FEATHERSTONE independent councillor Kay Binnersley has this week announced that she is defecting to the Labour Party.
Coun Binnersley, who has been a critic of Wakefield Council’s Labour group since she was elected in 2004, says she has made the move so she can make a bigger impact in her ward.
Coun Binnersley, who has been a driving force for the independents in Featherstone for the last six years, said: “I think time moves on and things change. I can’t stand what the coalition government is doing in terms of cuts and I think ultimately, this will affect the voters of my ward.
“So many people are struggling, people sit crying about losing their homes and jobs and as an individual, I can’t fight that on my own. I need to be part of something bigger to fight it.
“There are no deals being made. There’s going to be support and a network with Labour and a commitment to work together and ultimately that can only benefit the people in my ward, and that’s who I put first. If I hadn’t put them first, I wouldn’t have made this decision.
“I have not changed who I am, I’m not a different person, I will still be vocal and stand up for people’s rights. I’m still the hard-working councillor that I was last week.”
Coun Binnersley began campaigning as an independent councillor in 2004 when she stood against Labour in a bid to keep the town’s Lister Baths open.
The move shook the political landscape of the town and public support for parties has been divided ever since.
Coun Binnersley said: “Until the Lister Baths campaign I was a big advocate of Labour. At the time the issue come up I felt people needed an alternative. It was a catalyst for the public to be listened to and it changed the way Wakefield district looked at consulting the people and things improved.
“Ultimately, if the Labour councillors in Featherstone wanted to pay me back for the loss of seats in 2004 they could not vote for me to continue at the next elections, but I would like to think that we will have built bridges and they will continue to support me working for the people.
“The time is right for coming together with people, it isn’t productive for the ward to continue this rift.”
Coun Binnersley’s decision to join the Labour Party has sparked debate in the community.
Resident Karen Kerr, of Huntwick Crescent, said: “Kay is good at what she does and she’s passionate about Featherstone. There are a lot of people who are angry, but she’s still dedicated to the place where she lives.
“The Labour Party should feel privileged to have her, I hope everyone who has voted for her in the past keeps voting for her.”
Gareth Yates, chairman of Featherstone Chamber of Trade, said: “I didn’t vote for Labour when I voted for Kay, I voted for the independents. I didn’t vote her in to be Labour. I suppose we have to give it a shot but Labour have ripped us off so many times. I will never vote for Kay again.”
The surprise switch in allegiances means that Labour now has a majority of councillors on Featherstone Town Council and also has 34 of the 63 seats on Wakefield Council.
Coun Binnersley said she would not stand for re-election to Featherstone Town Council next year so she could concentrate on her role as district councillor.
Wakefield Council leader Peter Box said: “By joining us Kay will be helping to stand up against the backdrop of savage and unfair cuts from the Tory and Lib Dem coalition.”