A COUNCILLOR is claiming the Conservatives are attempting to make “political gain” in urging Bradford Council to commit to a bid for Bingley to take advantage of the Government’s Levelling Up Fund.

The £4.8 billion fund will be spent across the country for town centre and high street regeneration, along with local transport projects. Areas have been given a priority ranking by the Government based on need and Bradford is ranked in the top category. Councils must submit bids on how cash would be spent before money is awarded.

Keighley (£33.6 million) and Shipley (£25 million) were two of the 30 benefactors to share the £725 million which was allotted in the first round of funding. And Shipley MP Philip Davies, along with Conservative ward councillors Geoff Winnard and David Heseltine, want Bingley to benefit from the next round.

Mr Davies said: “This is a fantastic opportunity for Bingley to get the investment it desperately needs which is why it is so frustrating to see that Bradford Council seem to be dragging their feet on confirming it will be putting a bid together for Bingley for this fund.

"The Council has missed the deadline for the first round of bidding and for some reason seems to be reluctant for Bingley to be the focus of this bid for the next round.

“I am therefore calling on Bradford Council to commit to submitting a comprehensive bid for Bingley, to include investment in the swimming pool and town centre which will take advantage of this huge level of welcome investment provided by the Conservative Government.”

Cllr Winnard said: “The Conservative Government’s Levelling Up Fund could provide scope to bring much needed investment into the infrastructure of Bingley’s town centre.

"Investment in modernising the long neglected Bingley pool site by creating a new swimming, sports, and wellbeing complex would support regeneration of the town centre, help promote health and fitness and encourage more visitors to our fantastic town.

“Over many years Bingley has been largely ignored by Bradford Council, who are still intent on closing our swimming pool. Following the economic and social damage caused by the pandemic, new investment in the swimming pool site would be a great boost to Bingley’s economic recovery.”

Cllr Heseltine said: “There is Government money available and Bradford Council should be proactive in getting their hands on it. Bingley needs and deserves decent facilities, we are, after all, a Principal town.

"In my view an investment in health, wellbeing and prosperity is much needed, I would hope residents and businesses would agree. A full refurbishment of our pool and gym along with an extension to house more health and wellbeing facilities would be welcome.”

Other ideas put forward by Cllr Heseltine include upgrading Myrtle Park with running tracks, outdoor gym equipment, play facilities for youngsters and relaxation areas.

He added: “On the prosperity front, a permanent cover over the market square to make it more user friendly both in baking hot and wild wet weather.

"It would also encourage local businesses to use the square and allow our local arts and culture groups to do outdoor performances and activities.”

Councillor Marcus Dearden (Lab, Bingley) said: “As Chair of Friends of Bingley Pool and as a newly elected district councillor for Bingley I’ve been in constant dialogue with the council and many other groups over the swimming pool and supporting Bingley in general.

"I am disappointed that the local Conservatives are attempting to make political gain from a situation where they have shown little previous interest nor have they led on any ideas for the town.

“It’s nonsense to suggest the Council don’t support Bingley. Let’s not forget it was a Conservative-run Council that first tried to close Bingley Pool back in 2008.

“Of course £20m of investment would be most welcome, but it is dwarfed by the amount of money the government have taken off Bradford Council since 2010. Over £250m has been cut from the council’s budget, which the Conservative MP and councillors have supported every step of the way.”

Cllr Alex Ross-Shaw, the Council’s Executive Member for Regeneration, Planning and Transport, added: “The Levelling Up Fund is a national ‘beauty parade’ of projects managed by Government. We don’t make the rules, they do. As yet Government has not told us what the rules are for the next round or indeed when it will start.

"When the competition is announced, we’ll be competing with other towns and cities right across the UK so there’s no guarantee we’ll get any funding at all, such is the scarcity of funding coming out of Government for post-COVID economic recovery at the moment. Every council is trying to get some of it.

“Bingley is a great town, a successful place and one where we have supported Bingley Pool to stay open for years beyond when we were advised it would be viable. We do that because we are working with a good community group in Bingley to enable them to run this local, much loved community facility in the future.

"We’ve briefed all councillors and involved the MPs prior to the Levelling Up Fund competition starting, asking them to put in their ideas. But until the next round is open and criteria announced by Government, no one, not even the MP can make any commitments to anyone.”