A simmering row has exploded over a Conservative local election leaflet that says independent councillors in the Holme Valley “allowed Labour to take control” of Kirklees Council.
The front page of the leaflet, produced by the Tories for Holme Valley North candidate Tony McGrath, also says the three-member independent group “gifted” their place on a planning committee to Labour, “ensuring a socialist majority on that committee.”
Charles Greaves, lead member for the Holme Valley North independents, rejected the claims, which he described as “lies”.
He added: “If they want to be taken seriously the Conservatives need to grow up and get out of the gutter.”
Holme Valley North is a key target for the Conservatives. Mr McGrath came close to unseating Cllr Greaves last year, who survived with a majority of just 113 votes. Cllr Terry Lyons is defending this year.
Kirklees Council fell into no overall control in November 2020 when three Labour councillors quit and went independent. The party failed to win enough seats in the May 2021 elections to regain control.
Two weeks after the 2021 elections, at the annual general meeting of the council, there was a vote to elect the leader of the council.
The Conservatives, Lib Dems and Greens voted against Labour’s Shabir Pandor, who won on a 34-30 vote. The Holme Valley Independents abstained.
At the same meeting, the Holme Valley Independents came under fire for “gifting” a seat on the Heavy Woollen Planning Sub-Committee to the Labour group and giving it a majority.
In response, Cllr Greaves said the seat on the planning committee – which does not cover Holme Valley North – was swapped for another on the council’s corporate scrutiny panel.
Now, 11 months later, the Conservatives have resurrected the issue in Mr McGrath’s election leaflet. Cllr Greaves has asked for it to be withdrawn and for the Tories to issue an apology.
He has also submitted formal complaints about Mr McGrath and his agent, Lindley councillor Adam Gregg, to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards about Mr McCartney.
In a statement to the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) Cllr Greaves said the Conservatives were “twisting half-truths into lies”, adding: “Holme Valley Independents made it clear that we would not back Labour or Conservatives.
Conservatives had 18 votes and Labour got a majority with 34 councillors.
“Nobody ‘allowed’ anything. Labour took control of the council because they won the vote from the 66 councillors at the meeting.
The Conservatives are lying to hide their own failure. The meeting was recorded, and the voting and the results are there for all to see.”
He described the Conservatives as “deceitful” and that they were “trying to manipulate the public”.
He added: “That has consequences. They need to stop this nonsense. If they want to be taken seriously the Conservatives need to grow up and get out of the gutter. The fact that the Conservative MP has joined in with it is astounding.”
The LDRS contacted Mr McCartney and asked him to comment on Cllr Greaves’ complaint. He said: “Voting Conservative in Holme Valley North next week gives us a real chance of kicking Labour out of power in Kirklees.
“Voting independent just sadly risks more of the same poor leadership for our area.”
Mr McGrath said: “Last year the Holme Valley Independents were the only opposition group who failed to oppose Labour from taking control of the council.
“I fully appreciate how inconvenient it is for Cllr Greaves and former Labour Party member Cllr Terry Lyons to be exposed for their failure to oppose the Labour-run council, but voters in Holme Valley North deserve to know the truth.”