MOHAMMED Iqbal has been elected as leader of the Labour group on Pendle Council.

And the Bradley Ward representative has immediately thrown down the gauntlet to the community to pull together after the election of the borough's first BNP councillor.

The 35-year-old former Mayor of Pendle takes over from long-standing councillor Frank Clifford, who stood down at the local government elections earlier this month.

He said: "I'm delighted to take on the role. Clearly this is a big progression in terms of my own personal development but it's also a very challenging time for the party.

"I am determined over the next 12 months to aim to retake some seats in the local elections next year.

"That will be a big test of my leadership but I'm confident that working with my colleagues and others, we can make some serious inroads."

Coun Iqbal, who was born in Bury, has lived in Nelson for 27 years and attended Primet County High School in Colne.

He is married to Naheed and has four young children.

He has been a member of the local authority since he was elected in 1998 and is the youngest group leader in Pendle.

Coun Iqbal said the biggest challenge facing the area was the rejuvenation of Pendle and attracting more businesses to the area.

And, following the election of the first ever BNP councillor in the borough, Brian Parker, he said he would be working closely with all the other major political parties to make sure their influence does not spread any further.

He added: "One specific problem we have to look at is the rise of the far-right.

"They've got their first councillor here and we need to work with the other main parties to make sure their extreme views are not replicated at next year's elections."

Coun David Whalley who is a member for Vivary Bridge ward in Colne was elected deputy leader.