By Tony Earnshaw LDRS
Three Kirklees councillors who quit Labour over “national issues” are still expected to vote with ex-party colleagues on key issues.
Meanwhile the Labour administration has said it is “business as usual” for the authority during the ongoing Covid pandemic.
Councillors Rob Walker and Lesley Warner, who represent Colne Valley, and Richard Murgatroyd (Golcar ward) all resigned in protest at Sir Keir Starmer’s decision to block former party leader Jeremy Corbyn from sitting as a Labour MP.
Clrs Walker and Warner are now badging themselves as Colne Valley Independents with Clr Murgatroyd sitting as a Golcar Independent.
A Labour insider said: “I would be very surprised if they did not support the Labour group.
“Rob in particular has been at pains to say that his issues are on a national level, and not local.”
In a statement on social media the trio said: “We will continue to work to the best our ability as local councillors here in the Colne Valley to serve the residents who elected us.
“Our principled belief in social and environmental justice remains as firm as ever. We will continue to back the hard work of the council and our excellent community groups during the current pandemic.”
Clr Walker, who is the husband of the former Colne Valley Labour MP Thelma Walker, was elected in 2016.
He had decided to stand down this year but opted to stay on following the emergence of the coronavirus and the decision by the Government to postpone elections until 2021.
Clr Murgatroyd was elected in 2018, taking Golcar from the Lib Dems. Clr Warner was elected in 2019, defeating the Conservative candidate.
One issue for Kirklees Council leader Shabir Pandor is finding a replacement on his Cabinet for Clr Walker, who holds the portfolio for culture and environment.
As of today (Nov 20) no appointment has been made. There has been talk that the role may be split and given to one of the eight remaining Cabinet members to expand their portfolios.
Senior councillor Graham Turner, himself a Cabinet member, was keen to stress that despite the crisis caused by the three resignations, the work of council continued.
He said: “I’m not aware that they have formed a breakaway group of three. Instead they will stand as total independents.
“For us, it’s business as usual. The Labour group has ambitious plans for Kirklees and we are going to continue with them.
“No decision has been made over Cabinet responsibilities and Rob Walker’s position.”