Wakefield local elections 2021: Conservatives claim Labour has 'lost touch with reality and people'
Wakefield's Conservative group leader has claimed the ruling Labour party has "lost touch with reality" ahead of the local elections.
Councillor Nadeem Ahmed said his party had a vision for the whole of the district, and attacked Labour's record on local housing developments, infrastructure and skills.
The Conservatives, who currently hold 11 of Wakefield Council's 63 seats, say they're optimistic about making big gains on May 6, and are hoping to halve Labour's current majority.
In a pre-election pitch to voters, Coun Ahmed, who has led the Tory group since 2014, said: "We’ve been an effective Opposition and challenged waste within the council.
"We will represent the whole district rather than just the areas that suit our interests.
"We’d have a vision and plan for the whole of the district, rather than just sketchy little vanity projects that are done for votes alone.
"Labour has a lot of recycled councillors who’ve lost vision and lost touch with reality and with people in Wakefield.
"We've no university or skills centre and these are the kind of things we need otherwise we’re going to lose talent to other cities, because they’ll be doing better than us.
"We’d focus on redeveloping the city centre but we'd do it in a joint up way, rather than the disjointed way it's being done at the moment."
Coun Ahmed suggested the local authority had sanctioned large-scale housing developments which will be "to the detriment of people".
And he dismissed the notion that national planning laws stifled council power to stop them, insisting the authority should have done more to protect greenbelt land.
"Some of these developments have gone into areas where the infrastructure isn’t there," he added. "The roads are an afterthought.
"There's the eastern relief road - that single track road is no longer capable of taking all the traffic that’s going past Wakefield now.
"They've put 3,000 houses there, so that’s 6,000 traffic movements a day at least."
"Chantry Bridge is now becoming more congested again as a result. Which idiot planned that? It wasn’t Nadeem Ahmed and it wasn't the Conservatives."
Coun Ahmed conceded there may be a "backlash" from some of the electorate unhappy with the Tory government's handling of the pandemic, but claimed voters on the doorstep have shared his view that Labour would have done "no better" in office.
Asked if he was concerned about national headlines around the recent lobbying scandal hitting the Conservative vote locally, he replied: "Lobbying is an issue because it erodes trust in politicians. A lot of people put councillors and MPs in the same category.
"I’ve always believed Parliament and the House of Lords are too big. The council needs to be smaller too.
"Lobbying's been raised as an issue - it’s been raised conveniently at the time of an election. But politicians need to realise that if people lose faith in democracy, then that's that.
"We don’t people to be apathetic and not vote."
The Tory group leader also repeated previous criticism of a "lack of diversity" at the top of the council and in the Labour group.
He suggested the council's current leader, Denise Jeffery, was "incapable" of carrying out "wholescale reform" he claimed was needed in this area.
This article is part of a series of profile pieces about the political parties and independent candidates standing in the local elections in Wakefield. Each profile will be published on our websites in turn in the run-up to polling day.
Conservative candidates standing for election by ward (view the names of all candidates standing in your area here)
Ackworth, North Elmsall and Upton - Raymond Massey
Airedale and Ferry Fryston (two councillors to be elected) - Richard Evans and Eamonn Mullins
Altofts and Whitwood - Anthony Hill
Castleford Central and Glasshoughton - Joanne Smart
Crofton, Ryhill and Walton - Paul Stockhill
Featherstone - Ayrton Pointon
Hemsworth - David Pointon
Horbury and South Ossett - Jonathan Allum
Knottingley - Hilary Plumbley
Normanton - Keith Hudson
Ossett - Tony Homewood
Pontefract North - Christopher Hyomes
Pontefract South - Tony Hames
South Elmsall and South Kirkby - Chad Thomas
Stanley and Outwood East - Stephanie Fishwick
Wakefield East - Akef Akbar
Wakefield North - Naeem Formuli
Wakefield Rural - Cynthia Binns
Wakefield South - Richard Hunt
Wakefield West - Laura Weldon
Wrenthorpe and Outwood West - Annemarie Glover
Local Democracy Reporting Service