CONSERVATIVE hopefuls in Batley say 'change is overdue' as they prepare their campaign for this year's local elections.
Candidates Paul Young (Batley West) and Keiron Gavaghan (Batley East) are standing for the second year running in the hope they can make a difference in the Labour-run wards.
Mr Young will be battling against Heavy Woollen Independent first-time candidate Paul Halloran and Labour's Yusra Hussain for the seat left vacant by Coun Marielle O'Neill, who is stepping down, while Mr Gavaghan is hoping to gain Coun Habiban Zaman's seat.
Both remain realistic with their goals if they were to be elected, and recognise they wouldn't be able to ring significant changes – but want to have some influence in improving the town.
They said they would 'start small' by sprucing up the town centre, working on a business plan to try and increase footfall, and making sure they are out and about helping the community.
Mr Young had been leading the campaign to introduce a Batley Town Council but has stepped down from his role so that the two are completely separate.
Mr Gavaghan, who lives in Batley with his family, said: "I became frustrated particularly with local politics a few years ago and reached a point of saying that I'd had enough of whinging about how bad it was and wanted to have a positive effect on it, which was the reason for standing.
"For me I look at the town and think it's missing a business plan – what are we trying to do as a town to improve our standing?
"All high streets are under pressure across the country but actually we're really well-placed in terms of our location and we've got good transport links, some fantastic buildings already here and yet the town is withering on the vine. There's no vision and there's no strategy.
"I am absolutely aware of the fact that if you're not leading the council your ability to change things are very modest. There's no point me sitting here and saying if I was elected I'd revitalise the town and change everything for the better because it's not within my gift."
Both candidates said they felt current councillors Mahmood Akhtar, Habiban Zaman and Fazila Loonat (Batley East), and Gwen Lowe, Marielle O'Neill and Shabir Pandor (Batley West) aren't doing enough to help people on a local level.
Mr Young, who has headed up community initiatives like Batley Against Tipping, said: "We've got six councillors, ideally we want six councillors who are actively doing something in Batley.
"The visibility of our councillors, apart from Coun Pandor as the leader of the council and Gwen as the mayor of Kirklees, the other four I don't see them.
"I'm out and about involved in lots of groups and the feedback I get is that nobody knows who these people are. They only ever turn up at election time, have their picture taken and go."
Mr Gavaghan added: "I don't see the councillors doing anything tangible in the town. That's the big issue for me is where are these people?
"If I was a councillor, if somebody had an issue I would do absolutely everything I could to help them resolve it. I know just how difficult things can be, something that might seem small but to the person living it is significant. Councillors need to be visible but also supportive and help people, and I don't get that in Batley East."
And Mr Gavaghan has urged voters not to let what's happening on a national level with Brexit influence their choices locally.
"No councillor elected anywhere can influence what's going on in the national debate," he said.
"The current debacle going on in Westminster will disproportionately affect how people vote sadly, despite the fact I'm just as exasperated as the next person.
"If I could speak to every individual voter, it would be to say look at what difference that councillor is going to make for you personally – if you have an issue, if you visit the town, look at the things that actually matter. It's not about what parliament has to say, it's about basic things here."
• KIRKLEES’ Labour group is launching its manifesto for this year’s local elections at Huddersfield Town Hall on Monday evening.
Council leader Shabir Pandor said: “In the last few years, Labour has delivered a huge amount for people throughout Kirklees, whilst facing unprecedented levels of cuts from the Tory Government in Westminster.
“We have managed to protect frontline services, balance the books and made progress on regeneration of our town centres.
“There are tough decisions ahead of us still but it is not all doom and gloom. There is much we want to do, much we can achieve by investing to strengthen our communities.”
Labour’s candidates for the North Kirklees wards are: Coun Habiban Zaman (Batley East), Yusra Hussain (Batley West), Cath Pinder (Birstall & Birkenshaw), Khalid Patel (Cleckheaton), Coun Eric Firth (Dewsbury East), Coun Nosheen Dad (Dewsbury South), Coun Darren O’Donovan (Dewsbury West), Aafaq Butt (Heckmondwike), Jude McKaig (Liversedge & Gomersal), and Keiron Dunn (Mirfield).