A local community campaigner has launched an independent political party to challenge the status quo in Shildon.
Fred Langley, a Shildon-born local resident and educationalist, who has been vociferous in campaigning to save Sunnydale School, has launched the Shildon & Dene Valley Independent Party, which will have a permanent office, open to the public, in the town’s Church Street.
Having registered as an official political party with the Electoral Commission, it is now ready to interview candidates to stand for the Shildon and Dene Valley ward at next year’s Durham County Council elections.
Speaking exclusively to the Crier, Mr Langley said: “I grew up and was educated in Shildon, attending the Council School and then the late Shildon Boys’ Modern School.
“I played football for Shildon Works Juniors, with [former Mayor] Henry Nicholson amongst others, before setting off on a lengthy educational journey.
“A short while ago I retired to Shildon and voiced my opinion about the lack of development in the town since my departure in 1973.
“Nationally focused political parties have failed to oversee the recent development of Shildon and Dene Valley when compared with surrounding towns like Crook, Spennymoor, Aycliffe and Bishop Auckland.
“It’s our belief that part of this problem is due to the fact that these parties are controlled by party whips and party leaders who restrict local opinions and local actions in favour of county and country-wide policies.
“Independent councillors are unhindered by party machines and thus more able to truly represent their constituents at county level.
“It is for this reason that I have now registered with the Shildon & Dene Valley Independent Party (S&DVIP) with the Electoral Commission with the aim to contest all three Shildon allocated seats on Durham County Council in next year’s elections.
“The Independent concept is not new of course, and of the 126 seats at DCC, 23 are taken by a variety of Independents, making this movement the second largest group at County, second only to the Labour Party.
“New representation in Shildon would further reflect that there is county wide dissatisfaction with the current major political parties.
“In a recent short survey we conducted, no one interviewed was able to name all three of the current DCC councillors and no one could remember receiving information about any of the councillors’ activities outside of an election period.
“This has led to significant voter apathy in the town and a belief that nothing will change and that Durham will continue to ignore Shildon.
“Politics is about communication between the electorate and their chosen representatives,” said Mr Langley. “As such communication will be a cornerstone of S&DVIP.
“In addition, we will aim to restore faith in local politics and to bring back democratic, meaningful and accountable politics to Shildon in order that the people will make their voice heard regarding the development of this unique and historic town.
“We will achieve this by opening a party office in Church Street where regular surgeries will be held.
“We are in the process of setting up a party website and we are happy to commit to a regular column in the Town Crier to keep people informed of activities and developments.
“With these avenues of communication in place, we can guarantee that S&DVIP councillors will be held accountable for their activities and be approachable by the general public throughout the year.
“We aim to make Shildon a more pleasurable place to live and work and will be publishing our manifesto shortly.
“Our activities will include passionate and energetic support and a loud campaigning voice at County Council for every aspect of our community, from our education facilities and the safety of our school children to mediation and support for renters and landlords and dealing with the scourges of fly tipping and dog litter.
“We will continue to campaign to save Sunnydale school and the leisure centre, which is one of just two in County Durham not to receive additional funding in a £62m transformation of the county’s leisure facilities.
“We will be supporting and promoting activities ahead of the 200th anniversary of the coming of the railway in 2025, in which Shildon has a unique and historic part to play.
“And we will be engaging with the town’s young people, not to tell them, but to ask them what they want and need and giving them a voice.
“The four pillars of Shildon and Dene Valley Independent Party are integrity, communication, accountability and passion.
“So, if you believe in Shildon and Dene Valley and are interested in their future, we would be delighted to hear from you.”
To contact the party, email Fred Langley on firstname.lastname@example.org or call Mr Langley on 07809 617716.