KIRKLEES council elections will take place on May 6 – the same day as the general election.
The result will decide who runs the hung council for the next four years.
The Government has forced Kirklees to bring in a new leadership system after the May 6 vote.
In the past a council leader had to be re-elected by fellow councillors every year. But from now on the head of the council will be voted in just once every four years – making this Kirklees election more crucial than most.
The minority Labour administration goes into the campaign with 22 of the 69 seats, just ahead of the Conservatives on 21 and the Lib Dems with 19.
There are also four Green councillors, two independents and one BNP representative.
There are three councillors for each of the 23 wards in Kirklees, with one councillor up for re-election in each ward on May 6.
Labour is defending eight seats and is likely to come under pressure in Ashbrow, where former Kirklees Mayor Clr Jean Calvert is seeking re-election. The Conservatives came within 120 votes of winning the seat at the last Kirklees election in 2008.
Veteran Labour man Clr Peter McBride also faces a tough fight for re-election in Dalton, which already has two Lib Dem councillors.
However, the party will also be looking to make gains. In Heckmondwike, the BNP’s only councillor Roger Roberts is up for re-election. Labour holds the other two seats in the ward.
And the party will look to take the third seat in Crosland Moor and Netherton, where independent hospital campaigner Clr Jackie Grunsell is trying to retain her seat.
The Conservatives are also defending eight seats. However, most of the sitting Tories are in safe seats, such as Conservative leader Clr Jim Dodds in Denby Dale and Clr Nigel Patrick in Holme Valley South.
Clr Tony Brice, the only Conservative councillor in Huddersfield, will defend his seat in Lindley.
The Lib Dems have a good opportunity to gain ground as they are only defending four seats this time. However, one of those four – Almondbury – is a marginal seat which the Conservatives came within 260 votes of winning two years ago.
The Greens will defend one of their three seats in Newsome, with Clr Graham Simpson standing for re-election. The party will also hope to add to the one seat it already holds in Kirkburton, where Conservative Clr Christine Smith is defending her seat.
The Examiner will run a full list of candidates for each seat after nominations close tomorrow.
Green leader Clr Andrew Cooper:
“People have expressed serious concerns about the amount that top Kirklees executives are paid. There needs to be more transparency.
“There will be thousands of job losses in the council, beyond the efficiencies which we all want to see. We’re being conned.
“I think we’re going to do well in this election because we’ve put in a lot of hard work in local areas.
“We’ve got a top-notch candidate in Almondbury and we’ve delivered 8,000 leaflets so we hope to do well there.
“People can vote on national issues in the general election and local issues in the Kirklees election.”
BNP Heckmondwike councillor Roger Roberts:
“Kirklees needs sensible right-wing policies and to scrap all these silly green issues.
“I think we will get a very significant vote that will shock people.
“I’m hoping we can pick up a further couple of seats in north Kirklees and maybe one on the Huddersfield side as well.
“I’m hoping to hold my seat but more and more Asians are moving into Heckmondwike which makes it difficult.”
Clr Roberts said his party needed: “a reasonable turnout from the indigenous population, your normal British people, long-standing Anglo-Saxons.”
He added: “Sikhs and Hindus vote for us, we’re open to anyone.”
Lib Dem leader Clr Kath Pinnock:
“The local campaign will be largely about who is working hard and getting things done for local people rather than just talking the talk.
“We anticipate that people will appreciate the Lib Dem councillors who work extremely hard.
“We’re seeking to do well everywhere. We have two councillors in Dalton and we will work extremely hard to get a third.
“The same is true in Lindley where we also have two Lib Dem councillors.
“In north Kirklees the big issue is Dewsbury Hospital.”
Conservative leader Clr Jim Dodds:
“We’re going to retain all eight seats we have and we can win seats from either Labour or the Lib Dems in places like Ashbrow, Almondbury, Cleckheaton and Dewsbury South.
“The big issue in Ashbrow is the Local Development Framework (LDF). If there’s a Conservative government, the LDF will be scrapped and councils will be able to set their own housing targets.
“Other important issues are the council tax discount for pensioners and making sure we protect vulnerable people, both young and old.
“Labour have been in for 13 years and if people want to get rid of Gordon Brown the best way is to vote Conservative.”
Labour leader Clr Mehboob Khan:
“Local issues coming through to us on the doorstep include how we can improve community safety and street cleanliness. People are interested in active councillors who deliver for them.
“But national issues have dominated, including the future of the economy, the health service and law and order.
“We’re going to win all eight seats we’re defending and we have a very good chance in Crosland Moor and Netherton.
“In Heckmondwike, voters have given up on the BNP, they have seen through the thin veil that hides their policy of hatred and division.”