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New law ‘threat to Bradford transport update’
A senior Bradford councillor has spoken of her fears that a £1bn investment in West Yorkshire’s transport network could be derailed by new legislation.
Councillor Val Slater, the authority’s executive member for transport, said plans by the Government which could force councils to hold an annual referendum if they want to fund the ambitious investment programme by raising council tax was “worrying”.
The new law, which cleared its second reading in the House of Commons this week, would mean any decision to raise council tax by more than two per cent must go to a vote.
But transport bosses say this could hamper the ten-year plan to overhaul transport links across West Yorkshire and will hold a crisis meeting with Government ministers next month.
Coun Slater said: “It would certainly have an impact and it’s a worrying situation. One of the concerns for us is that one part of the Government is pressing councils like ours and our colleagues across West Yorkshire to work together and to take things like the Leeds City Deal, but other parts of the Government are putting obstacles in the way.”
Council bosses across West Yorkshire and York have already drawn up a list of more than 30 projects which would use the fund, including new railway stations, link roads and bypasses in Bradford, Leeds and Wakefield.
The congestion-busting scheme would also create better links to Leeds Bradford Airport as well as improving rail routes between Leeds and Bradford in preparation for the HS2 high-speed connection.
But to go ahead the scheme would require a council tax levy by West Yorkshire transport authority Metro.
Coun Slater said bringing taxpayers to the polls to sanction the increase would incur an “extra expense” and admitted the plan might not get the public support it needs.
She added: “It’s not always easy for the layman to understand the long-term benefits from putting money into a transport scheme like this.”
Local Government Minister Brandon Lewis said the West Yorkshire plan would only raise bills by up to 0.9 per cent and if councils kept their own tax hikes down, it could still go ahead.
Coun Glen Miller, leader of Bradford Council’s Conservative group, said he thought it right that any council tax increase above two per cent should go to a vote.
He added: “The Conservative group is very supportive of the transport fund but we have had a number of concerns since day one – the first is the lack of information passed to us by officers.”