tolerate the views and opinions of the other members.
Cllr Fox said: “Our constitution says there is no whip and each person has their own ideas.
“People are getting fed up of politics, but people in our party will not be told how to vote.”
However, Peterborough Liberal Democrat leader councillor Darren Fower said the move comes across as a “complete contradiction”.
He added: “It seems the action is more to benefit them, than the people of Peterborough.
“It comes across as these people trying to become a party, which goes against the notion of being independent.”
Councillor Nazim Khan, leader of the local Labour group, said that at least other councillors would be able to see if the Independents ended up voting together or continued to act as individuals.