AN idea to merge some Kirklees and Calderdale services threatens the independence of Calderdale, a top councillor believes.
The Conservative party has mooted the idea of merging services and splitting Kirklees into two authorities.
But Calderdale Labour leader Clr Tim Swift warned today that the Tory plans to would mean Halifax and the borough’s other market towns may face losing control of their own futures.
Clr Swift says that a Labour Party analysis of the Conservative plans proves that most decisions would be dominated by Kirklees.
His major concerns are:
Many of the most important decisions would be taken by a new “joint leaders board” – just three people deciding on the future of the whole area, which would have an in-built Kirklees majority.
Three of the departments most crucial to Calderdale people – adult care, children’s services and transport and regeneration – would be run jointly, again under automatic Kirklees control.
The proposed system would be more, not less, bureaucratic, with one chief executive and two deputies, reporting both to individual cabinets and to the joint leaders board.
Clr Swift said ahead of tonight’s Calderdale budget meeting: “These Conservative proposals read like a desperate attempt to dream up something new without any thought to the long-term consequences. If we were to adopt them, we could wave goodbye to any chance of shaping our own future.
“Of course we should work together with Kirklees where it makes sense. But our interests are not identical.
“Calderdale needs the freedom to argue for investment in the Calder Valley and to develop partnerships, not just within Yorkshire, but with East Lancashire and Greater Manchester.
“I also see a real danger of our services for adults moving towards common systems and priorities, which has to be a concern, as care charges are much higher in Kirklees and the criteria for providing care are much tighter.”
The authority will tonight meet to decide its budget for the next 12 months, and they need to find savings of £28m by 2013/14 and an extra £3.4m is required in 2013/14, rising to £13m more by 2014/15. It is expected to freeze council tax once again.