A NEW political party has been set up to give independent candidates strength in numbers ahead of council elections in May.

The Free Association for Independent Representation (FAIR) has registered with the Electoral Commission and is eligible to field candidates in elections across England.

Officials expect its members to contest seats when parish and county council elections are held in County Durham on May 2.

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FAIR started life in 2006 as a community action group- Ferryhill Association for Independent Representation- set up by residents of Ferryhill who were dissatisfied with local services.

Members stood in local elections and some now serve on Ferryhill Town Council and Durham County Council.

Founder members of the new party were involved in the original group so have adapted its name for the new FAIR and most of its 16 members are from Ferryhill and surrounding villages.

Party leader Gordon Barker said: “We began as a pressure group, just independent people fighting for their community and the same priorities apply today.

“We didn’t know six or seven years ago that it would lead to this but we’re getting quite a good response from across County Durham, from those interested in joining to voters who want a real alternative.”

He said members will retain their independence but have strength in numbers and its more experienced campaigners can support those new to politics.

Mr Barker, a retired engineer and former trade unionist, added: “We’ll have no political alliance, it is a conglomeration of people’s ideas and a way to discuss issues and see what we can come up by working together.

“A lot of people are getting peeved and fed up with Labour’s stance on many issues, they are stuck in their old fashioned ways and dogmatic.

“Like UKIP gaining strength nationally, people in this region are going away from the main three parties and want a real alternative.”

Coun David Farry, and independent member of Ferryhill Town and Durham County Council, said: “When people see a candidate is in FAIR they’ll know they are truly independent, not someone who claims they are independent because their party didn’t select them to fight a seat.”