By BILAL SALOO

Five out of the nine candidates standing in Batley East and West attended a local elections hustings at the Al-Hikmah Centre.

Hosted by the Indian Muslim Welfare Society (IMWS), and chaired by Communities Affairs committee member Yunus Lunat, over 40 local people were in attendance including Leader of the Council, Shabir Pandor.

Current Labour Councillor for Batley East, Habiban Zaman was up against Conservative candidate Keiron Gavaghan, while Labour’s Yusra Hussain, Conservative Paul Young and the Green Party’s Martin Pelan were the three candidates vying for votes in Batley West.

The hustings covered a range of topics including Halal Meat in schools, community cohesion, housing developments, libraries, climate change, islamophobia and traffic and parking issues. It was clear the audience wanted better representation through actions and not just words and their comments and questions reflected that.

Speaking about why they felt they should be elected and a couple of things they would do in their first year, each candidate set out their stall to prospective voters.

Batley East Councillor Habiban Zaman said she “wanted to the change this community needs and stand on issues that impact you,” and spoke of her success since being elected 18 months ago:

“I can confidently say that I have had 99.9% success rate of the cases of the constituents that I’ve been dealing with. I’ve worked very closely with crime issues with the police and social services as well as antisocial behaviour team’s, enforcement teams in tackling issues around parking and other antisocial behaviour and we have brought a number of incidents down in Batley.”

She said it was her “aspiration” to make “Batley East ward the best in Kirklees”. When asked about what she would focus on, said:

“For me, it’s about safeguarding and protecting children and vulnerable adults and overcoming loneliness, that’s a massive issue within Batley.”

“We’ve allocated £1.9 million on mental health, so that is a big investment. Not just in Batley, but Kirklees.”

Her rival, Keiron Gavaghan, said that he decided to stand because he had become “disenfranchised” and “reached a point of growing tired of complaining”

“We’re in a situation now, where Batley is in great need of investment and to say so is not to talk the town down…I live here, I love the town, it’s a great town made up of great people but we are being neglected”

“I’m standing ultimately to give you guys a viable alternative to electing the same politicians time and time again who seem to do nothing for the town.”

If elected, he said listed a couple of things he would initially do:

“I want to use the budget to sort the planters, the seats and tidy up the town centre, that’s a quick easy win.”

“In the first 12 months I want to develop a business plan for Batley, to encourage businesses that employ people to locate in the town centre.”

Batley West candidate Paul Young, who also stood last year, said sitting at home “moaning about everything” urged him to “to be out there doing something”

“We need to bring back the pride in the town and I think a lot of people have lost that because you walk through the town centre and it looks tired, people feel tired, they lose the pride in the town.”

“There doesn’t seem to be any money coming into Batley and I don’t see anyone fighting for that.”

A staunch campaigner against fly-tipping, he set-up Batley Against Tipping (BatleyBATS) and wants to clean up the town to bring back “kerb appeal” by “Replacing broken flagstones, fixing the seats, making sure bins are in good working order. Removing moss, overgrown trees in the car parks.”

He said he would “apply for a Batley Heritage fund” and introduce “Batley bloom groups” as well as “tackling bad parking”, getting CCTV for the town centre and reopening the toilets.

Batley West newcomer, Yusra Hussain, said she was someone who’s “always gone into professions that have involved making a difference to people’s lives,” and wants “to make a difference,”

“I’m young, I’ve got the energy, I’ve got the passion, I also live in the ward and I feel like I’m a breath of fresh air for Batley West. I want to represent many of you in the issues you raise to me on the doorstep and many of you who have talked to me about issues in terms of the local hospital, whether it be about potholes or it be organised crime. I’m very committed in tackling those issues.”

Talking about what she would to, if elected, she said:

If elected, she said she would tackle loneliness and “protect not only vulnerable adults but also children,”

“Also bring back play areas in the area and to regenerate our local town, and there is a budget for that.”

Another newcomer standing in Batley West, Martin Pelan, who lives in Mirfield, said until recently he was “an old Labour voter,” and there “very much to listen,”

“I recently joined the Green Party because I felt there needed to be a change, but I agreed that the traditional parties had left us behind and Labour in many wards just feel entitled to the votes that come its way”

If elected, he would represent people’s issues “regardless of party politics” and vote in a “Batley West way” as he would not have to “vote according to the party whip”. He vowed to get “to know Batley” and “meet a representative 100 people” in his first year.

He also said he would want the plans for the proposed Town Council to be “more secure than they are now,”

”I’m very much committed to the town council I like local representation that’s even more local than what we have at the moment.”

The Local Elections take place on 2 May 2019.