Long-serving Wakefield councillor Olivia Rowley deselected by Labour Party ahead of 2022 local elections

One of Wakefield's longest-serving councillors has been deselected by her party ahead of next year's local elections.

Monday, 15th November 2021, 2:46 pm

Olivia Rowley has been ousted as Labour's candidate to stand in Wakefield East, where her seat was due to be contested in 2022.

Councillor Rowley had wanted to carry on, but was defeated by local community worker Mohammed Ayub following a vote by party members at a meeting on Friday night.

Councillor Rowley has served as an elected member in Wakefield for 35 years, across two stints, and held three senior posts in the council's Cabinet.

Councillor Rowley was first elected to serve on Wakefield Council in 1980.

Speaking on Monday, Coun Rowley said: "I’m extremely disappointed and I’m very surprised.

"A lot of the people who turned up at the meeting (on Friday to vote), I've never seen before.

"I will still be involved in a lot of local organisations and it’s a community I’m proud to be part of. I’m just obviously disappointed it won’t be as a councillor anymore.

"It will be quite a wrench watching on from the sidelines."

Coun Rowley will continue as an elected member until next May.

Coun Rowley said she'd worked hard to address the many issues within Wakefield East, pockets of which suffer from deprivation and poverty.

She said: "We’ve a lot of crowded properties and lots of anti-social behaviour taking place that can’t be easily resolved.

"A lot of people in the community are very concerned about it.

"So it’s not an easy time to be in local government, but I’ve always done my best.

Coun Rowley was first voted in to serve Wakefield's old Calder-Lupset-Westgate ward in 1980, before the ward boundaries were carved up shortly afterwards.

She was then elected to the new seat of Wakefield Central in 1982 before leaving the district two years later.

She returned to serve as councillor for the Wakefield East ward in 1990, where she has been ever since.

In later years Coun Rowley served as Cabinet member for adults and health, before taking up the environment portfolio and later the portfolio for children and young people.

She was forced to stand down from the latter position in March 2018, shortly after Ofsted produced a highly critical report on the state of Wakefield's children's services.

In 2019, she was then appointed chair of the local climate change scrutiny committee, tasked with holding the council to account on its net zero pledge.

Coun Rowley described chairing the St Swithun's Centre in Eastmoor, where various community groups meet and work, as one of the highlights of her time as a member.

She said: "That's been my pride and joy, but I've been involved all kinds of things across the whole area.

"I've had a plethora of experiences across the council too and it's all been interesting."

Coun Rowley will continue to serve as a councillor for a further six months, until the elections.

Mr Ayub is the managing director of the Lightwaves Community Trust, based at the Lightwaves Leisure Centre.

He will be tasked with retaining the seat for Labour, in an area where the Conservatives recently saw their first councillor elected since the 1970s.

Local Democracy Reporting Service