A TOP councillor has been accused of changing school plans to advance his career.
Kirklees Council’s Conservative Cabinet this week dropped proposals to shut Castle Hall School in Mirfield.
But Labour leader Clr Mehboob Khan believes the U-turn is connected to the hunt for a new Conservative Parliamentary candidate for Dewsbury.
Last year York-based estate agent Kevin Hollinrake was selected by the Tories to fight the constituency, which includes Mirfield, Denby Dale and Kirkburton.
But he stood down earlier this month to concentrate on guiding his business, Hunters Property Group, through the credit crisis. Mr Hollinrake’s decision means Conservative activists will have to pick a new candidate for the Dewsbury seat.
And Clr Khan believes Conservative council leader Clr Robert Light is interested in the vacancy.
He said: “The majority of Conservative activists in the constituency live in Mirfield. The Castle Hall decision was made purely because Robert Light wants to be selected as the Conservative Parliamentary candidate for Dewsbury.
“I think the decision was a politically- motivated move. I challenge Robert Light to confirm or deny this.”
But Clr Light laughed off Clr Khan’s claim that the Castle Hall decision was linked to the selection process.
“I think Clr Khan is rambling irrationally,’’ he said. “The Dewsbury vacancy has not been advertised yet and I haven’t decided whether or not to put my name forward.”
Clr Light added that Clr Khan should concentrate on the issue of Castle Hall.
He said: “I think it’s a shame that he’s more concerned with rubbishing my reputation than with the future education of children in Mirfield.”
Labour’s Shahid Malik won Dewsbury by 5,000 votes at the last general election in 2005.
Meanwhile, a top councillor has welcomed plans to look again at controversial schools proposals.
Last month Kirklees Council’s ruling Conservatives announced a £200m shake-up of schools in Dewsbury, Mirfield, Batley and other towns in north Kirklees.
The plan involves closing 11 schools. Castle Hall in Mirfield would shut, with pupils moving to an expanded Mirfield Free Grammar.
But vigorous protests by parents and pupils led the Conservative Cabinet to pledge this week to draw up a new proposal which would keep Castle Hall open. The Tories also pledged to look at providing a sixth form in Dewsbury.
Kirklees Lib Dem leader Clr Kath Pinnock said: “The Lib Dem group tried very hard to persuade the Conservative Cabinet that there needed to be a sixth form in Dewsbury, but they refused to listen. It is good news that the Conservative Cabinet has finally accepted that their plans are inadequate.”
The Conservatives also announced on Wednesday that they would work with Labour, Lib Dem and Green councillors to draw up the new plans.
Clr Pinnock said: “A great deal of stress and upset could have been avoided if only the Cabinet had been willing to work with others.
“It is now vital that the Conservative group accept that they need to get agreement across all parties on the council. This is the biggest single decision Kirklees Council has been faced with.
“The decision has to be made by the full council and not by a few Conservative councillors. The long overdue all-party talks will only be meaningful if the Conservatives accept the majority view of council.”