Morley’s independent councillors have spoken of their anger after Leeds City Council forced them to relocate their operations from Morley Town Hall to the Civic Hall in Leeds, in a move which has been described as an eviction.
Property and computer equipment belonging to the town council’s five independent members has already been packed away and removed from the town hall this week, as the city council’s decision to move “minority parties” into the centre of Leeds takes effect.
The controversial move was first mooted several weeks ago but has only now come to light after a last-ditch meeting between Morley Borough Independent councillor Robert Finnigan and Deputy Leader of Leeds City Council Peter Gruen last Friday failed to yield an agreement.
Coun Finnigan claimed that the decision was taken by the Labour-controlled authority as a political manoeuvre to try to distance Morley Borough Independent councillors from the town’s people.
He said: “This is an absolutely bonkers idea, and from our point of view it is completely unacceptable.
“They’re taking us away from the people we’re here to serve.
“They will say this is a relocation. To us, this is an eviction because we don’t want to go. We’ve tried to settle this dispute behind closed doors for several weeks now and we’ve tried to persuade them that this is completely wrong but our attempts have run into the buffers.
“They are ending a system that has worked perfectly well for a decade. As I speak to you they are dismantling my computer and packing it away.
“When you take away the idea that this might be politically motivated it’s hard to see the logic behind it.”
Councillors insist they will try to continue surgeries at the town hall but they will now be at the mercy of a roombooking system, meaning meeting times may be irregular and held at short notice.
It is also claimed that operating from the Civic Hall will cost council taxpayers around 30 per cent more due to higher rates and maintenance costs.
Coun Gruen said: “All other political groups have their support from the Civic Hall. This is a fair and efficient way to provide the important and politically neutral support that members need.
“I have heard no complaints from any other political group about central support arrangements, because supporting staff centrally gives much better cover and continuity for all concerned. There is nothing different in regularising this arrangement with the MBI Goup Office.”