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Will it be independents’ day at England’s biggest parish council? | Susanna Rustin

Residents in Sutton Coldfield could give independents control of their council, newly autonomous of Birmingham, in a fierce battle with the Conservatives for local democracy

We drive to the rugby club through the rain in Terry Leeson’s green Jaguar. Jim Haywood is the club’s chair and, like Leeson, a candidate in Thursday’s elections for Sutton Coldfield’s brand new town council. Unlike the local Conservative association, with its ancient building on the high street of the West Midlands town, the group that Leeson and Haywood belong to, Independents for Sutton (IfS), has no headquarters. Its members met in a local pub until the landlord signed up as a Conservative candidate and chucked them out.

Leeson, 54, once ran his own bus company and voted Conservative until he was made redundant in 2012 and did a degree with the Open University. Now he is worried his twin sons won’t get the chances in life that he did. Haywood joined IfS because he believes the planning system is a mess, Elizabeth Parry because she wants to support the arts, while Tom Pratt, who is also chair of the local branch of pressure group Unlock Democracy, is concerned about air quality. Other topics to come up during the course of my visit include flower beds, neighbourhood planning, special educational needs provision, repairs to the town hall, and an abandoned outdoor swimming pool.

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