AFTER 23 years Clr Kath Pinnock is stepping down as Kirklees Liberal Democrat leader.
The Cleckheaton councillor announced her intention at the Group’s Annual General Meeting on Wednesday.
Colne Valley’s Clr Nicola Turner was elected leader following a free vote and Golcar’s Clr Andrew Marchington becomes the group’s deputy leader.
Clr Pinnock said: “After 23 years, I have decided that it is time to hand over the reins of leadership.
“There is a time when it’s right to move on and let someone else have the opportunity I had all those year ago.
“One of the roles of being a leader is to help find successors and support them - there is a lot of talent in the group and I am pleased for Nicola and Andrew that they are getting this chance.
“We as a group have always been good at letting people lead, Nicola led on the Local Development Framework and Andrew led on the last budget.”
Clr Pinnock said being Kirklees Lib Dem leader was a “real privilege” and thanked her party colleagues for their support.
She added: “This is very much a planned transition... I was absolutely determined to step aside only when the local party and council group were in good health and our convincing defence of all five seats in the local elections last week clearly signals that we have turned the corner after a few hard years.
"Kirklees Liberal Democrats are now ready to look to the future and I am delighted to see Clr Turner take us on from here.
"She is already an excellent councillor and will be an excellent party and group Leader and a strong liberal voice on the council.
"I will continue to be fully involved in the running of the party and the council group and look forward to continuing to represent the people of Cleckheaton and the Spen Valley for many years to come.”
Clr Pinnock was first elected to Kirklees Council in 1987 when she was the only Liberal Democrat councillor in North Kirklees.
She became party group leader in 1991 and nine years became later the first female leader of Kirklees Council, which she lead between 2000 and 2006.
She said achievements included being the party that brought in the Warm Zone scheme, helping 100,000 households save on fuel bills; introducing Area Committees to devolve money and power to areas; building two state-of-the-art special needs schools and introducing festivals in town centres.
“I hope people see that as leader I’ve led a party that puts people first and I have no doubt that Nicola and Andrew will continue that.”
Clr Pinnock joked she’d have to “keep my mouth shut” during Full Council meetings adding: “I’m not going anywhere, I’ll still be around and if Nicola wants to bounce ideas off somebody then of course I’ll be there.”
Clr Turner, who was re-elected last week in her Colne Valley ward, said of her new role: “I am very excited about being leader but there is also some trepidation as well, Kath Pinnock will be a tough act to follow.
“In Kirklees the Lib Dems have always been a strong team and I think we work together well, so I become leader knowing there’s a good team behind me.
“People may or may not see a difference in leadership, but people will still see us listening to people and standing up for our communities across Kirklees.”
But there will be some challenges as Kirklees Council goes through major change and Clr Turner added: “Working towards the budget next February is going to be difficult, the fact is cuts will have to be made and I want to get a fair deal for all of Kirklees.
“We’ll continue to support people getting more involved in their areas, in the Colne Valley there are many amazing volunteers - not for one minute am I suggesting the council should rely on volunteers to run services - but we need to see the potential in our communities more.
“Another challenge will be local development, we know we need new business and they bring new people into Kirklees. But we really need to think about where’s best for them. We want the right sort of development in places that can take it and not compromise local services further.”
Clr Turner emphasised her willingness to work with other party leaders and said: “Where there is equal thinking we’ll support them and I am prepared to work with anybody. I’m sure at times there will be heated discussions but all we want is the best for our town.”
Deputy Clr Andrew Marchington added: “We all appreciate what Kath has done for the group over the years.
“Going forward we need to keep listening to people and representing their needs and making sure there is a liberal emphasis on what Kirklees does.”