Wakefield Council meeting suspended after row over identity of new leader, before one is finally appointed

The council chamber at Wakefield County Hall
The council chamber at Wakefield County Hall

A council meeting was suspended for 15 minutes after a row about who its new leader was going to be.

Denise Jeffery was eventually elected as the new leader of Wakefield Council, replacing long-serving head Peter Box, whose retirement was confirmed this week.

Long-serving deputy leader Denise Jeffery has now been appointed to the top job.

Long-serving deputy leader Denise Jeffery has now been appointed to the top job.

Coun Jeffery, who was put forward by the ruling Labour group, will take the reins on December 1.

But her formal appointment as leader was delayed after Wakefield's opposition Conservative group mischievously put forward five different motions calling on other members of the Labour group to be leader.

Tory group leader Nadeem Ahmed said he put forward their names as he claimed to the chamber, "We all know they want to be leader."

Councillors Michael Graham, Matthew Morley, Jack Hemingway, Steve Tulley and George Ayre were all touted for the job by the Conservatives.

As the five each took turns to formally refuse the Tories' nominations, the meeting briefly descended into anarchy, amid heckles from both sides of the chamber and accusations of timewasting.

Labour councillor Kevin Swift accused the opposition of bringing "an element of farce" to the proceedings.

At that point, Wakefield mayor Charlie Keith adjourned the meeting, as he warned the councillors they risked bringing the authority "into disrepute".

He then left the chamber with Councillors Box and Ahmed for 15 minutes for talks in a separate room.

When the meeting resumed, around 15 minutes later, Coun Jeffery was officially sworn in as the new leader.

In a brief statement, she thanked Labour colleagues for their support, and said she would work with Coun Box to ensure a "smooth transition" of power.

Local Democracy Reporting Service