Councillors return to meet in person for the first time since the start of the pandemic on Wednesday (May 19).
Kirklees Council’s annual meeting, which will be broadcast live on the internet, is being held at Huddersfield Town Hall.
The meeting will be held in the main concert hall, instead of the council chamber, so that the 69 councillors can be socially-distanced.
The annual meeting will see Holme Valley South Conservative councillor Nigel Patrick take over from Clr Mumtaz Hussain as Mayor of Kirklees. Deputy Mayor will be Batley East councillor Mahmood Akhtar.
While the selection of the mayor is decided and will prove uncontroversial, what is still in doubt is whether Labour’s Shabir Pandor will be re-elected leader of the council.
Labour had a majority of one until last November when three councillors resigned blaming “national issues” understood to be the party’s suspension of former leader Jeremy Corbyn.
Two of the councillors – Rob Walker and Richard Murgatroyd – stood down but the third, Colne Valley’s Lesley Warner, remains as an independent.
Labour’s vote held up well in this month’s local elections – despite a national slump in support – but the party only won 33 of the 69 seats, leaving them two short of an overall majority.
The current make-up of the council is: Lab 33; Con 19; Lib Dem 9; Green 3; Holme Valley Independents 3; Clr Lesley Warner (Ind, Colne Valley) and Clr Aleks Lukic (Dewsbury Borough Independents).
Even if Clr Warner voted with her former colleagues that still leaves Labour one vote short. There are five independents and three Green Party councillors, meaning Labour would need to do a deal to get Clr Pandor over the line. That’s assuming – of course – that all the other councillors vote against and there are no abstentions.
Huddersfield Hub understands there could be a move by minority groups to change the way the council is run. Currently it operates on the so-called Strong Leader and Cabinet model, which means the councillor elected as leader chooses his or her Cabinet to run the council.
It is thought there is growing support for a move to a Committee system where there are a number of committees made up of councillors in proportion to their parties’ representation on the council. It would mean a more co-operative style of politics with other parties having a say.
Even if such a move is voted through it couldn’t be introduced for several months which means Clr Pandor is likely to be re-elected.
In a worst-case scenario if all the parties voted down eachother’s candidates, the council would go into “crisis mode” and leadership would pass to chief executive Jacqui Gedman.
Ahead of the annual meeting the three main parties elected their leaders and deputy leaders. Clr Pandor was re-elected Labour group leader with Clr Cathy Scott replacing Clr Peter McBride as deputy leader.
Clr David Hall was re-elected Tory leader with Clr John Taylor as deputy. Clr John Lawson remains Liberal Democrat leader with Clr Andrew Marchington as deputy.
The annual meeting starts with the mayor making at 12.30pm on Wednesday May 19. Then there will be a break until 4.30pm when the rest of the meeting, including the election of leader, will be held. The meeting can be viewed on a live webcast on the council’s YouTube channel.