The Mayor of West Yorkshire Tracy Brabin has refused to intervene in a row over the location of the proposed National Rugby League Museum.
Last month it was revealed that Kirklees Council was back-tracking on a promise to locate the museum in its ‘spiritual home’ – the George Hotel in Huddersfield where the sport was founded in 1895.
At a full meeting of Kirklees Council on Wednesday night, Green Party leader and town centre councillor Andrew Cooper handed in a petition signed by 7,900 people calling for the museum to be located at the George as originally planned.
Clr Cooper said the museum would be “hugely attractive” and make the George Hotel a “place of pilgrimage” for rugby league fans.
Kirklees Council secured funding for the restoration of the grade II-listed hotel on the basis it would house the rugby league museum.
However, last month it was rumoured the council was looking to move the museum into a more central location, the so-called Cultural Heart in the Piazza area of the town.
Mayor of West Yorkshire Ms Brabin gave a presentation at the council meeting and afterwards faced questions from councillors.
One of those came from Clr Cooper who read from the West Yorkshire Combined Authority website which said funding for the museum at the George Hotel had come from its Getting Building Fund.
Clr Cooper asked Ms Brabin: “Do you feel disappointed that you have provided the council funding for something that it is now not providing?”
Ms Brabin appeared wrong-footed and replied: “Our legacy as a rugby union community is second to none and I am really proud…”
At that point other councillors pointed out that Ms Brabin had mixed up her rugby codes.
Smiling broadly she quickly corrected herself and said: “Rugby league! Apologies. Gosh! How could I make that rookie error?”
She went on: “Certainly, Batley Bulldogs and other rugby – league? – teams really kept us going during the pandemic. They really were the beating heart of our communities and for them to have a museum is really important.
“It’s also great that that building is going to be renovated. It’s part of the gateway coming out of the station and it’s part of the station to stadium plan that’s very ambitious and green and on paper is looking fantastic.
“Where the museum actually goes, I think, is a matter for the council, is my understanding. It’s part of the £10m regeneration to go into the centre of that regen to go into what was the library, is my understanding.
“But I am very pleased that it is finally happening because I know it’s been a campaign you have all been leading on to renovate the George Hotel to stop it being the eyesore that it is.
“I am happy to go into more detail with you, Clr Cooper, but this is an issue for the executive, for the leader and planning etc and I am just very happy to have been part of the Getting Building Fund for across the region.”
Startled by the revelation about a possible new location in the Huddersfield Library building, Clr Cooper said: “I don’t think any of us knew it was going in the library until you mentioned it this evening so we have learned something tonight perhaps. But I think many of us will wish it would remain in the George Hotel.
“Will you convene a meeting with myself as one of the ward councillors representing Huddersfield town centre, with Rugby League Cares and relevant council officers and Cabinet members to seek a resolution to this matter that retains a rugby league museum in the George Hotel?”
Ms Brabin was blunt in her reply and said: “No, I cannot guarantee that that will be the outcome because that’s not specifically my remit.
“Devolution means you make those decisions about your community without people from outside Huddersfield making those decisions
“If it serves the council for me to be at that meeting I’m very happy to do so but my powers may be limited and I want to manage expectations.”