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Co-option moves branded undemocratic; Appointment of unelected aspiring politician sparks anger.

PARISH councillors have expressed surprise after a member of the public was co-opted to The Valleys Area Committee just weeks after some were told their services were not required.

As reported earlier this month, parish councillors from Mirfield, Kirkburton and Denby Dale have been excluded from the region's Town and Valley Area Committee (writes E&C news reporter Nick Lavigueur).

The bi-monthly meetings, held to give local residents an opportunity to hear about developments in their communities, were reorganised by Kirklees Council last summer.

The controversial change merged several areas together meaning dozens of councillors were thrown together into new larger areas.

Veteran parish councillor Jimmy Paxton slammed the move as undemocratic, but area committee chairman Clr Elaine Ward said it had been done for practical reasons as the new expanded committee already had nine Kirklees councillors.

The Express & Chronicle has discovered that Holme Valley parish councillors have also been left out of official behind-the-scenes planning for their region's public meetings.

But only a few weeks on from the controversy in Kirkburton and Denby Dale, The Valleys Area Committee, which serves the Holme and Colne valleys, has co-opted aspiring politician Oliver Constance.

The 22-year-old Holmfirth resident has been nominated to run as the Liberal Democrat candidate for the Holme Valley South at next year's council elections, but is not currently an elected member.

Clr Paxton said that he was shocked by the decision.

He said: "If they can't co-opt parish councillors how can they start co-opting members of the public?" Chairman of the Holme Valley Parish Council, Clr Rhona Bratt, said they were still awaiting clarification on what was going on.

She said: "Two members of the parish council used to be co-opted, that appears to have changed.

"I know that other parish councillors went to their meetings and were told they had not been co-opted.

"It all appears to be in the air. "Let's hope that Mr Constance doesn't join the parish council because he will be immediately thrown off (the committee)."

But chairman of The Valleys Area Committee, Clr Nicola Turner, said Holme Valley Parish Council had got its wires crossed and members were more than welcome to apply to be co-opted.

She said: "If they wanted members to be co-opted it wouldn't be a problem to me. The more people working together the better it is for the valleys' communities.

"The option is still there for them and I would be delighted if they applied to the committee. We've already got Meltham Town councillors co-opted, but if they are not prepared to join in we will co-opt from the public."

CAPTION(S):

CLR WARD: Defended the plans " for practical reasons" CLR PAXTON: Shocked by the decision to co-opt Mr Constance
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Huddersfield Daily Examiner (Huddersfield, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Nov 20, 2010
Words:453
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