Tories announce plans to split district in two

Dewsbury, Batley and Spen could regain their independence from Huddersfield after local Tories announced plans to split Kirklees Council.
The Conservatives’ ambitious reorganisation would see two new, smaller, authorities share backoffice functions and a single chief executive with Calderdale Council in a bid to save £2.5m a year in running costs.
The bodies, provisionally called ‘Greater Huddersfield’ and ‘Dewsbury and Spen’, would follow the existing boundaries for North and South Kirklees.
Dewsbury Town Hall would become the new seat of power for the district, which would collect its own council tax, run local services and have its own leader.
But  some major areas such as Children’s Services, Adults & Health and Transport Investment and Regeneration would be run on a ‘pancouncil’ basis across all three districts in order to make savings and give officials more buying power when agreeing major contracts.
The plans were unveiled at a joint media briefing at Battyeford Sports Club on Tuesday, attended by Conservatives from Kirklees and Calderdale.
Calderdale’s geography would be unaltered in the reshuffle, leaving Brighouse, which used to be part of Spen, still on their side of the border.
The move could be completed by 2014, but Conservatives in both Kirklees and Calderdale will probably have to win power in order to enact the changes.
Currently Labour have control of Kirklees Council, with 27 of its 69 seats. The Tories have 21 and Lib Dems 14, with Greens and independents making up the rest.
Calderdale is run by a Lib DemLabour coalition and rival parties both there and here are against the move, meaning the Tories have to win power or convince their traditional political foes.
Even then there would be hurdles as the Government have to approve the new bodies, followed by local referendums.
The cost of the transition is unknown, though the Tories claim it could be funded with cash from the budget of just one financial year.
If it does happen, it would be the biggest change to local government since the old West Yorkshire Metropolitan County Council was axed in 1986.
Kirklees was created on April 1 1974 by a merger between the former borough councils of Dewsbury and Huddersfield.
Batley, Spen Valley and Mirfield, plus places as far afield as Denby Dale, were added to create an area which now has more than 400,000 residents. 
Kirklees Tory leader Coun Robert Light (Birstall and Birkenshaw) said: “This is an opportunity to deliver better services with greater accountability.
“We believe these plans should appeal to political parties across the board as well as to residents across the two boroughs.”
The three councils would share backoffice functions for children’s services, adults, health and social care, transport and budgeting.
There would also be shared payroll, human resources, planning and council tax services, with outsourcing to private firms not ruled out.  
A single joint chief executive would oversee the whole organisation with five other directors, four fewer than Kirklees and Calderdale currently have between them.
Each council though would provide their own public services while all three would also have their own leader and cabinet.
Dewsbury and Spen would be the smallest of the three by population, but may get the most Government funding due to its deprivation.
Calderdale Tory chief Coun Stephen Baines said: “North Kirklees already gets the largest topup due to its needs under the central grant funding formula.
“That is already built into the system, so North Kirklees wouldn’t lose out and in fact would gain as it would have its own money to spend.”
Coun Light added: “When you strip away how Kirklees Council spends its money it leaves a larger question about how resources are allocated.
“We hope to start work on this in June with elections to the new councils taking place in May 2014. We’re conscious that it’s an ambitious timescale.”

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