IF librarians lose their jobs, so will you.
That’s the message from opposition councillors in the run-up to the annual Kirklees Council leadership election.
Labour’s Clr Mehboob Khan wants to carry on as town hall chief after his party boosted their strength from 27 seats to 32 in last week’s election.
But the party will need the backing of at least one other group on the 69-member council to keep the Greenhead councillor in position.
Clr Khan confirmed yesterday that he wanted to continue as head of Kirklees.
He said: “Obviously I want to carry on as leader of the council and the election results showed that the electorate in general are in favour of the Labour group’s priorities in Kirklees.
“We have been consistent in working to improve the local economy, create jobs and encourage investment in the district.
“We are working hard to ensure our older people have the levels of care they deserve and we are delivering effective services in the toughest financial climate local government has ever faced.
“If I am re-elected as council leader nobody will be working harder to deliver the future that people and businesses in Kirklees deserve.”
Councillors will elect a leader at the annual Kirklees meeting at Huddersfield Town Hall on May 23.
Clr Robert Light, head of the 18-strong Conservatives, said his party would not back Clr Khan.
“I certainly won’t be voting for him. I do not see any situation where we would vote for the Labour administration,” said the Birstall and Birkenshaw councillor.
“I recognise that Labour have the highest number of seats and I expect that they will form the administration.”
The Examiner spoke to the other three opposition leaders yesterday – and all of them said controversial changes to libraries had to be addressed before they could back Clr Khan at the annual Kirklees meeting on May 23.
Earlier this year the Labour Cabinet unveiled a plan to remove paid staff from centres at Slaithwaite, Golcar, Honley, Lepton, Kirkheaton, Denby Dale and Shepley.
Council officers hope that volunteers will step in to keep the libraries running.
Clr Kath Pinnock, who leads the 10-strong Lib Dem group on Kirklees, told the Examiner her party wanted commitments on libraries and Sure Starts, which are also threatened with cuts.
The Cleckheaton councillor said: “In the past we’ve supported Clr Khan in return for assurances on policy.
“I think we’ve got to have assurances about libraries and children’s centres.
“As far as we’re concerned there’s sufficient funds to ensure there are professional librarians in the seven libraries which are to be passed over to volunteers.
“We must also ensure that children’s centres are retained.
“We need assurances that the services in our valley wards are not sacrificed for the services in other wards.”
When asked if her group would vote for Clr Khan to remain leader, she replied: “I don’t see why we should.”
Clr Andrew Cooper, leader of the five-strong Greens, said his group was concerned about libraries and planning issues.
“I’d like to talk about the future of libraries to see what can be done to ensure that communities retain libraries which are often their only contact with the council,” said the Newsome councillor.
“We’ve got issues about the development of land below Castle Hill, which is the iconic Huddersfield site.
“The area is under threat of being designated as land for development.”
Clr Terry Lyons leads the three Holme Valley North independents. His group could give Labour a wafer-thin majority of one if they backed Clr Khan.
He said: “I’m looking for assurances on libraries, that’s top of the bill.
“We don’t want any of this part-time volunteer business. We need to have a permanent person there all the time.”
Clr Lyons added: “I haven’t discussed it with my group, but I can’t see that we won’t be voting for him.”
Clr Khan won a four-year term in 2010 after the Government forced the council to change the way it chooses its leader.
However, the Labour man volunteered to put himself up for re-election every year.