By Tony Earnshaw LDRS
The resignation of three councillors in Kirklees, which has torpedoed the Labour group’s wafer-thin majority, will bring ‘mayhem’ to the administration.
That’s the view of the leader of the council’s three-member Independent group, which some believe may hold the balance of power in the months to come.
In the hours immediately following the announcement of the resignations Cllr Charles Greaves, who leads the Independent group in Holme Valley North, said no formal approach had been made by Labour.
And he roundly rejected a suggestion that he and ward colleagues Terry Lyons and Paul White would partner with exiting Labour trio Rob Walker, Lesley Warner and Richard Murgatroyd, who have quit the party citing ‘national issues’.
He said: “They have not approached us and we are not expecting them to.”
In a swipe at what has been described as a ‘Gang of Three’ he added: “If it’s about national issues it’s just causing local mayhem to prove a point. It’s going to cause a lot of administrative issues within Kirklees Council.
“Right now, when we’re fighting a pandemic, we don’t need that.
“Our standard in the Independent group is that you should be elected as an Independent if you wish to work as one.
“If they believe in Jeremy Corbyn then that makes them disgruntled Labour, not Independents.
“They might form an independent group. That would be a sensible thing for them to do.”
The leader of the Green group on the council, Cllr Andrew Cooper, ruled out working with the Labour group and said a so-called ‘grand coalition’ of opposition parties was ‘not workable’.
However he remained open-minded about potentially partnering with the former Labour trio, and commented: “We are always willing to work with people of good will.”
He added: “The important thing to remember here is that we are in the middle of a crisis. Party games have got to take second place to that. Responsible people and councillors will put dealing with the pandemic at the top of the list. “There’s so much wrong with the Labour administration locally. People might consider it to be a little self-indulgent to resign over national issues when there are so many difficult things happening locally.”
Leader of the Conservative group, Cllr David Hall, said he was not surprised at the turn of events.
He said: “Endless Labour Party bust-ups and a series of shameful and shambolic decisions are distracting from critical, core council business.
“We all expect the council’s administration to be focusing on improving services and fighting the on-going epidemic, and instead the Labour Party is obsessed with in-fighting.
“Meanwhile, basic services remain of a poor standard and our towns and villages are crumbling.”
He added: “What is needed is a responsible, sensible administration, which will listen and respond to what residents want.
“Kirklees residents expect and deserve better than this long-running and very unfunny Labour farce, and we will redouble our efforts to bring the curtain down on their sorry saga.”
Leader of the Lib Dems, Cllr John Lawson, said bickering within the Kirklees Labour group was “a massive distraction” during the ongoing health emergency and that the leadership should “get a grip”.
He said: “At a time when Kirklees residents look to Labour as the largest party in the borough for stability and leadership, the news of this meltdown in their ranks is particularly distressing.
“National political concerns regrettably seem to be playing a very destructive role at the very moment when communities are relying on the Labour administration to concentrate on the task in hand.
“This internal bickering in the Labour Group needs to stop as it’s a massive distraction to officers and councillors who are doing their utmost to protect the most vulnerable. Labour need to get a grip.
Residents aren’t in the mood for this kind of council politicking; we’ve more urgent things to see to. Who Labour might work with is largely a question for them to sort out before things deteriorate.”