By Tony Earnshaw Local Democracy Reporter
COUNCILLORS are to get new roles under a ‘flagship’ project to oversee diverse community-level matters across the district.
Kirklees Council is to select seven lead councillors to head up the authorit’s approach to what it is describing as ‘place based working’.
It has been described by one councillor as “an attempt to take on issues that affect everyone and to see that in the context of different communities”.
The initiative, a flagship strategic project for the council, is being driven by council leader Shabir Pandor and is expected to be rolled out imminently.
But it has come under fire from a senior Tory who questioned how the council could justify spending extra money on elected members when it was still making cuts to libraries across the borough.
The Conservatives’ deputy leader, Coun John Taylor, said there was “no detail” in an officers’ report and asked: “Where is the money coming from?”
He added: “I feel very uncomfortable that at a time that we are cutting frontline staff we are talking about creating paid positions for our councillors. That is not right.
“It seems like this is the will of the Labour administration and we have to work with it.”
Under the new plan, which was formally unveiled at the annual meeting of Kirklees Council this week, the borough will be divided into seven ‘places’ with ‘Place Leads’ divided up amongst four political parties. They are:
Batley, Birstall and Birkenshaw (Labour); Spen Valley (Lib Dems); Dewsbury (Labour); Huddersfield North (Labour); Huddersfield Central (Greens); Huddersfield Rural (Conservatives); Colne Valley (Labour).
A council source told the Local Democracy Reporting Service that the annual allowance for the role could be as high as £5,000 per councillor.
Discussing the proposal at a meeting of the Corporate Governance and Audit Committee in Huddersfield Town Hall councillors backed the idea in principle.
But there was confusion over the focus of the roles and how information had been relayed by council staff.
Councillors warned that the report outlining the project was jargon-heavy and that it lacked both clarity and detail.
“The report is written in ‘officer speak’,” said Coun Kath Pinnock (Lib Dem, Cleckheaton – pictured). “It’s not clear to me what a place-based councillor will do.”
She sounded a note of caution over whether elected members possessed specialist knowledge in areas such as mental health saying most had “a very low base of understanding” adding, “It’s an officer role”.
And as work had already commenced on rolling out the scheme she felt that it was “a done deal”.