A BY-ELECTION winner has pledged to tackle rocketing long-term youth unemployment in some of Yorkshire’s most deprived communities following a poll in which the Liberal Democrat candidate took just 33 votes.
Coun Richard Forster, who held the Castleford Central and Glasshoughton Ward for Labour in Thursday’s Wakefield Council by- election, said he will be seeking to increase training opportunities for youngsters.
The seat was left vacant after West Yorkshire’s newly-elected Police and Crime Commissioner, Mark Burns-Williamson, fulfilled his pledge to resign his seat as a councillor on Wakefield Council.
Mr Burns-Williamson, who was a Labour councillor for the Castleford and Glasshoughton ward for almost 15 years, announced his intention to resign after being elected as crime chief last November.
Coun Forster romped home for Labour in the by-election after winning 1,567 of the 2,045 votes cast following a turnout of just 16.93 per cent.
Ukip candidate Nathan Garbutt won 349 votes while Conservative candidate Annemarie Glover recorded 95 and Liberal Democrat candidate Mark Goodair just 33.
Long-term youth unemployment across the Pontefract, Castleford and Hemsworth area has rocketed by up to 500 per cent in the last 12 months.
Office for National Statistics figures show the number of youngsters out of work in Pontefract and Castleford increased from 35 in December 2011 to 190 in December last year.
Married father-of-two Coun Forster, 57, who works as a director of a housing association, said: “I am going to try to increase the opportunities for training and make sure that schools link in with businesses in communities to make sure there are opportunities for work placements so children’s aspirations are going to be increased.
“They will have had the experiences in work placements that currently is quite limited.
“I want to work with small and medium-sized businesses to increase the opportunities for work placements for young people in schools.
“I want to make sure we have got a workforce that is trained and ready for any opportunities that we can bring in to the town.
Coun Forster added: “I was born and have been bred in Castleford and want to make Castleford a thriving town in the wider Wakefield district.”
His replacement of Mr Burns-Williamson came on the day that further criticism was levelled at the electoral process surrounding the Police and Crime Commissioner roles.
Electoral staff said voters were not at the heart of the process for the police and crime commissioner (PCC) elections. Electoral administrators said they were faced with high volumes of public complaints about the elections held last November. Information was not readily accessible and was not well co-ordinated at a national level, the Association of Electoral Administrators (AEA) found.
The process was marred by a record-low turnout with around one in seven bothering to go to the ballot box.
Shadow policing Minister David Hanson said: “All of the concerns raised in this report were issues that the Labour Party raised prior to the elections – the Government failed in its organisation of the elections and failed to promote its flagship policy in an effective way.
“The Government’s failures with these elections meant people weren’t able to get the information they needed and were left confused and unengaged.”