Leading councillors and two MPs have written a joint letter to the Government demanding a ‘fair funding’ deal for Kirklees Council.
In her first speech as council leader last week Clr Cathy Scott branded the way the Government funds local authorities a “national disgrace” saying the system was “broken.”
Clr Scott said Kirklees was being deprived of an extra £17 million a year because of how the funding was worked out.
The Government had agreed that change was needed and announced a review in 2016. But seven years on the review has yet to be completed.
As Kirklees Council started to reveal the details of how it plans to cut £47.8 million from its budget to prevent the council from effectively going bust, leading politicians signed a joint letter to Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Levelling Up Housing and Communities.
The letter has been signed by Clr Scott (Labour), Clr John Lawson (Lib Dem leader) and Clr Andrew Cooper (Green Group leader) along with Huddersfield Labour MP Barry Sheerman and Batley & Spen Labour MP Kim Leadbeater.
Their action follows an Institute for Fiscal Studies report showing that council services receive less funding in Kirklees than wealthy areas like Buckinghamshire and Surrey as well as being well below the national average.
The councillors and MPs are now asking the Secretary of State to ensure areas like Kirklees are treated fairly.
Even a minor, technical, change to the current system would have provided Kirklees with an additional £16.5 million in the last financial year, says the council.
Councillors and MPs are asking for immediate changes to the formula used by Government to fund councils as well as long term changes to the way areas with high needs are treated.
At the next Cabinet meeting on Tuesday September 26, councillors will discuss a raft of cost-cutting measures.
These include proposing the closure of three leisure centres – Colne Valley Leisure Centre at Slaithwaite, Dewsbury Sports Centre and Batley Sports & Tennis Centre at Howden Clough – and shutting both council-run dementia care homes in Newsome and Heckmondwike.
The council is also reviewing its town halls. Huddersfield Town Hall and Dewsbury Town Hall are safe but Cleckheaton is set to be mothballed.
The main hall at Cleckheaton Town Hall is currently closed on safety grounds and the proposal is to close the building completely to carry out a full survey. It would remain closed indefinitely.
Batley Library is also set to close and move into Batley Town Hall while Dewsbury Library will move into the Walsh Building next to the town hall.
Clr Scott said: “Councils across the country are facing serious financial challenges. In Kirklees, our issues are compounded by a funding system that penalises local residents every year.
“We are setting out changes the Government can make now to address the problem while we wait for a long-term solution that genuinely reflects the needs of our communities.
“Every year, millions of pounds in central government funding are diverted away from areas like Kirklees to councils with completely different challenges to us.
“The Government even launched a Fair Funding Review in 2016 because the problem was becoming so acute. It’s way past time for this injustice to end.
“I’m pleased that Labour, Liberal Democrat and Green councillors, and our Labour MPs, have been able to come together to speak with one voice for Kirklees.”
While signing the joint letter, Green leader Clr Andrew Cooper called on the Labour group to work with other parties to tackle the crisis and ditch what he described as a “we know best” approach.
“These are major cuts and a significant reduction in what Kirklees Council provides for our communities and with a real impact on the most vulnerable,” he said.
“I fully appreciate that Kirklees gets a raw deal from the Conservative Government but the majority Labour administration of the council are not listening to other parties who want to help reduce the impact of their cuts.
“A ‘we know best’ approach is not how we are going to get the best result out of this very difficult time.”