Local issues on the agenda for minor party candidates across Black Country and Staffordshire

This week's local elections will undoubtedly see Labour and the Tories receive the lion's share of the votes – but there are plenty of candidates from minor parties bidding for office.

Elections will take place across the Black Country and parts of Staffordshire on Thursday
Elections will take place across the Black Country and parts of Staffordshire on Thursday

Across the Black Country and parts of Staffordshire more than a dozen parties will be represented when voters head to the ballot box on Thursday.

There will also be plenty of independents hoping they can get elected without the backing of a party machine.

Among the parties standing this year are Reform UK - the new name for the Brexit Party, the Black Country Party, Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition, Workers' Party of Britain and Chase Community Independents.

Ukip, a major electoral force in the region up until a couple of years ago, has just a handful of candidates entered this year.

Bill Etheridge, economic spokesman for Ukip, said his party were at the start of a rebuilding process after some "difficult years" following the departure of former leader Nigel Farage.

He said the party was committed to ensuring Brexit resulted in more than just a "superficial change", and would continue to promote British values and oppose "the old enemy political correctness".

Bill Etheridge believes Ukip still has a big role to play in local politics

The former MEP and Dudley councillor said: "We're on the road back and I would expect the candidates we have this year to do very well as there is clearly still an appetite for Ukip in the Black Country.

"We have been restricted in what we can do campaigning wise because of Covid and these elections are really a springboard for us to move on.

"I think we will start to see more people joining the party in the months ahead."

The Black Country Party, which was founded in 2019, has a new leader in Nick Gregory after Stuart Henley stepped down and joined the Tories.

Black Country Day founder Steve Edwards is one of five candidates standing for the party in Dudley this year and is bidding for the Brockmoor and Pensnett seat.

Steve Edwards is a candidate for the Black Country Party in Dudley

He says he wants to offer an alternative to mainstream party politics, which had done nothing positive for local areas across the borough.

Mr Edwards said he would offer "a voice on the council which is being shouted by someone who loves the area and has seen the best and worst of Brockmoor and Pensnett".

"I am not just showing up for an election, this is where I was born and raised, my kids home," he added. "It is where all my friends and family are from.

"If I didn’t think we could change things I wouldn’t put myself forward, but I do think we can change everything. Just like we did with Black Country Day."

In Walsall former Labour councillor Pete Smith is the sole candidate not representing a political party.

Former councillor Pete Smith is the only candidate in Walsall not representing a political party

Standing in Blakenall, he is campaigning on local issues including bringing back the much-missed Walsall Illuminations, and says politicians in the borough have become detached from the people they represent.

"The present system isn't working to the best advantage of residents," said Mr Smith, who served on the council for 20 years.

He is calling for "local neighbourhood grass roots democracy" where residents can have more of a say in how public money is spent in their areas.

Having run Labour close in previous elections Mr Smith is convinced he has a chance of victory. "Sometimes David can beat Goliath," he said.

Over in Cannock Chase Paul Woodhead is leader of the Chase Community Independents, a breakaway group that currently has five councillors and features former members of Labour, the Greens and the Lib Dems.

Councillor Woodhead, who is standing in Hednesford South, said his party wants to see greater collaboration between politicians and communities around the district.

Paul Woodhead is leader of Chase Community Independents

"If you get that right then some of the more difficult decisions that councils have to make are easier for people to understand, because they have been involved in the process," he said.

"National politics gets in the way of all of that, because fundamentally people want to disagree with an idea just because someone from another party has come up with it.

"By working together you get the best ideas and come up with a solution that works for everyone."

Graham Eardley is standing in Pelsall for Reform UK

Graham Eardley is standing in Walsall Council's Pelsall ward for anti-lockdown party Reform UK, the new name for the Brexit Party.

The party has five candidates in Walsall, and Mr Eardley said that if elected, they will be able to vote how they see fit on council issues to enable them to "truly represent their local community".

"We're standing to win, and with the state of the main parties at the moment we think we have a good chance of doing that," he said.

"We don't believe in putting asylum seekers in four-star hotels, and we believe the time for lockdowns has long since passed.

"People want to see the economy moving again and we're all for that."

Polling stations open in Dudley, Sandwell, Walsall, Wolverhampton and Staffordshire on Thursday morning.

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