How Kirklees Council could look after voters go to the polls in May's elections

Just a handful of seats would need to change hands at May’s local elections for Labour to lose control of Kirklees Council.

By Tony Earnshaw, Local Democracy Reporting Service
Saturday, 16th April 2022, 6:00 am

Should that happen, the spotlight will then be on the minor parties, who will wield power as kingmakers.

The current make-up of the council is Labour (33 seats), Conservatives (19 seats), Liberal Democrats (nine seats), Greens (three seats), Holme Valley Independents (three seats) and other Independents (two seats).

That means the council is in no overall control.

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Vote counting at Cathedral House, Huddersfield, in the 2018 Kirklees Council elections

But the Conservatives are unlikely to deliver a landslide, which means they will need to forge an alliance with other groups if they increase their numbers.

Labour may similarly find itself in the same position of seeking to cut deals to retain the running of the administration.

A third of all 69 seats are up for election on May 5 with one seat in all of Kirklees’ 23 wards going to the polls.

Of those 23 seats Labour hold 11, Conservatives six, Lib Dems four, Holme Valley Independents one and Greens one.

Around a third are considered key “battleground” wards. They are Almondbury, Colne Valley, Dalton, Denby Dale, Dewsbury East, Golcar, Heckmondwike, Holme Valley North and Lindley.

Labour is strong in Huddersfield, Dewsbury and Batley but less so in rural areas.

Three Labour cabinet members – Viv Kendrick, Cathy Scott and Will Simpson – are defending their seats, along with Conservative group leader David Hall, Conservative scrutiny chair Liz Smaje and Lib Dem group leader John Lawson.

A respected figure across all parties, Coun Kendrick may nonetheless feel the heat from the Conservatives’ Itrat Ali in Heckmondwike, who last year reduced Labour’s Steve Hall’s majority to just 148.

That is said to be “a clear battle” between Labour and the Conservatives.

A crucial development is the appearance of the Workers Party, which could nab traditional Labour votes.

A Conservative campaigner has emerged in Dewsbury East, where the defending candidate will be Labour cabinet member and deputy group leader Cathy Scott.

In 2018 she polled 1,900 votes, easily beating Mark Eastwood prior to his election as the town’s MP.

A veteran councillor and strong presence within Dewsbury, she will go up against the Conservatives’ Keith Mallinson, who has been active on local issues such as roads and housing.

In Batley East, Labour’s Mahmood Akhtar is standing down this year. He previously polled 75 per cent of the vote in a ward where Labour does well.

The presence this year of Workers Party candidate Aziz Daji may affect the Labour vote.

In Dewsbury West, Labour’s Mumtaz Hussain, a former Mayor of Kirklees, is standing down this year.

Labour group leader – and council leader – Coun Shabir Pandor said Labour needed “a top team in the town hall” to deliver “the change our area desperately needs after over a decade of unrelenting austerity”.

He added: “Times are tough and, due to the incompetence of the national Tory Government, they’re only going to get tougher.

“But Labour will continue to deliver on the priorities of the people of Huddersfield, Dewsbury, Batley and Spen and the Colne and Holme Valley, and together we will keep Kirklees moving forward.”

Commenting on the Conservative group’s line-up, Coun Hall said: “I am extremely proud of our candidate team, who represent the whole cross-section of our communities.

“They are professional and dedicated and will serve their communities to their best of their abilities.”

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Kirklees Council elections: List of candidates in Dewsbury, Batley and Spen