KIRKLEES Council doesn’t need a chief executive.
That was the radical claim from communities secretary Eric Pickles as he launched the Conservative manifesto in Mirfield yesterday.
“We need to join services. We can no longer afford to have separate chief executives,” he said.
“I think chief executives have become too expensive recently. A council needs a head of service but it doesn’t necessarily need a chief executive.
“There are experiments going on with joint chief executives and I suspect that is the way of the future.”
Kirklees chief executive Adrian Lythgo earns around £150,000 a year.
The council plans to cut its budget by £80m in the next three years to cope with the public spending squeeze.
Mr Pickles was speaking at the launch of the Conservative manifesto for the Kirklees elections on May 5, at Battyeford Sporting Club in Mirfield.
The communities secretary decided to cut grants to councils by up to 8.8% next year as the Government tries to reduce the deficit.
But Mr Pickles yesterday denied Labour accusations that his cuts were targeting the North rather than Conservative councils in the South.
He said: “Funding per head in Kirklees is more than eight times what it is in places like Surrey.
“I’ve done my best to protect places like this.”
Mr Pickles added that his Localism Bill, which is going through Parliament, would give residents more control over planning.
He said: “There will be a lot more local decision-making. We don’t think people in Kirklees are against new housing, they just want the housing to be in the right place.”
Kirklees Conservative leader Clr Robert Light also spoke at yesterday afternoon’s manifesto launch.
The Birstall and Birkenshaw man said the council had gone downhill since his party was ousted by Labour in 2009.
“Three years ago the council was judged to be the best in the country,” he said.
“That’s in stark, stark contrast with what we have today where there is an incompetent administration and staff morale is at an all-time low.”
Clr Light promised that a Conservative-run Kirklees would listen to residents.
“We would introduce a new power of binding consultation to transfer power from politicians who don’t listen to the people,” he said.
“We would put the aspirations of parents first by supporting free schools and academies.”
Each of the 23 wards of Kirklees has three councillors, but only one is up for re-election in each ward this year.
The Conservatives, who have 19 seats on the council, are defending six of them this year.
The party currently holds none of the 21 seats in Huddersfield – but Tony Brice in Lindley, Bill Armer in Ashbrow and Janice Thomas in Almondbury all hope to win this time.
Clr Light said: “Tony has fought really hard for Lindley and Bill has increased his vote every time by fighting for local people.
“Janice is an extremely experienced campaigner and I think Almondbury residents would be wise to pick her as their next councillor.”
Clr Light added that the Conservatives had “no difficulty” fighting against the Lib Dems – despite the fact the two parties are in coalition nationally.
He said: “I don’t think the fact there’s a coalition makes it more difficult for us. The Lib Dems in Kirklees are particularly left-wing and anti-local people”.