Kirklees ‘devolution’ plans spark heated debate

Kirklees ‘devolution’ plans spark heated debate

COUNCIL chiefs are “putting the cart before the horse” in the rush to hand new powers to local communities.

That is the view of Coun Kath Pinnock (Lib Dem, Cleckheaton) who said plans to split Kirklees into four zones are just lines on a map.

The move would see North Kirklees’ existing area committees replaced by two new larger bodies.

The zones, ‘Batley and Spen’ and ‘Dewsbury and Mirfield’, would see council wards combined into groups.

Kirklees Council could eventually loosen its Huddersfield-based grip and allow these areas more control over their own affairs.

A steering group is set to report on what these powers should be – which left Coun Pinnock fuming.

She said: “There’s no details about what these zones will actually do. It’s cart before the horse stuff.

“It also strikes me as a ‘top down’ approach to reform, which we know Labour love doing.”

Council leader Coun David Sheard (Lab, Heckmondwike) said the plans were to create a framework to build on.

He said: “I intend to work as quickly as possible to devolve services to local committees.

“The other leaders know this but are more interested in fighting next year’s  election rather than reshaping Kirklees.”

Coun Pinnock, who stood down as Lib Dem leader last week, said the process should be done the other way round.

She added: “First of all you need to decide what it is that you want to devolve.

“Then you need to ask what combination of councillors would best achieve it. Without that this is just lines on a map.”

The plans were revealed at a meeting on Wednesday, which also saw a cabinet reshuffle and new mayor and deputy mayor installed.

Tory leader Coun Robert Light (Con, Birstall and Birkenshaw) wants officials to take their time.

He said: “Failure to get it right would require annual tinkering, which is what we’ve had since 2001 over area committees.

“This is an opportunity to create something new and effective. Every party leader wants to make it work.”

The zones will see wards combined and a cabinet member allocated to each committee.

These are:

• Batley and Spen: Batley West, Batley East, Birstall and Birkenshaw, Cleckheaton, Heckmondwike and Liversedge and Gomersal;

• Dewsbury and Mirfield: Dewsbury East, Dewsbury West, Dewsbury South and Mirfield.

Labour councillors Simon Alvy and Darren O’Donovan are to chair Batley and Spen and Dewsbury and Mirfield respectively.

Coun Pinnock and councillors in Mirfield are concerned the two zones have in-built Labour majorities.

Mirfield representatives also fear the town could lose funding to Dewsbury in a zone where they believe they would be out-voted.

Coun Paul Kane (Lab, Dewsbury East) accepted that could be an issue and called for serious thought.

Installed as deputy mayor on Wednesday, he said: “It’s all about good leadership. If it’s done properly then it will work.

“There isn’t going to be a seismic change overnight, but we also need to be aware of dawdling.

“If you take too long then things stall and you lose momentum, so I’m perhaps in between that and Coun Light’s position.

“Another danger is people may think this is the return of the old Dewsbury Borough Council, which isn’t the case.”

Share this post