Labour has strengthened its grip in Kirklees following the local elections, with a nail-biting finale for the Batley East ward.
On 5 May, nervous yet hopeful candidates arrived at Huddersfield’s Cathedral House as the day of the local elections vote count finally rolled around. There was an air of optimism from the Labour Party, which anticipated gains across the district.
The results showed that the party was right to be quietly confident as Labour gained four seats, including picking up three from Independent councillors who have stood down this time and one vacancy. Labour’s gains are as follows:
- The Dewsbury East seat previously held by Independent Cllr Aleks Lukic
- The Denby Dale seat previously held by Conservative Cllr Michael Watson
- The Colne Valley seat previously held by Independent Lesley Warner
- The vacancy in Ashbrow from when Labour Cllr Fran Perry stood down
For the other parties, though candidates may have changed, representation in the council chamber will stay the same. The Conservatives have kept 18 seats, Lib Dems eight, and Green party three.
Due to councillors standing down, there will be fewer Independents as numbers have dwindled from four to one. Picking up the final ex-Independent seat that was previously held by Cllr Paul White in Holme Valley North, was Conservative candidate Donna Bellamy.
Going into the elections, Labour had 36 seats, with 35 being the threshold for a majority. Eleven of the seats up for grabs in the election belonged to Labour, meaning they needed to secure just 10 to keep their majority.
Despite losing seats in councils across the country, Kirklees’ Conservatives fared reasonably well and were the only party other than Labour that could have achieved a majority considering current numbers within the council. However, this would have taken a spectacular performance, with 17 seats needing to be secured.
Where the battleground wards are concerned, Golcar, which saw just a one per cent margin between the two highest achieving parties last year, saw another close call between Labour and the Lib Dems. However, Cllr Andrew Marchington managed to keep his seat by 162 votes.
A twist came in the final count for Batley East which has historically been a safe Labour seat. After several recounts, just 14 votes separated the Labour and Conservative candidates, with Labour’s Cllr Habiban Zaman clinging on to control with 1978 votes.
In Denby Dale, Conservative Cllr Michael Watson lost his seat to Labour candidate Hannah McKerchar. This was perhaps a more predictable outcome considering the seat has frequently changed hands between the two parties over the years.
Cabinet members Cllr Paul Davies, Cllr Carole Pattison, and Cllr Mus Khan, have successfully defended their seats in Holme Valley South, Greenhead, and Dalton wards, respectively. Other existing Labour members of the council have kept their seats including Cllr Amanda Pinnock (Ashbrow), Cllr Yusra Hussain (Batley West), Cllr Nosheen Dad (Dewsbury South), Cllr Darren O’Donovan (Dewsbury West) and Cllr Aafaq Butt (Heckmondwike).
Deputy Leader of the Conservatives, Cllr John Taylor, managed to keep hold of his seat in Kirkburton, as did fellow Conservative for Birstall and Birkenshaw, Cllr Joshua Sheard. Almondbury ward Lib Dem, Cllr Paola Davies, also maintained control, as did Cllr Andrew Pinnock in Cleckheaton and Cllr Anthony Smith in Lindley.
For the Greens, Cllr Susan Lee-Richards kept her seat in Newsome. This was no surprise to the party as it anticipated continued success in the ward.
Earlier in the day, Cllr Graham Turner (Labour, Golcar) summarised the party’s mood. He said: “I’m confident we’ll send a strong message to government that it’s time for change and look forward to the general election.
“I’m confident we’ll make some significant gains and increase our majority in Kirklees as a ruling Labour group that will allow us to continue our ambitious programme for Kirklees.”