"Ambitious" council budget approved

"Ambitious" council budget approved
By Tony Earnshaw
Local Democracy Reporter

LABOUR council chiefs in Kirklees have unveiled their “visionary” budget for the coming year – and beyond.

Revealed in the council chamber within Huddersfield Town Hall it was variously described as “a budget of unprecedented investment” and “a budget of hope”.

It will see tens of millions of pounds pumped into regenerating Huddersfield and Dewsbury, more money to improve children’s services and adult social care, a commitment to tackle climate change and extra cash for the borough’s road network.

Outlining the council’s plans – and referring directly to the multi-million pound regeneration of Dewsbury – council leader Shabir Pandor (pictured) said the Labour administration was putting its money where its mouth was.

And he pledged: “I will never let Kirklees’ residents down.”

The ambitious budget follows years of austerity and cuts. Coun Pandor said the authority had lost 60 per cent of its national funding since 2010 – anywhere between £150m and £200m.

Council Tax will go up in 2020/21 by 1.99 per cent. Kirklees will also add a further two per cent precept, taking the total uplift to 3.99 per cent. The extra £3.6m raised will be spent exclusively on adult social care.

For Band A properties that represents an annual increase of £40.15, or 77p a week. At Band D it will be £60.23, or £1.16 a week.

There was little risk to the Labour budget given the group’s majority. But just in case councillors Nosheen Dad, heavily pregnant, and Erin Hill, with her baby in a sling, were present to ensure it went through.

Opposition groups who put forward their own amendments saw them fall. None were supported by the Labour group.

Conservative group leader Coun David Hall (Liversedge and Gomersal) said there were “welcome developments” in areas such as youth work and domestic abuse but that Labour was “particularly unambitious” in tackling air pollution.

He commented: “Mr Pandor seems to have done the minimum to keep the greenest tinges of his group happy.”

He said there was “less ambition and more admission” in the budget, and that some reviews had been ill thought-out and “doomed to failure” as evidenced by money being put in to prop up libraries where promised savings had not gone ahead.

And he said a smaller increase in Council Tax would benefit residents, “some of whom are still feeling the pinch”.

Lib Dem group leader Coun John Lawson (Cleckheaton) sounded a note of caution over the millions expected to be borrowed to fulfil Labour’s massive “blueprint” schemes for Huddersfield and Dewsbury town centres.

He said: “If the economy tanks for a while, or goes into full recession, our ability to service debt is impacted severely. We mustn’t take our eye off the ball.”

And he castigated colleagues for stripping out money from youth services; the cash is now being replaced.

He added: “The fact that the money was completely stripped out in the first place still staggers and saddens me.

“It was a short-sighted measure short on strategic thinking and goes against everything that I think we should be about as a council.”

Budget highlights:

  • £68m to regenerate Huddersfield and Dewsbury town centres
  • £15m to improve unclassified roads
  • £14.6m for a Huddersfield heat network
  • £10m for regeneration/”greening” of smaller towns and villages
  • £8m for adult social care
  • £2.4m on electric council vehicles and charging points 
  • £2m to create better conditions for people to recycle and reduce waste
  • £2m for collaborative work with ward councillors, schools and local communities
  • £1.1m to review school transport
  • £1m to support local voluntary organisations
  • £750,000 towards planting more trees
  • £600,000 per year to help tackle anti-social behaviour, gang and knife crime
  • £600,000 to ensure town centre car parking meets demand
  • £500,000 to deal with ‘grot spots’, such as tidying streets. That will increase to £1m in 2021/22 and £1.5m a year by 2022/23
  • £400,000 a year on improving domestic abuse services
  • £170,000 per year to develop foster carer support
Share this post