It’s Pandor-monium as Kirklees power grab implodes

KIRKLEES Council is without a leader after a political power grab failed on Wednesday.

Coun Shabir Pandor (Lab, Batley West) was savaged by opponents as his bid for the top job went down in flames, leaving the administration in limbo.

Chief executive Adrian Lythgo will take the reins temporarily until a new leader can be found.

He will have talks with councillors over the next few weeks in a bid to find a candidate.

Coun Pandor became Labour group leader on May 9, following an apparent party ‘coup’ against previous council leader Coun David Sheard.

On Tuesday, Coun Sheard (Lab, Heckmondwike) sacked his deputy leader, Coun Jean Calvert, in a row about her unpaid council tax.

He then resigned as council leader to let Coun Pandor attempt to form a new administration.

Coun Pandor only needed the backing of 35 out of 69 councillors on Wednesday. But Coun Sheard and three other Labour councillors – Cathy Scott (Dewsbury East), Graham Turner and Judith Hughes – were all absent.

It meant that Coun Pandor lost the vote 33-31 as Tories, Lib Dems, Greens and Valley Independents all opposed him.

Rival parties refused their backing after they claimed that their support for him had been misrepresented.

Coun Pandor denied claims of misrepresentation and accused rival parties of breaking his trust.

He said after the meeting: “I haven’t made any promises, I’ve been very honest and open with everyone.

“Just by me being transparent and open with them they’ve broken my trust by sharing what I’d told each of them.

“If they had a problem they should have spoken to me directly – but no-one did.

“Instead they played to the gallery. They need to reflect on their positions because this is not a game.”

What was always going to be a controversial debate got off to a stunning start when outgoing Tory leader Coun Robert Light (Con, Birstall & Birkenshaw) blasted Labour for their coup against Coun Sheard.

He said: “There’s a nasty smell about what happened to David. That’s not the way to treat a man of his stature.”

Coun Light added that the plotting was one of the worst deeds in the council’s 42-year history.

On Monday, the Conservative group elected Liversedge & Gomersal councillor David Hall as their new leader – and he quickly put the boot in and said: “In a tale worthy of Game of Thrones, Labour embarked on an act of regicide.”

Coun Hall said voters at last month’s elections had effectively endorsed Coun Sheard’s leadership.

As a result of his ousting, Labour had lost whatever mandate they had gained as the biggest party, Coun Hall said.

He added: “What this council needs is a leader who values wisdom above cleverness. And it needs a skilled negotiator, not a wheeler-dealer, someone who will fight our corner in the face of other wily council leaders.”

New deputy Tory leader Coun Martyn Bolt (Mirfield) said afterwards: “Coun Pandor was trying to bolster his own group by telling them other parties would back him. Perhaps he was hoping to quell rebellion in his own ranks but his members now know that is not the case.”

Coun Pandor collected 30 votes from all Labour councillors present plus one from Coun Edgar Holroyd-Doveton (Ind).

Mr Lythgo said: “The constitutional position is that in the absence of an agreed council leader I will run the council.

“I will make arrangements to consult group leaders on decisions that need to be taken in that period.”

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