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Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Kirklees Labour to go “back to the drawing board” following local elections loss

The group no longer has an overall majority

The Leader of Kirklees Council says that the Labour group will be going “back to the drawing board” after last week’s local elections results brought the council into no overall control.

Friday’s (3 May) nail-biting vote count saw the ruling Labour group lose its majority, with their number of seats plummeting from 35 to 31. Former Council Leader, Shabir Pandor, lost his seat as did two Cabinet members – Jackie Ramsay (Dewsbury South) and Mussarat Pervaiz (Dewsbury West).

A group-by-group breakdown of the results and the seats that were lost or gained is as follows:

Labour: 31 (-4)

Conservatives: 15 (-3)

Lib Dems: 10 (+2)

Greens: 4 (+1)

Kirklees Community Independents: 3 (-1)

Independent: 6 (+5)

Now that the council has no overall control, it may be run through a minority administration – where the largest group leads – or a coalition could be formed. Leader of the Council, Cllr Cathy Scott made it clear that she hopes to continue as leader of the council and that a coalition was not something she was immediately considering.

Responding to the results last week, she said: “We’ve made some gains in South Kirklees and North Kirklees. We’ve got to go back to the drawing board, we’re listening – we need to listen more to the community. We’ve got an emotive situation at the moment and I think that played out today.”

Kirklees was one of only a handful of councils that bucked the national trend of Labour gains. Overall, the party gained control of eight councils, with Kirklees and Oldham being the only two to slip from a Labour majority.

The council has faced many challenges since the last time voters went to the polls, with a £47m black hole in its budget prompting cuts across several areas. This proved highly unpopular with residents, with a community campaign group forming which strived to save care homes, town halls and leisure centres from closure.

On top of this, the impact of the Israel-Hamas conflict on the shape of Kirklees Council cannot be ignored, with four Labour members defecting and forming their own group – the Kirklees Community Independents (KCI) – over the party’s stance on the Middle East. It is unclear how many newly-elected Independent councillors will be part of the KCI.

When we asked Cllr Scott whether she felt this had a hand in the election outcome, she said: “I think part of it does but people want to be appreciated and listened to, so what we’ve got to do is go back, do the analysis, listen to people and go back into our communities. Democracy has prevailed today, however, it’s about listening and taking it back to our community.”

On the matter of the conflict, she added: “I feel that us as a Labour group and as a Labour Party have done as much as we can going forward. We’ve done the motions, we’ve listened to the motions, we’ve written to Rishi. We’ve done everything we can within our power within local services and that’s what we’re about – local services, delivering services for residents. There’s a limited amount of things that I can actually do for what’s playing out internationally.”

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