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Kirklees Council leader Clr Mehboob Khan denies discriminating against non-Labour areas with cuts to libraries and children’s centres

THE Labour Council leader has denied discriminating against Conservative parts of Kirklees.

Kirklees Council leader Clr Mehboob Khan denies discriminating against non-Labour areas with cuts to libraries and children’s centres

THE Labour Council leader has denied discriminating against Conservative parts of Kirklees.

Earlier this week the Tories claimed the ruling party was focussing cuts to libraries and children’s centres on non-Labour areas.

But council leader, Clr Mehboob Khan, yesterday denied discriminating against parts of the district where his party is weak.

“The Tories’ comments are ridiculous and they are deliberately misleading local communities,” he said.

“They are scaremongering at a time when all elected members should be focused on local people.”

Earlier this week Denby Dale Conservative, Clr Jim Dodds, accused Labour of playing “postcode politics” as it seeks to cut spending.

The Labour Cabinet has proposed removing paid staff from libraries in Slaithwaite, Golcar, Honley, Lepton, Kirkheaton, Denby Dale and Shepley.

The seven Kirklees wards affected have eight Lib Dems, seven Conservatives, three Labour councillors, two independents and one Green.

This means 57% of the 14 Lib Dem councillors on Kirklees are due to lose a staffed library; 33% of the 21 Conservatives and 11% of the 27 Labour councillors.

Labour also plans to save £1.4m by reducing services at 17 children’s centres in richer parts of the district.

The 15 wards facing Sure Start cuts have 18 Conservatives, 15 Labour councillors, eight Lib Dems, three independents and one Green.

The proposals would affect 85% of Conservative councillors, 57% of Lib Dems and 55% of Labour representatives.

But Clr Khan yesterday denied the cuts were being unfairly targeted at non-Labour areas.

“Clearly needs are more acute in some areas than others,” he said.

“Our aspiration is for all children’s centre buildings to remain open with a range of universal and targeted services.

“The council held a comprehensive nine-week consultation in order to hear local opinions.

“This is a vital part of the process and those views are helping to shape future proposals.

“There is also a sound logic behind the libraries that have been selected for a possible increase in involvement from local groups and communities.

“Officers have looked at this in great detail and the proposals are not based on politics, they are based on a wide range of criteria.

“These include the number of users at each library, the building itself and its potential for wider use, local demographics and where we have libraries with particularly active borrowers who may wish to become more involved.”

Clr Khan added that the proposal to allow volunteers to run libraries fitted in with Conservative policy.

“Community-run libraries have been successful elsewhere and this is an idea that is very much worth exploring,” he said.

“It’s ironic that the Tories in those wards think otherwise because they are keen to promote the ‘Big Society’ concept, which is exactly what we are doing.

“And it should be remembered that all the group leaders, including the Tories, sit down together, hold cross-party talks and agree strategies for key financial issues – including both children’s centres and libraries.”

 

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