The Labour leader of Kirklees Council has been accused of “holding the civic office to ransom” due to wrangling’s within his party.
Confusion reigns over the failure of the council to hold a mayor-making ceremony.
Council Leader Clr Shabir Pandor says the event has been cancelled as part of the impact of the Covid-19 health emergency.
Conservatives say the authority IS capable of delivering the event – but that internal issues within the Labour group have prevented it.
Current Mayor Clr Mumtaz Hussain, a Labour member, should have stepped down in May to be succeeded by Deputy Mayor Clr Nigel Patrick, who is a Conservative.
However Clr Hussain is still in post. Clr Patrick remains his deputy and no candidate has been formally named to replace him in 2021.
Frustration has now bubbled over, with a trio of Conservatives demanding answers from the Labour-run administration.
Following a barrage of questions Clr Pandor appeared to infer that issues within his own group had prevented the change-over from taking place.
In a messy and often confused dialogue during a virtual meeting of Full Council on September 9th Clr Pandor was asked by Clr Richard Smith (Con, Kirkburton) when the mayor-making ceremony for the current municipal year is going to take place.
Clr Pandor said in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak and resulting lockdown local elections had been cancelled along with the council’s annual general meeting. He said all party leaders agreed to that.
He added: “Each individual party has got its own rules and regulations.
“From a Labour Party point of view we were told very, very clearly that all meetings of the Labour Party – be it group meetings, constituency meetings or branch meetings – cannot go ahead.
“Basically there were constitutional issues and the position we arrived at was that the Mayor and Deputy Mayor would continue until next May, when I’m hoping that there will be a full AGM.”
That failed to satisfy Tory leader Clr David Hall (Liversedge and Gomersal), who said the agreement to postpone an annual meeting “in no way prohibits” the holding of the annual mayor-making ceremony under the council’s constitution.
He said Clr Pandor’s explanation was variously “disingenuous”, “absolute bluster” and “obfuscation”.
He added: “This is nothing to do with Government.
“We know we don’t need an annual meeting. The only answer he’s given is that he either doesn’t want or can’t organise a Labour Party meeting.”
Clr Pandor countered that he was managing his group of 35 councillors and if there were problems he would “deal with them”.
He added: “We need to agree to disagree on this. We all have issues, we all have problems and we all need to manage our own groups.
“I’m not going to go into a debate about individual members, whoever they are. I don’t think this is the time to start talking about something regarding individuals. I just don’t think it’s the right place.”
Another Conservative councillor, Martyn Bolt, the current Town Mayor of Mirfield and a former Mayor of Kirklees, said the focus was on “the office, the function and the discharge” of the mayor, not individual members.
He commented: “Somebody has taken a decision that we’re not going to have a mayor-making. If you could tell us who’s taken that decision I’m sure the matter could be put to rest.
“This council has made remarkable steps in making virtual meetings Why can’t we move to having a virtual mayor-making?”
Speaking after the meeting Clr Hall said Clr Pandor’s reply was “was totally disingenuous and misrepresented the views of the party leaders”.
“I have raised this matter with other party leaders, and put forward several ways in which the mayor’s office could be handed over: I even suggested that the Mayor, Deputy Mayor and Deputy Mayor-elect might serve 16 months each, which would get us back on track in May 2023.
“Clr Pandor rejects every suggestion put forward.
“It’s nothing to do with the government, and we don’t need an annual meeting.
“Clr Pandor is holding the civic office to ransom because of Labour politics. Why will he not agree to a mayor-making ceremony?”