Keighley Councillor hits out at plans to give area committees budget control of more services

‘Devolved services is sideways move’

Coun Michael Westerman

Coun Steve Pullen

First published in News

A Keighley Town Councillor criticised a plan to “devolve” council services, saying it is not in the spirit of localism.

Bradford Council will hand over control and budgets for several services, such as parks maintenance and public toilets, to area committees made up of local district councillors.

At a meeting on Thursday night, Keighley Area Committee approved this devolution plan, with members saying it made sense for local councillors to decide how taxpayer money is spent locally.

But Town Councillor Michael Westerman, also present at the meeting, said: “This is not a devolution of powers, it is a sideways move. You are all district councillors. Handing powers to a committee is not what the localism bill is about. The decision needs to be looked at again. These powers should go to town and parish councils, not a committee.”

Committee member Coun Keith Dredge questioned the move, saying they could lose out on the “economies of scale” enjoyed by the wider Bradford Council. He said: “If services are devolved won’t that mean they will be more expensive to deliver? Is this not just creating little empires rather than looking at things on a district-wide scale?”

Mick Charlton, of the Council’s stronger communities partnership, said some services would cost more to deliver locally, but others would be cheaper. Other members questioned the fact the budgets they will work with have yet to be decided.

Chairman Coun Steve Pullen reminded them they were only there to accept the principle.

Coun Khadim Hussain said: “I can’t disagree with decision making at a more local level.”

After the meeting, Coun Westerman said: “They were ready to accept the recommendations before I even spoke. They are not listening to what Keighley Town Council is saying. They are just moving these decisions from one committee to another.”

Area committees covering the East, South and West of Bradford also discussed the devolution proposals last week and generally welcomed them. However, members of the Bradford South committee deferred a decision on highways repairs being devolved until they could be provided with more information on the issue.

The Shipley Area Committee meets on Wednesday at 6pm in Eldwick Primary School to discuss taking on devolved powers.

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