A NEW political party has successfully held its first meeting with enough members joining to challenge for at least one seat per ward in the May Local Elections.
Hartlepool Independents – Putting Hartlepool First has formed in a bid to give independents more of a say within the council chamber.
A meeting was recently held at the Grand Hotel, in Swainson Street, and party leaders say there was enough interest to contest every ward.
In May there will be an all-out election which will see the number of councillors slashed from 47 to 33 serving 11 wards instead of 17.
It will see three members in each ward.
Party leaders say the majority of people that attended the meeting signed up as members, with more than a dozen agreeing to represent the party as candidates.
Independent councillor Geoff Lilley is the leader of the party, which also includes fellow independents Alison Lilley and Steve Gibbon.
They say the aim is to set party politics aside.
Speaking about the meeting, Coun Geoff Lilley said: “We had a couple of members of other parties who came for a look at us, but by far the majority of people who came through the door had come to sign up as members.
“The appetite for change is definitely out there and Hartlepool Independents – Putting Hartlepool First are definitely being seen as a vehicle to provide that change.”
The meeting at the Grand Hotel was the party’s first recruitment event.
The party also received donations towards the costs of the forthcoming election.
Initially the party had planned to have at least one candidate standing in each of the new 11 wards.
But due to the high levels of interest, party leaders are looking at fighting all three seats in a number of wards.
Stephen Allison, party secretary, said: “There are several existing independent councillors, one or two former councillors and some active campaigners on various issues whom we would have liked to see join us.
“Unfortunately some of these individuals have so far decided to remain on the sidelines and in at least two cases the existing councillors have possibly now missed the boat for selection in their current wards as candidates for Hartlepool Independents – Putting Hartlepool First.”
The party is expected to hold another meeting soon and will announce its selected candidates for the elections before the end of January.
Hartlepool Independents – Putting Hartlepool First has been registered with the Electoral Commission.