This week's column comes from Philip Davies, Conservative MP for Shipley 

For most people, the New Year is a time of excitement. 

However, for people living under the control of Bradford Council, the New Year will bring a huge amount of concern as to what 2024 will mean with regard to Council services and Council Tax.

Just before Christmas, Bradford Council finally acknowledged what many of us had been warning for months - that they are heading for bankruptcy. 

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Bradford City HallBradford City Hall (Image: T&A)

But even they don’t seem to know how bad the situation is.  First, they warned of a black hole of around £50m – a figure which jumped within days to £73m, and now seems to stand at over £100m.  The scale of the deficit is climbing faster than a rat up a drainpipe.

There was a Full Council meeting on the week of this calamitous announcement. 

You would have thought that Bradford Council would have spent the whole time discussing the financial crisis and how they were going to deal with it. 

But instead over half of the Full Council meeting – over three hours no less – was spent debating the situation in Gaza and Israel over which Bradford Council has no remit at all. 

Talk about fiddling whilst Rome burns.  Is there a better example of the uselessness of Bradford Council than the grotesque spectacle of them virtue signalling about the conflict in the Middle East rather than discussing their imminent bankruptcy? You really couldn’t make it up.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: A pro-Palestine demonstration in BradfordA pro-Palestine demonstration in Bradford (Image: Newsquest)

Despite these warnings of bankruptcy that the Conservative Councillors and I have been making for months, the leadership of Bradford Council have carried on blithely.  Their denial of the impending crisis over which they are presiding has been like Comical Ali in the Iraq war pretending the allied forces were being held at bay.

But there is nothing comical at all about the clowns leading Bradford Council, and the people who will pay the price will be the local residents and Council Tax payers in the Bradford district. 

Bankruptcy will mean the Council only performing its statutory functions and the Council Tax going through the roof.  In short local residents are going to be paying a huge amount more for considerably less.

The single biggest factor in this catalogue of incompetence has been Children’s Services. 

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: The MP has criticised the handling of Children's ServicesThe MP has criticised the handling of Children's Services (Image: Pixabay)

It has been well documented about the appalling failings we have seen, most notably with the tragic case of Star Hobson, leading Ofsted to write a scathing report about the leadership of Bradford Council. But we shouldn’t forget that whilst delivering a service so bad that the Government stepped in and removed it from their control, Bradford Council overspent the budget by around £50m. 

Overspending to provide a better service, or providing a worse service by saving some money, can both be understood, but how on earth do you overspend by £50m and provide a service so bad that it is removed from you?  Nothing better sums up the incompetence of Bradford Council than this.

So what is Bradford Council’s plan to deal with this financial crisis?  It has three things it is seeking from the Government. 

First it wants to be bailed out by the Government.  Whilst some of us were warning of the impending disaster of bankruptcy, the Labour Council’s view was to carry on spending as normal and just expect the government to bail them out.  Can you imagine if any of the people leading Bradford Council ever had to run a business?

The other two requests of the Government are to allow them to borrow money and to sell off their assets, now that they rattled through the substantial reserves that Bradford Council once had, and which have now gone.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Bradford Council leader Susan HinchcliffeBradford Council leader Susan Hinchcliffe

The Council have approached the five Bradford district MPs to request assistance in obtaining money from the government.  I have set out four conditions before I will agree to lobby on their behalf:

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Philip Davies is meeting Transport Secretary Chris Grayling to discuss his push for a Shipley Eastern bypass..

1)            Bradford Council must accept the role they have played in this financial collapse – something incredibly they still refuse to do.

2)            Bradford Council must agree to a fairer distribution of money across the entirety of the district rather than them concentrating their resources on their inner Bradford heartlands.  I am not having the Government give tens of millions of pounds of extra money to Bradford without some of that money paying for a new swimming pool in Bingley.

3)            They must open their books so that I can look over their spending.  In answer to an FOI request earlier this year Bradford Council admitted they were spending £665,000 per year on equality, diversity and inclusion.  I am not asking taxpayers to bail out a Council wasting colossal sums on such pointless political correctness.

4)            Susan Hinchcliffe and her executive team must stand down.  We cannot have more and more money thrown at people who have shown themselves to be so incompetent.

Bradford Council have – as yet – not agreed to these conditions.

Everyone will now be able to see why my colleague Robbie Moore and I are so desperate to get our constituencies out of Bradford Council.

I wish all my constituents and readers of the T&A a very happy and successful 2024.  The best start we could all have would be the resignation of the Leader of Bradford Council.