Council responds to Queen’s Speech

Kirklees Council leader David Sheard. (D526A439)
Kirklees Council leader David Sheard. (D526A439)

Kirklees councillors have said the area needs more devolved powers to look after the most vulnerable people in society.

Responding to the Queen’s Speech, in which the new majority Conservative Government outlined its plans, leading councillors in Kirklees have given their thoughts on the big issues that will affect local authorities.

David Sheard. (D526G439)

David Sheard. (D526G439)

The Cities and Local Government Devolution Bill will give more powers over housing, transport, planning and policing to local authorities.

But the additional powers will only be available to areas with elected mayors.

Council leader David Sheard (Lab, Heckmondwike) said: “Despite having a better understanding of our region than the civil service sat in London do, they still hold most of the power, in order for our communities to thrive and our regional economy to survive we have to get powers away from London.

”Obviously the concept of “elected mayors” present a problem to us in West Yorkshire as all authorities have had referendums rejecting the concept.

“I am not against considering all the models on offer, we certainly want to take the decisions that enable our region to grow, and we now ask ourselves, should we settle for lesser treatment than is offered to Scotland – because as we all know Yorkshire is just as important to the UK. If not more.”

The Government also plans to extend the right-to-buy scheme to 1.3m social housing tenants in England as a feature of its new Housing Bill.

Under the plans, housing association tenants will be able to buy the homes they rent at a discount.

Coun Graham Turner, cabinet member for resources, (Lab, Denby Dale) said: “At a time when social housing is in very short supply, a fact I may add that everyone recognises, they are going to force us to sell off homes at a huge discount, which we can’t replace. This will have an impact on our housing budget, and more importantly push more people in to the private rented sector, which is generally more expensive and less well regulated.

“Instead of a right to buy they should be helping us build decent homes that we can add to our housing stock and charge a fair rent for.”

Coun Turner also attacked the Government’s Trade Union Bill, which would mean 50 per cent of union members would need to vote for a ballot to be valid, and 40 per cent of those entitled to vote would need to say yes to a strike if it affected essential public services.

Describing the bill as an “attack on the unions”, he said it would amount to one rule for the Government and another for unions.