A ROW about the handover of a ceremonial chain has damaged the reputation of Kirklees Council abroad, a top councillor has claimed.
Clr Kath Pinnock made the claim about the controversial mayor-making ceremony at Huddersfield Town Hall.
On May 22, Labour Clr Jean Calvert handed over to Lib Dem Clr Karam Hussain in front of 100 people.
She told the audience that her partner Shane Eastwood, who had served as her consort for the year, had boycotted the event because he wouldn’t be allowed to place a ceremonial chain around the neck of the new mayoress, Clr Hussain’s daughter-in-law Nasreen Akhtar.
But Clr Pinnock, who leads the Lib Dems on Kirklees, said Clr Calvert’s speech damaged the council.
She said: “This story has gone round the world, it’s appeared in the press in Pakistan to the detriment of Kirklees and Huddersfield. There are some things on the internet about this which aren’t very nice.
“Clr Calvert must have known the consequences of her statement.”
Clr Pinnock said the outgoing mayor had misrepresented Mrs Akhtar’s attitude to the chain handover.
She said: “Clr Calvert claimed that Mrs Akhtar wouldn’t shake hands; that wasn’t true. What is correct is that the new mayoress didn’t want to be hugged and kissed by someone she didn’t know.
“I think that’s the kind of thing that has crept into formal ceremonies in the last three or four years.”
Clr Pinnock wrote to Huddersfield MP Barry Sheerman on June 20 to ask for his opinion on the dispute. On Monday, Clr Pinnock received the Labour man’s reply.
Mr Sheerman wrote: “I have known Jean Calvert for 20 years and have never known her to utter an opinion, or take an action, that could be by any stretch of the imagination described as racist.
“I also know that Jean Calvert is a vigorous champion of equal rights for women. To accuse her of prejudice is an insult to her hard work and dedication.”
Mr Sheerman added: “I think the incoming mayor should have been mindful of the ceremonial tradition involved in the mayor-making, something that has evolved over many generations, rather than imposing his own convention. At the very least, he should have discussed this beforehand in order to avoid any misunderstanding.
“What has now occurred seems to be an opportunistic exploitation of this episode.”
Clr Pinnock said she was “saddened” by Mr Sheerman’s response.
She said: “I think it was very defensive. I didn’t describe Jean Calvert as racist or prejudiced.”