Councillors have clashed over the best way forward for Huddersfield town centre .
And the controversial bus gates were again under the spotlight with leading councillors under pressure to respond to claims that they had not listened to the complaints.
Following a heated debate last year, it was agreed to launch a probe into the impact of the traffic enforcement cameras, known as bus gates, on shopkeepers.
The cross party group agreed to incorporate it into a wider study into how to boost the town centre’s fortunes.
But, as reported, the probe has been slammed as a “ whitewash ” after it made no attempt to resolve the reported problems with trade suffered since the bus gates were installed in early 2016.
Lib Dem, Clr Andrew Marchington, said: “To be honest a lot of us thought this working group was a way of pushing the bus gates issue into the long grass.”
Bus gates campaigner, Alisa Devlin, said there was no reference in the report to the 25 per cent drops in trade that 60 small businesses had suffered.
She asked why all the small businesses in town had not been asked to give evidence about the impact of bus gates.
No one from the cabinet seemed willing or able to answer her question.
After a period of arguing among councillors, Clr Carole Pattison, chair of the Town Centre Working Party agreed to answer.
She said: “There was no suggestion that we would commission or undertake any survey.”
Mrs Devlin accused the council of “fudging” the whole matter.
She said: “It’s an absolute whitewash and you should all be ashamed of yourselves.”
The meeting of all councillors moved on to discuss the two separate reports – the Town Centre Working Party and the scrutiny investigation into the consultation over the intended installation of the bus gates.
Conservative councillors pressed for the ruling Labour cabinet to do more.
Former Kirklees Tory leader, Clr Robert Light, said: “The reality is the town centre is in decline.
“If you think you are right about bus gates I challenge you to put the proceeds of the bus gates fines into a pot and use them to improve the town centre.”
Clr Bill Armer said the town centre report was “not very inspiring” and “anodyne”.
“This council has allowed the town centre experience to deteriorate to the point that it’s off putting,” he claimed.
Clr John Taylor said there should be a “two strikes” system for bus gates, where people were only warned if it was their first offence but then given a ticket from the second time onwards.
Clr Richard Smith said the Labour cabinet had “failed in their duty to the citizens of Kirklees”.
He said: “We’re a Premier League town and we need a Premier League cabinet, not a Sunday league team.”
Referring to the insistence to retain the bus gates, he said it was a “daft decision by a stubborn cabinet”.
Clr Peter McBride said it was impossible for the whole town centre to prosper and vowed bus gates were “not an attack on car owners or retailers”.
“This town has never been sustainable throughout the ring road,” he claimed.
“There’s always been areas of decline.
“Like many towns of our size we’ve been affected by the recession and online shopping.
“We’re doing our bit but the council doesn’t control all the variables. Two thirds of the shops in town are not owned by the council.”
Council leader, Clr David Sheard, said: “Bus gates were implemented by the Conservative cabinet. Our decision is to enforce them.
“Most towns have some kind of bus lane enforcement.
“If you’re saying the Conservative cabinet was wrong bringing this in you should say so.”
Holme Valley Tory, Clr Ken Sims, said their vision for the town at the time of the traffic regulations on Westgate and Kirkgate, was very different.
Lib Dem, Clr Andrew Pinnock, commented: “This working party was overdue by 20 years. I don’t think Huddersfield town centre has been given the attention it needs.”