By Tony Earnshaw Local Democracy Reporter
LABOUR retained control of Kirklees Council in last week’s elections – but with a reduced majority.
It lost three seats in South Kirklees as well as Dewsbury East, the latter going to Dewsbury Borough Independent candidate Aleks Lukic in a shock result.
But the party gained two seats, taking Colne Valley and Holme Valley South from the Conservatives.
The Liberal Democrats saw a rise in their popularity, taking two seats and consolidating another.
Labour now hold 36 seats in the 69-seat chamber – down from 38. The Conservatives, who held 18 seats and were defending six, lost two. The Liberal Democrats now have 10 seats and the Greens remain on three. Turnout in Kirklees was 33 per cent.
Council leader Shabir Pandor said the election had been “disappointing” for Labour but that local results reflected the national mood around Brexit.
“We have lost four hard-working councillors and my heart goes out to them,” he said. “But we have managed to keep control by gaining two seats, so it’s mixed emotions.”
Among the councillors who lost seats was veteran and former mayor Eric Firth, who was beaten by just 71 votes by Independent candidate Aleks Lukic.
Mr Lukic said: “I am delighted that the residents of Dewsbury East have elected me to serve as their independent councillor. On the doorstep people told me they feel ignored and betrayed by the main political parties.
“This result couldn’t have happened without each and every one of my supporters and I am determined to repay their trust with four years of hard work and perseverance.
“They wanted to show that they won’t be taken for granted and they wanted someone who will speak up for them and demand better for Dewsbury.
“Labour seats in North Kirklees are no longer safe. They will lose more councillors if they continue to focus investment in Huddersfield and ignore local concerns.”
Mr Lukic, who set up an online petition calling for all meat served in the borough’s schools to be stunned before slaughter, is seen as a divisive figure by the Labour group.
Responding to his win, Coun Pandor commented: “This council represents all communities and all areas. We work for the greater good of everyone.
“We believe in the politics of cohesion. Everything that Mr Lukic has stood for has divided communities.
“One thing that I will not tolerate is publicly dividing communities for political gain.”
Labour went into the local elections defending nine seats, four of which featured new candidates after a quartet of councillors stood down.
They included former council leader and group leader David Sheard, who quit after 38 years as an elected member for Heckmondwike.
Trade union campaigner Aafaq Butt was elected there, while Yusra Hussain saw off the challenge of Independent Paul Halloran to hold Batley West for Labour, winning by 640 votes in a hotly-contested seat.
Among the six seats being fought by the Tories was Birstall & Birkenshaw, formerly held by ex-group leader Robert Light, which they held onto thanks to new face Charlotte Goodwin.
Conservative group leader Coun David Hall (Liversedge and Gomersal) said: “It’s a very mixed bag. The big story of the day is that the Labour Party has lost four seats, which is an indication of the way they have run the borough for the last 10 years.
“I hope Labour will consider a better style of running Kirklees, rather than the dictatorial management we have seen so far.”
Results for North Kirklees wards:
Habiban Zaman (LAB) 3,183
Keiron Gavaghan (CON) 778
James Hansford (GREEN) 384
Clare Kane (LD) 172
Yusra Hussain (LAB) 2,599
Paul Halloran (BBI) 1,959
Paul Young (CON) 588
Martin Pelan (GREEN) 134
Christopher Kane (LD) 97
Birstall and Birkenshaw
Charlotte Goodwin (CON) 2,000
Catherine Pinder (LAB) 847
Christopher Green (GREEN) 510
Louise Walsh (LD) 360
Andrew Pinnock (LD) 2,650
Madeleine Poutney (CON) 618
Linda Simmons (GREEN) 457
Khalid Patel (LAB) 381
Aleks Lukic (DBI) 1,766
Eric Firth (LAB) 1,695
Sean Guy (CON) 489
Dennis Hullock (LD) 150
Gideon Richards (GREEN) 141
Nosheen Dad (LAB) 2,627
Charlie Reid (CON) 725
Marnie Cope (GREEN) 445
Bernard Disken (LD) 286
Darren O'Donovan (LAB) 3,198
Farmida Ishaq (CON) 569
Simon Cope (GREEN) 408
Jon Bloom (LD) 259
Aafaq Butt (LAB) 2,044
Helen Gavaghan (CON) 852
Alan Girvan (IND) 785
Alan Freeman (GREEN) 401
Josie Pugsley (LD) 187
Liversedge and Gomersal
Lisa Holmes (CON) 2,544
Jude McKaig (LAB) 942
Nicholas Whittingham (GREEN) 406
David Snee (LD) 241
Kathleen Taylor (CON) 2,931
Catherine Whittingham (GREEN) 892
Keiron Dunn (LAB) 891
Stephen Bird (LD) 275