No politics please - the new movement claiming to focus solely on local issues

A former Conservative Party council candidate has launched a grassroots movement which he hopes will take the politicking out of local politics in Lancashire.

By Paul Faulkner
Friday, 5th June 2020, 12:30 pm

Ashley Karmanski, who remains a Tory member, says he wants to “shake councils out of their complacency” by encouraging people of all political persuasions to ditch their party colours when it comes to the issues affecting them on their doorsteps.

The provisionally-entitled “Your Voice” is making a particular pitch to voters who are concerned about the rate of housebuilding in the county.

“It seems like every green area you see at the moment is earmarked for development. There is absolutely no voice for the public to fight back against it.

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Ashley Karmanski

“Petitions are signed and I can promise you not a single word is taken into account – the people will be walked all over and these homes will be built.

“The North West has got one of the biggest homeless rates in the country, but we’ve got the most empty homes as well – it’s crazy,” said Mr. Karmanski, who stood in the Bamber Bridge East ward for South Ribble Borough Council last year.

Pressed on the difficulties facing local authorities because of the demands of the planning system under which they operate, he accepted that it was “not easy” to refuse applications.

But the 31-year-old added that a broader demographic spread of councillors would bring about better decisions on a range of issues – and he derided the party system at a local level.

“Not all age groups are properly represented on councils – across the UK, 43 percent of councillors are over the age of 65 and only 15 percent are under the age of 45.

“A lot of these councillors have been sat there for years – and they all look after each other, until the in-fighting starts. I’ve seen Conservative Party meetings where they all end up falling out with each other and it’s the same with Labour – you’ve got moderates on one side and those on those on Far Left who barely speak.

“I couldn’t care less if someone who wanted to vote for Your Voice is Conservative, Labour or Lib Dem – as long as they care about local issues.”

Mr. Karmanski denied that there was a contradiction in setting up a county-wide group focusing on hyper-local concerns, saying that the movement’s main focus – housing development – cuts across district boundaries.

Your Voice hopes to field candidates in next year’s city and borough elections, which were postponed from last month as a result of the coronavirus crisis. The group is not expected to contest seats in the county council poll, which also takes place in 2021.