Race for Labour hotseat begins

Race for Labour hotseat begins

A LABOUR candidate for Dewsbury and Mirfield vowing to save the NHS works for a private healthcare company.

Paula Sherriff, a Labour councillor in Pontefract, is seeking to challenge incumbent Tory MP Simon Reevell from an all-woman short-list.

She launched her campaign this week – coinciding with announcements from three other candidates.

Coun Sherriff’s main commitment is to stop the “privatisation” of the NHS – despite working for private contractor Virgin Care.

Her website implies she is employed by the NHS, with phrases including “as someone who works in the health service...” and “working in the NHS...”

She denied that could be misleading and told The Press: “I thought very carefully about what to put on the website.”

Coun Sherriff added of her work as a dermatology care service manager: “I don’t believe it’s a conflict of interest.

“If anyone thought I was a hyprocrite I’d be interested to know what they’re basing it on.”

Coun Sherriff said she was transferred to Virgin Care when the old Wakefield Primary Care Trust outsourced dermatology services in March.

She was until then employed by NHS, which still funds the service, in what she describes as a “non-clinical but still frontline” role.

Coun Sherriff remains passionate about the NHS and said: “I believe it is our country’s, and the Labour Party’s, greatest achievement.”

She was first elected just last year for Pontefract North and is on Wakefield Council’s health and wellbeing board.

Her job with Virgin Care is declared on the authority’s register of interests and she insists it does not affect her role as a councillor.

It is unknown if another health campaigner, Kirklees Dewsbury West councillor Karen Rowling, will seek the nomination.

But fellow Kirklees councillor Cathy Scott (Lab, Dewsbury East) is among three other candidates who are so far known to be standing.

University lecturer Naheed Arshad-Mather and Nasrin Ali, a Labour councillor in Manchester, are also in the frame.

Coun Sherriff said: “It’s a very strong field, but I believe I have what it takes to win the seat for Labour.

“Dewsbury has an MP (Simon Reevell) who can’t do the job full-time. That’s an insult. People deserve better than that.”

Kirklees Council cabinet member for investment Coun Scott, meanwhile, has a website listing 10 pledges if selected by the party. These include making the regeneration of Dewsbury town centre a priority and making the constituency a “Tory-free zone”.

She wrote: “The problem many residents do not understand is the vast majority of buildings in Dewsbury town centre are privately owned...

“When this is the case, the real challenge is to reinvent the town centre and create a niche market that people will come back to in larger numbers.

“This can only be done by working in partnership with local businesses, traders and attracting external investment...”

Her website also lists an endorsement from Paul Moore, a key member of former Dewsbury Labour MP Shahid Malik’s backroom team.

Coun Scott and Mr Moore are both employed at Chickenley Community Centre.

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