Knives out in Kirklees budget row

Simon Reevell MP.
Simon Reevell MP.

Bitter blows have been dealt in the blame game over Kirklees Council’s proposals for spending cuts.

Conservatives in North Kirklees said the Labour-run council is not up to the job.

Councillor Robert Light. (d622c414)

Councillor Robert Light. (d622c414)

But the council said it was taking decisions to protect the most vital services in the face of unprecedented cuts from central government.

Conservative group leader Coun Robert Light (Birstall) said failings by Labour, both locally and nationally, were the reason that so many public services in Kirklees could face the axe.

He said: “I think it is a devastating attack on local communities, particularly in North Kirklees.

“Every council in the country has had to save money and we all know the reasons that central government has cut the grant to councils – it is because the last Labour government bankrupted the country.

“And it has taken this Conservative government a lot of pain to rectify that.

“Labour just wait for a blank cheque.”

He said the council should look at multiple uses of its buildings and “rationalise” services to get the best value.

And Dewsbury MP Simon Reevell (Con) said: “This is a slash and burn approach and we have to ask ourselves how it got to this. The council should have started five or six years ago.

“It’s no way to run a council, it’s not even a way to run a corner shop.”

But Kirklees Council leader David Sheard (Lab, Heckmondwike) said: “Where have these people been living? We have already cut £80m from our budget. They are living in a fantasy world. Are they proposing we use magic beans to pay for everything? And that doesn’t explain why the north has been cut more than the south.”

He said it was a myth that the last Labour government was the principle cause of the recession and blamed problems in the banking sector and mortgage market.

“The Tories have been quite effective at repeating that story and getting people to believe it because it wasn’t challenged – the whole world went through the financial crisis.”

He said prioritising essential services such care for elderly and vulnerable people, and child protection was the council’s main concern.

But he said that the growth in elderly people requiring care, due to an aging population, was unsustainable with the current level of cuts to local authorities in force.

He added that Oakwell Hall was the safest of the museums that could face closure.

But the council has to save £70m over the next three years, which could result in massive cuts to services and more than 1,000 job losses.