A GROUP of politicians including a former council leader have turned their backs on party politics ahead of May’s local elections.

The quartet of independent candidates have officially launched their bid for seats on Dudley Council.

Sedgley and Gornal independents, which includes ex-mayor and council leader Anne Millward in their ranks, say it is time for a change at the local authority.

Speaking at the launch event on Wednesday February 21, former Conservative councillor, Mrs Millward, said: “We have gone from being a four-star council to being on the brink of bankruptcy.

“We need accountability, nobody knows how to scrutinise any more, officers need to be called out on their decisions.” 

Mrs Millward was deselected by Dudley’s Conservative Party last year after a row with the current leadership - sparked by their decision to withdraw from the Black Country Plan.

She added: “We need a change and if we can’t get it we need to look at independent councillors who are not held back by the party whip and party rhetoric.”

The new group also includes two current Dudley councillors who were formerly part of the Conservative group but are now sitting as independents.

Cllr Mark Westwood will be joining Mrs Millward in fighting for seats in the Gornal ward.

He said: “What I am seeing locally in Gornal is void houses, potholes and you’ve got local people that are volunteering – spending their time and resources to put things right.

“They have had money taken off them in the form of community grants.”

Cllr Westwood believes Conservatives are also disillusioned by the behaviour of their Westminster politicians.

He added: “I know people who have been Conservatives for 50 years but because of what has happened they are leaving the party – Rishi Sunak is saying high standards on public life, where is it then?”

Brad Simms stood as an independent in last year’s council elections and aims to fight in the Sedgley ward in May.

He said : “My priorities are making sure we have safe streets, potholes and council properties, there are things that have been missed, we need to get that up to scratch.

“It’s not about cutting, it’s about managing the money wisely and getting best value for taxpayers.”

Cllr Sean Keasey is also a former Tory now sitting as an independent, he described the freezing of community grant funding by the ruling Conservative group as a ‘wicked act’.

Cllr Keasey said: “As an independent councillor I can highlight that, we can represent local people better as independent councillors.”

Cllr Keasey is happy to take votes away from the Tory party, something which could open the door to their political rivals.

He added: “That is not my concern, we should not be doing politics to manipulate results.

“The Conservative Party is moving in a direction I cannot follow.”