A new independent group has been formed on Kirklees Council which could threaten Labour’s grip on power.

Four Labour councillors who quit the party in protest over its stance on Gaza and local leadership have now launched the Kirklees Community Independents Group.

Councillors Jo Lawson and Imran Safdar (Crosland Moor & Netherton); Ammar Anwar (Dewsbury West) and Ebrahim Dockrat (Batley East) want the group to be a new force in Kirklees politics.

The group, which says it intends to field candidates in most of the 23 wards across Kirklees at the local elections on May 2, has already reduced the ruling Labour group’s overall majority to just one.

The new group has been officially recognised by the council and Clr Lawson will be group leader with Clr Anwar as business manager.

Under the council’s constitution, group leaders and business managers receive extra payments – known as special responsibility allowances (SRA) – depending upon the size of their groups.

Clr Lawson would be due to receive £4,469 while Clr Anwar would receive £2,978. This is on top of the basic £16,211 paid to all 69 councillors.

Clr Jo Lawson pictured with fellow ward councillor Imran Safdar

The Labour group launched a furious attack on the new group accusing them of “wasting taxpayers’ money” at a time of cuts to services.

One of the first moves by Clr Cathy Scott when she became council leader in September was to ask all councillors to agree a 5% cut in their basic allowance, bringing it down to £15,400. Fifty-one of the 69 councillors are said to have accepted the cut.

Clr Scott took a 10% cut on her leader’s allowance and her Cabinet also agreed to a 5% reduction. Overall around £50,000 was saved.

In a statement issued to the media, Labour group chief whip Clr Will Simpson accused the new group of “self-indulgence” for “appointing themselves to non-existent roles just to claim a taxpayer allowance.”

The statement also made allegations against Clr Anwar which he denied and produced evidence to Huddersfield Hub to refute.

At Tuesday’s meeting of the Cabinet, Clr Scott said the new group “have had an impact (financially). Not only have they taken their basic allowances they have taken SRAs.

“It’s their choice whatever they do but there is an impact because we now have to redress and fund the monies for this extra group to take office.”

Responding to Clr Simpson’s statement, Clr Lawson said: “We agreed to form a group in order to be able to access the various meetings that group leaders and group business managers are invited to attend for briefings so we would have sight of the bigger Kirklees picture and retain some committee places.

“We all have a wealth of experience to offer having sat on a number of committees and scrutiny panels.

“I note that Clr Simpson is not suggesting that other groups give up these taxpayer paid roles and can only assume this is an attempt to score a cheap political point.

“Due to the abrupt ending of any further spending to councillors’ Ward Budgets last week Clr Imran Safdar and I were unable to top up our ward hardship fund – a vital source of support for our most vulnerable residents in Crosland Moor & Netherton.

“I intend to use the SRA I have as group leader to top this up. Maybe Labour group members on generous SRAs would care to join me and do the same for their wards?”

Clr Anwar said the new group’s core values were “community, passion, diversity and empowerment” and the four councillors will “collectively work for a greater Kirklees.”

He said the group would be endorsing independent candidates across Kirklees in May and expected “veteran Labour councillors” would lose their seats.

The new candidates were from diverse backgrounds and all walks of life, he added.

When Clr Lawson resigned she described the Labour group as a “toxic swamp” and made allegations of bullying.

Clr Anwar quit in tears at a council meeting in January when he spoke of the horrors of Gaza and Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer’s failure to call for a ceasefire.

The current make-up of the council is: Labour 35; Conservative 18; Liberal Democrat 8; Kirklees Community Independents Group 4; Green 3; Independent: 1.

As the composition of the council has changed a small number of committee places will have to be re-allocated and that will be reported to the next full council meeting.