New communities role ‘is not fit for purpose’

By Tony Earnshaw
Local Democracy Reporter

CONFUSION surrounds a new project to oversee diverse community-level matters in Kirklees.

Seven councillors have been appointed as ‘locality leads’ to head up the authority’s approach to ‘place-based working’. They will each receive an annual allowance of £5,007.

Their shared role will include overseeing how more than £1m is spent on tackling issues around mental health and domestic abuse in the borough.

The initiative, a flagship strategic project that is being driven by council leader Shabir Pandor, was formally unveiled in May.

But it has been criticised for being too vague, with councillors uncertain what work colleagues will do.

Presenting a report to Kirklees Council’s Corporate Governance and Audit Committee, business manager Richard Farnhill encouraged members to back the scheme as well as the remuneration, which had been agreed by an independent review panel. 

But the committee was reluctant to do so.

Mr Farnhill said lead members would guide conversations in seven areas – Batley, Birstall & Birkenshaw, Spen Valley, Dewsbury, Hudders-field North, Huddersfield Central, Huddersfield Rural and Colne Valley – to determine how money would be spent.

They would liaise with partner agencies, health services, the police and schools and discuss as a group how funding can be best used in individual areas.

The lead members’ role would be to co-ordinate such activity.

The Conservatives’ deputy leader, Coun John Taylor, said the roles were being rushed through despite inconsistencies around the job description.

He refused to support the project unless it was clarified. 

“This is not fit for purpose,” he said. “You cannot hold a councillor accountable to deliver on this. It’s not adequate.”

Coun Kath Pinnock (Lib Dem, Cleckheaton) said the report before the committee threw up “more questions than answers”.

She added: “The principle is good. I am not sure that this (job description) fulfils it.”

Coun Steve Hall (Lab, Heckmondwike) agreed: “It’s not clear what roles these people are going to be playing or who they are going to be meeting.

“There’s a lot that needs to be done before we agree it.”

It was agreed to defer a decision to allow further debate to take place.

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