Kirklees Council leader Shabir Pandor has resigned with immediate effect throwing leadership of the council into disarray at a time of financial crisis.
Late on Wednesday night, Clr Pandor – leader since 2018 – issued a statement which rocked the council as it grapples with a £46 million black hole in its budget.
Earlier this month the council laid bare the financial crisis and announced up to 750 redundancies.
Clr Pandor’s resignation comes just a week after his judgment was called into question at a full meeting of the council.
It was alleged he “wilfully misled” the council over the suspension of Batley East Labour councillor Fazila Loonat, who was jailed this month for lying over a speeding ticket.
Tory leader Clr David Hall raised questions about Clr Loonat’s status in the Labour party and demanded details about her suspension and who was aware of it.
He said Clr Pandor should have suspended Clr Loonat immediately he became aware of the charges as the public had every right to expect the highest standards of its elected officials.
Last week Clr Pandor said the issue of Clr Loonat’s suspension was down to the Labour Party. On Wednesday it emerged that Clr Loonat – jailed for 14 weeks for perverting the course of justice – had resigned her Batley East seat and there would be a by-election on August 31.
In May’s local elections the normally rock-solid Labour majority in Batley East – next door to Clr Pandor’s Batley West ward – was almost overturned with sitting councillor Habiban Zaman clinging on by just 14 votes.
She was pushed all the way by Tory candidate Hanif Mayat, who had switched parties having previously been a Labour councillor for 12 years until 2016.
And immediately after this year’s elections Clr Pandor’s Cabinet lost one of its rising stars with the surprise resignation of Denby Dale councillor Will Simpson, who had led the council’s response to the climate emergency.
Back in 2022 Clr Pandor faced calls to resign after what was described as a “fiasco” over the re-development of the George Hotel in Huddersfield.
The council had bought the hotel with the intention of giving a home to the National Rugby League Museum but then made a dramatic U-turn, saying it wasn’t financially viable.
The charity it was in partnership with, Rugby League Cares, accused the council of reneging on a contract and threatened legal action.
L-R: Deputy council leader Cathy Scott, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer MP, Clr Will Simpson and Clr Shabir Pandor.
Clr Pandor also faced controversy over plans for a giant Amazon warehouse in Cleckheaton where the developers said in an email that they agreed to a request from the council leader and his then deputy to delay the likely unpopular announcement until after the elections in 2021.
The plans did prove unpopular and the scheme was eventually thrown out after a public campaign backed by Batley & Spen Labour MP Kim Leadbeater.
Clr Pandor denied any wrongdoing and there was a furious clash in the council chamber with Tory critic Clr Martyn Bolt earlier this year. Both councillors were asked to leave as the meeting was halted amid angry scenes.
In a turbulent period for public finances the council this month revealed a £46 million black hole in its budget and announced it would launch consultation over up to 750 job losses.
There will also be another change in senior management at the council as Steve Mawson will replace the retiring chief executive Jacqui Gedman in October.
In his statement, Clr Pandor said: “I feel it’s time for me to stand aside to allow a renewed sense of direction, vision and aspiration.
“We have a very strong foundation and footing to continue to deliver services whilst we have solid ambitions for our towns and villages across Kirklees.
“I’m looking forward to supporting the new leadership and continuing my work in representing the brilliant residents of Batley West.”
Last year Clr Pandor sought to become the Labour candidate to replace Barry Sheerman as MP for Huddersfield, however he failed to make the final shortlist of four.
In his statement he thanked the council, Labour party and Labour group adding: “I am immensely grateful for the opportunity to serve.”
Clr Pandor has been a councillor since 2002.
Deputy council leader and Dewsbury East councillor Cathy Scott will take over as interim leader of the council.
A new leader will be elected at the next scheduled council meeting on September 13.