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Kirklees Council: Rebuilding trust is a priority for new Labor leader

image source, BBC/GEMMA DILLON

image caption, Carole Pattison took over the role of Cathy Scott

  • Author, Gemma Dillon
  • Role, BBC news

The new Labor group leader on Kirklees Council said the party’s “immediate challenge” was to regain the trust of the community.

Carole Pattison has taken over the role from Cathy Scott and will be put forward to become council leader at a meeting next week.

She takes up the mantle with her party no longer in overall control of the council and on the back of a series of councilors leaving the party.

Speaking to the BBC, she said: “We need to focus on the things that matter to everyone in Kirklees, as well as dealing with this lack of confidence that we obviously have at the moment.”

Five Labor councilors have left the group since January, highlighting the national party’s position on the Israel-Gaza war and problems with the party’s local leadership.

In May’s local elections, four new independent candidates were elected in areas that have traditionally returned Labor councillors.

The council has also struggled to make savings of almost £48m.

Ms Pattison said the local task force realized there was a “problem” with support “before Christmas”.

“We didn’t realize it was going to be this bad, maybe, until it got closer to the election,” she said.

“But we were certainly aware that the community, or certain communities, were unhappy with the direction the local Labor party was taking, and particularly the national party.”

Labor now holds 30 of the 69 council seats but hopes to strike deals with other parties to run a minority administration.

Ms Pattison added: “The immediate challenge is to rebuild that trust in the community and that will take quite some time.

“And maybe that will detract from being able to make some of those more difficult decisions.”

First elected to Kirklees Council in 2010, Ms Pattison lost her seat in 2014 but was re-elected in 2015. She held a cabinet post at the authority as member for learning, aspiration and communities.

She told the BBC that the financial challenges of recent years had not “disappeared”, but she hoped they would not be as severe in the future.

As leader of the Labor Group, she will be proposed to lead the whole authority at the Council’s annual meeting on 22 May.