VOTERS head to the polls tomorrow to determine the shape of Kirklees Council in the year ahead. BARRY GIBSON finds out what people are talking about on the doorsteps.
KIRKLEES Council’s leader is in buoyant mood ahead of tomorrow’s election.
“We’re hoping to hold on to all the seats we’ve got and gain one or two others,” said Clr Mehboob Khan, who heads the 24-strong Labour group.
The Greenhead councillor believes the Lib Dems are vulnerable to an anti-government backlash in several seats around Huddersfield.
“We hope to take Dalton and we’re running neck-and-neck with the Lib Dems in Golcar,” he said yesterday.
“Colne Valley is a three-way fight between ourselves, the Lib Dems and the Tories.
“On the doorstep people are concerned about the haste and depth of Government reductions in public services, they are worried about jobs and growth.”
Clr Khan added that voters were also concerned about issues closer to home.
He said: “People are interested in the protection of the green belt and they are worried about safety, given that West Yorkshire Police is to lose 1,500 jobs.”
Clr Kath Pinnock, who leads the 20 Lib Dems on Kirklees, hopes her party will not be punished by voters angry at the coalition government.
“We’ve had a very positive reception but it’s up to the voters to decide what happens,” she said.
“I really don’t know if we will face a backlash, no doubt there will be some voters who put national issues above local matters.
“But it’s a foolish politician who makes predictions.”
The Cleckheaton councillor added that the concerns of voters varied across Kirklees.
She said: “It’s different from ward to ward. In Colne Valley a lot of people feel that the green belt is a very important issue. In Dewsbury there is more concern about housing and road safety.
“People in Cleckheaton are talking about the situation with the bus station.
“There’s a real variety of issues.”
Clr Robert Light leads the Conservatives, who have 19 seats on Kirklees.
He said many voters were concerned about the Local Development Framework (LDF) – the Kirklees blueprint for 28,000 new homes by 2028.
Clr Light said: “People are worried about the scale of erosion to the green belt which the council is proposing.
“The LDF consultation was a botched job and residents feel that Kirklees is totally ignoring their views.”
The Birstall and Birkenshaw man added that this was part of a wider problem.
“Kirklees isn’t listening to the people,” he said.
“People in north Kirklees think the council is too Huddersfield-centric and that applies equally to people in the valleys.”
Clr Light hopes his party can win seats, despite being in power in Westminster.
He said: “There’s always some degree of anti-government backlash but a lot of people recognise that the Conservative government is trying to clean up the mess left by the last Labour government.”
The Greens are defending two of their four seats in this year’s election.
Party leader Clr Andrew Cooper is optimistic of Greens holding on in Newsome and Kirkburton.
“It’s going well and we’re getting a good reception on the doorsteps,” he said.
“We’re confident of holding the seats. People are telling us they have already voted for us by postal ballot, which perks us up.”
Clr Cooper added that his party also had high hopes of winning control of Kirkburton Parish Council.
The Newsome councillor said: “We’re running 17 candidates compared with 10 for the Conservatives and we’re hoping for a strong showing.”