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Kirklees Council says protests at library and grass cutting cost taxpayers a fortune

But Tory chief says "incompetent cabinet" to blame

Protests over Kirklees Council cuts have ended up costing taxpayers almost half-a-million pounds.

Opposition from Conservative and Liberal Democrat groups to Labour’s plans to slash grass cutting and libraries left the council £480,000 worse off.

The council revealed campaigns to protect services had ironically cost a fortune through the delayed implementation of the savings.

But Kirklees Tory chief, Clr Robert Light, hit back and said the “incompetent Cabinet” was liable for the wasted cash.

Lib Dem leader, Clr Nicola Turner, said councillors “might as well go home” if they could not fight decisions they thought were wrong.

As reported, decisions by the council to scale back libraries and mowing and park maintenance were both challenged after they had been agreed.

READ MORE: Kirklees Council budget 2016: Hundreds more jobs cut, services axed — here's what's under threat

Both were sent to the council’s scrutiny panel who then referred them back to the council’s Cabinet.

The eight-week delay to the implementation of the new library services, caused by the Lib Dems, cost an extra £280,000.

Kirklees Council Conservative leader Robert Light
Kirklees Council Conservative leader Robert Light

The grass cutting hold up, following a referral by both groups, cost taxpayers £200,000.

Council leader, Clr David Sheard, said opposition groups needed to be aware of the dire financial situation.

“Neither of the challenges changed anything” he said. “We took two hours from Birstall library and gave them to Mirfield library.

“We took a decision to make cuts. When we do we get opposition to it.

“If we had implemented it the day we made the decision we could have saved a lot of money.”

READ MORE: Councillor's anger as conflicting strategies for parks and playing pitches revealed by the Examiner

Clr Light refuted any suggestion that the Conservatives had cost taxpayers money by challenging the grass cutting decision.

He said: “It was rushed, and not thought through properly. It was one of the worst pieces of work I’ve seen.

“That proposal was shambolic and never should have seen the light of day.

“The incompetent Cabinet should be liable for that.”

Clr Turner said a “really arrogant” Cabinet that weren’t prepared to listen was the problem.

Clr Nicola Turner, leader of the Kirklees Liberal Democrat group

She said: “If we had a committee system we would have had the opportunity to ask those questions then.

“Yes £280,000 is a huge amount of money but on the other hand we have to have the ability to ask these questions otherwise what’s the point?

We might as well all go home.

Clr Sheard said he hoped over the next few years councillors of all parties would recognise the chronic lack of funding and help to find ways to save money.

READ MORE: Is Kirklees an efficient council? Opposition leaders have their say

The Examiner has revealed an £84m shortage of cash has been identified in the council’s finances over the next five years.

He said: “What grieves me locally is the Conservatives are deficit deniers. They come along with a budget and say we don’t need to change anything.

“If we weren’t spending our balances (reserves) now there would be an extra £12m cuts this year and £27m cuts next year.

“We have got to have balances, things happen that you don’t know about.

We’ve had the flooding and we need to spend up to £2m on Huddersfield Town Hall roof.

“We’d not planned to spend that.

“We’ve got three large Victorian town halls and I can’t see us being able to get rid of them – they’re a bit of a white elephant.”

Clr Sheard said if other parties or members of the public thought the council was wasting money somewhere then he would be happy to investigate.

Council leader Clr David Sheard

He added: “I’ve no doubt there is waste and if we find it we’ll stop it.

“But the Lib Dems every year want us to spend money on a bridge (over the river in the Colne Valley).

“They come up with ideas we think are wasteful.

“In the past councillors didn’t like to say no to their constituents.

“Now they’re going to have to.

READ MORE: Kirklees grass mowing decisions not for top councillors says leader

READ MORE: Kirklees library cuts: 'Closing just two libraries in this time of austerity is a real achievement', says top councillor

“They can’t say I’ll do that for you, they’re going to have to say I’ll help you do it for yourself.”

Director of resources Dr David Smith said a Mori survey showed the public had not appreciated how badly hit councils had been.

He said: “They think austerity is getting less, they don’t recognise there have been cuts to local services.

They think the NHS has been cut; the NHS has not been cut.

“They think pensioners have seen cuts; they haven’t.

“Those groups are perhaps better than we are at getting the message across to what kind of position we’re in.”



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