Labour’s Shabir Pandor was narrowly re-elected leader of Kirklees Council – but opposition councillors voted to look at major change in how the local authority makes its decisions.
Clr Pandor was voted in at the council’s annual meeting at Huddersfield Town Hall by 34 votes to 30. There were two abstentions and three councillors did not attend the meeting.
Labour remained the biggest party after this month’s local elections but fell two short of an overall majority.
In a social-distanced meeting in the main concert hall, councillors voted down a proposal to elect Tory leader David Hall as council leader before narrowly backing Clr Pandor, who will now form a new Labour Cabinet.
However, the key vote came earlier in the meeting when the Liberal Democrats, the Conservatives, the Green party and the Holme Valley Independents joined forces to vote for a change in the council’s decision-making process.
Currently the council has the so-called Strong Leader model which means the elected leader chooses his or her own Cabinet.
However, a motion proposed by Lib Dem deputy leader Andrew Marchington suggested a return to the old-style Cabinet structure where all councillors have the opportunity to influence policy and take part in decision-making.
The motion proposed that the council would explore a move to the Committee system with firm proposals to come back before full council in September with a view to being introduced at the annual meeting next year.
Clr Pandor said he was “disappointed” that such a major change was being proposed when the council was still dealing with the impact of the pandemic. He said the Labour group would not oppose the motion but would not support it either.
Labour’s abstentions meant that the motion was approved.
Lib Dem leader Clr John Lawson said a move to the Committee system would put “inclusion at the heart of what we do” while Holme Valley Independents leader Clr Charles Greaves said it would “give a voice to all our residents.”
Clr Andrew Cooper, leader of the Greens, said that one party (Labour) – which had won just 35% of the vote at the local elections – would now have 100% control of the council. A return to the Committee system would mean “better decisions.”