South Leeds: We’re Morleians - and we’re proud of it!

Judith Elliott believes the formation of Morley Town Council in 2000 was vitally important to reviving the town's sense of identity.
Judith Elliott believes the formation of Morley Town Council in 2000 was vitally important to reviving the town's sense of identity.
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It may fall within the boundaries of the country’s third most populated city but there is little danger of Morley becoming just an anonymous suburb in the big metropolis.

Mentioned in the Domesday Book, Morley has a reputation as a fiercely independent town, an independence sometimes reflected in the town’s politics.

Morley became a municipal borough in 1889 and six years later its imposing grade one-listed town hall was opened by a proud son of the town, Liberal MP Herbert Asquith MP, who went on to serve as Prime Minister in 1908.

Under local government reorganisation, Morley joined the City of Leeds Metropolitan District in 1974 – but it was hardly a match made in heaven.

Morley Borough Independent councillor Robert Finnigan recalls that in a test of public opinion, 93 per cent of people voted not to go into Leeds, while his colleague Coun Judith Elliott said: “We went in kicking and screaming.

“Even now some people don’t write Leeds as their address which shows there is still a strong sense of independence.”

There are two Morley wards on Leeds City Council, each represented by three councillors.

And any councillors winning a Morley seat cannot afford to rest on their laurels – as the voters have shown a willingness for change if they are not satisfied.

Over the past 25 years the town has returned Conservative, Labour and the BNP representatives to Leeds City Council’s Civic Hall.

In more recent years in local elections, Morley voters have largely turned their backs on the main parties and opted for the Morley Borough Independents.

The MBIs currently hold five of the six city council seats and dominate the town council, having a grip on 20 of the 24 seats.

Coun Finnigan, who heads the MBIs, said: “We have ex-Liberal Democrats, ex-Labour and former Tories in our ranks.

“If we feel something might be in Leeds’s best interest but not in Morley’s we are against it. I think that’s what people want.

“I have represented other areas and it’s clear Morley has a strong sense of itself as a community.”

Coun Elliott, MBI councillor for the Morley South ward, is a former mayor of the town and also lifelong resident.

She believes the forming of Morley Town Council in 2000 was vitally important for the town.

She told the Yorkshire Evening Post: “When we formed the town council we started to bring the Morley identity back because before that it had floundered a bit.

“Having the council has also helped bring the town hall back to life and that has been a good thing.”

Coun Neil Dawson, the town’s sole Labour city councillor, said: “Morley has always had a strong sense of civic pride stretching back to the building of a very grand town hall that matches the biggest and best built by Northern cities in the 19th century.”

Coun Dawson, who represents Morley South, told the Yorkshire Evening Post: “This independence and pride is kept going by the town council and other organisations who want Morley to remain a distinct town with its own community feel.”