by Tony Earnshaw LDRS

Resignations from the ruling Labour group on Kirklees Council have affected the make-up of key committees.

That means Labour is unlikely to hold the balance of power on the Strategic Planning Committee, which makes decisions on often controversial schemes within the borough-wide Local Plan.

Labour lost its overall majority on the council last week when three members – Rob Walker, Lesley Warner and Richard Murgatroyd – quit the party.

All three are understood to have resigned in protest over Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer’s decision to block former party leader Jeremy Corbyn from sitting as a Labour MP.

They will now sit as independent members but will not form part of the existing three-man Independent group in Holme Valley North.

Labour sources have indicated that they are still expected to vote with ex-party colleagues on key issues.

And even though they have not formally announced the creation of a group, the council appears to consider them to be a separate grouping along with Clr Aleks Lukic, who represents Dewsbury East for Dewsbury Borough Independents.

He is not aligned to any party.

Consequently under proportionality rules the council must review the allocation of seats on committees, one of which is Strategic Planning.

There may also be changes to the membership of outside bodies.

Prior to the Labour trio’s decision the make-up of Strategic Planning was four Labour councillors, two Conservatives and one Lib Dem.

In future one of those seats may be allocated to an independent. A final decision will be made by the council’s chief executive, Jacqui Gedman.

At a meeting of full council (Nov 25) it was revealed that the existing political groups were all represented on the various committees but that some seats remained unallocated. It is these that will be offered to the independents.

As well as Strategic Planning they include Standards, Personnel and Employee Relations.

Clr Martyn Bolt (Con, Mirfield) sought clarity on how long negotiations would last.

He said: “The independents will have one place on the Strategic Planning Committee. With key planning applications coming forward, how long will this process take? Because we [could] end up in a situation where the chair could end up using their casting vote on numerous occasions until that is satisfied.”

Ms Gedman said allocating seats would be “a priority” with a hoped-for decision in the next two weeks.

Clr Andrew Marchington (Lib Dem, Golcar) said it was right that the four independents were given the option to organise into a formal group. If they did not then surplus seats could be offered to the Greens or the Holme Valley Independents.

There have been some contentious decisions in recent weeks.

  • In October a cafe was approved for the top of Castle Hill in Almondbury.  That decision is currently the subject of at least two call-in requests to government.
  • In September 250 homes on fields at Netherton in Huddersfield were green-lit in the face of massive local objection.
  • In August 30 homes were agreed for land off narrow Tinker Lane at Lepton despite concerns about road safety.