More cuts looming as Kirklees agrees slashed budget

More cuts looming as Kirklees agrees slashed budget

CUTS to services aimed at saving another £84m up to 2020 were backed at Kirklees Council’s annual budget meeting on Wednesday.

But a plan to take £5m away from Dewsbury was rejected. Local Conservatives wanted to use the town centre regeneration cash for infrastructure improvements around Kirklees.

There will be reductions in street cleaning, funding for police community support officers and school crossing patrols – and cuts to services supporting homeless people, families with child protection issues and the assessment of vulnerable older people.

Residents also face a council tax hike of 3.95 per cent, which includes a social care levy imposed by the Government.

The budget sets a four-year ‘roadmap’ to 2020, featuring ever more drastic cuts down the line.

In 2017-18, the £4.297m young people’s service budget which runs youth clubs and summer activities will be scrapped. So will the £579,000 budget for assessing the needs of disabled children.

Cabinet member for resources Coun Graham Turner (Lab) said nobody would want to make such cuts.

But other councillors who spoke at Huddersfield Town Hall skirted around the impact – with Dewsbury town centre much debated.

Only Baroness Coun Kath Pinnock (Lib Dem, Cleckheaton) and Coun Liz Smaje (Con, Birstall and Birkenshaw) spelled out what the cuts actually mean.

Coun Pinnock said: “The totality of funding this council gets is determined by the Government – whether by capping council tax rises, the social care levy or business rates.

“And the amount of funding available is diminishing greatly – £173m less over the period from 2010 to 2020. Inevitably the room for manoeuvre is greatly restricted. All we can do is agree to changes that we’ve not really mentioned yet.

“The budget contains terrible cuts to services for those in need and to services that residents rely on.

“Residents think keeping the streets clear of litter is of basic importance. And what does this budget do? It removes £750,000 from this service.”

Coun Smaje highlighted cuts to the early intervention and prevention budget for problem families.

She said: “The budget contains a lot of changes for vulnerable people and this is a service that should be there for people.”

Earlier, Coun Turner hinted at the effect of these decisions and said: “This is not the budget we’d like to move. I don’t believe any group would want to propose a budget making cuts such as these.

“But given the Government’s continued attack on northern councils, we’ve no choice. The public will see huge changes in what we deliver and how we deliver it.”

Tory deputy leader Coun David Hall (Con, Liversedge and Gomersal) accused Labour of making the situation worse by dithering.

He said: “Labour’s proposals are short on vision – they’re trying to wind the council down cut by cut.

“What is the direction of the council? They’ve been swept away by talk of a ‘new council’ and hope they get washed ashore. How they wish they’d done more years earlier.”

Labour’s budget passed by 33 votes to 28, with no amendments attached as these proposals were defeated.

A motion by the joint Green Party and Valley Independents group fell by 53 votes to six.

And Lib Dem plans to also take cash from Dewsbury for projects elsewhere fell by 53 votes to six.

Both they and the Tories proposed raiding the Dewsbury and Huddersfield town centre regeneration action zones.

The Conservative plan sought to spread the respective £5m and £10m schemes across Kirklees. It lost by 47 votes to 13 after Labour councillors queued up to denounce it.

Coun Darren O’Donovan (Lab, Dewsbury West) said: “It’s quite right that investment is needed in Dewsbury.

“And it’s not just top down from the council. Some of it is from the district committee in seed funding for groups like the Dewsbury Pioneers. If you pull the rug from the Dewsbury Town Centre Partnership then you’re pulling the rug from groups like them.”

Conservative leader Coun Robert Light replied: “Kirklees isn’t just about Huddersfield and Dewsbury.

“All the capital shouldn’t be sucked into those two towns. Places like Batley and Mirfield have just as much right to that money.”

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