Devolution has created something of a buzz in 2014.
It’s been a hot topic from Scotland to Yorkshire and even in Kirklees, where the council is looking to move powers from central control towards a community level.
But opposing councillors in Kirklees do not yet agree with how devolution is being proposed.
Four District Committees have been formed – Batley and Spen; Dewsbury and Mirfield; Huddersfield; and Kirklees Rural – featuring councillors, plus agreement this week for co-opted and Parish councillors to join the Rural committee.
A working party made up of Labour members put forward proposals, but for it to get passed it will need the support of the majority of council and it’s been met by opposition, with Liberal Democrat Leader Clr Nicola Turner raising concerns that unaccountable people could make decisions over public spending.
The proposals so far include each Committee creating a vision for the future of their area, and will be tasked with control of street cleaning, grass cutting, road safety measures and parking, issues something Tory leader Clr Robert Light said ‘lacked ambition’.
The committees will also get 10% of the New Homes Bonus – a Government cash incentive for councils to boost house-building that is paid for each new house for six years.
Here’s what the parties think:
Labour: Clr David Sheard: “I would love areas to have full devolution and power, but if (the Conservatives) had that power you’d be contracting it out to your friends and privatising everything. I don’t trust the Conservative party one inch.
“The part of the New Homes Bonus (NHB) will be subjected to the budget debate, as will the money that the District Committees have, as will the highways budget.
“NHB was part of the rate support we got from the government, they top sliced it off the council and give it back for the proportion of new homes built. “
After a debate at Full Council this week Clr Sheard pledged to meet opposition members to find a way to break the ice ahead of February, when council budgets will be set and devolution must happen.
Conservative: Clr Robert Light: “Devolution should not be about Cabinet allowing communities to recommend things so Cabinet can decide whether that’s right or not, devolution is about trusting communities and districts to make right decisions for their area.
“It’s important that we use this opportunity to get real devolution where we can actually give the communities a say and to do things better than we do at the moment.
“We as a corporate council need to be prepared to trust communities. There are so many functions at this council that could be done at a local level.
“We’ve got to go back and re-look at it, this devolution has got to survive a generation and be something we all buy into.”
Liberal Democrats: Clr Nicola Turner: “With regards to the New Homes Bonus, some areas will significantly miss out on capital monies because new homes have not been built in that area, through no fault whatsoever of the people that live there or the councillors that represent them, but simply because those areas sit within the greenbelt and have been precluded from any sort of development.
“That is outrageous, people live in those areas, people pay their council tax, why should they miss out?
“We’re looking at £142k for six wards (Colne Valley, Denby Dale, Golcar, Holme Valley North, Holme Valley South and Kirkburton) that is outrageous quite frankly.”
Clr Turner raised concerns about a new body tasked with spending decisions. It must include ward councillors and will permit non-elected people.
She added: “I think working with communities is absolutely essential... however when it comes to making decisions of how to spend public money it has to be democratically accountable elected people who make the decision.
“If at the end of the day I make a bad decision people can essentially get rid of me and that is the whole point of democracy. To take that decision away from elected councillors I think is entirely wrong.”
Green Party & Valley Independents: Clr Andrew Cooper: “There’s a certain lack of humility to recognise that the money is not all going to come from the council, it’s going to come from the parish councils, there’s going to be money communities can raise that the council can’t.
“This (proposal) is all about the council dictating to communities and that’s not the way we should go about this. We need to recognise that we are going to be a partner, not a dominator.”
Independent Clr Edgar Holroyd-Doveton described the plan so far as: “Putting the first structure in place, it’s part of an organic process of change that the council is going through.
“It is a pilot for change to be devolved, in any sensible change process it does need gradual change, trying out things to see if do they work.
“It’s a good start but it certainly isn’t finished.”