Politics in this country is often seen as a two horse race, or perhaps three. Yet look closer at the local level and there is a strong and growing contingent of councillors unaligned to any major party.
There are currently over 1,500 independent councillors across England and Wales, with 12 councils led by independents, and others such as Cornwall being run in coalition with independent colleagues.
Larger parties are splitting at the seams as they seek to force everyone to stick to a line that does not suit all members. Instead of the strongly hierarchical system the big parties subscribe to, independents and the more progressive parties focus on a stronger, bottom-up consensus-building approach that is paying dividends locally.
Despite the power of big political machinery and media dominance at election time, independents fight fiercely at the ballot box and increasingly see the benefits of working together to make positive change and challenge the status quo.
Through the independent group at the Local Government Association, independents work together with Plaid Cymru, Green and UKIP councillors, to get the best for our residents, locally in our streets and countryside, nationally across England and Wales, and in Europe.
With well over 2,000 elected councillors, our group dares to be different: listening, looking at the facts and reaching consensus without a whip and party politics getting in the way. That includes working across political parties within our number, united by the mission of doing the best job possible for the people we represent, our communities and our planet.
We know that national politics can unreasonably influence the way people vote locally. Yet the last year has been characterised by in-fighting and polarisation. With central government clinging to a party-driven adversarial system, some of the best and most in touch political leaders are excluded from decision-making, and with them all those they represent.
Given the challenges facing the country, we have called for political leaders to put party politics aside in the best interests of the public, sit fairly round the table and work together to steer our country forward.
People can see that the big parties are not working well for us and are seeing through their magpie approach to ideas as they steal those of smaller parties and independents.
May 2019 therefore offers a unique opportunity for independents, and indeed all our LGA group members who operate without a party whip, to prove they offer the best solutions locally. They are not driven by party politics, but what their residents need.
Marianne Overton (Lincs Ind), leader, LGA independent group; vice chair, LGA; and councillor, Lincolnshire CC and North Kesteven DC