A QUARTER of the £200m meant for new schools in north Kirklees could be diverted to Huddersfield, a top councillor has claimed.
Clr Robert Light, who leads the opposition Conservatives on Kirklees Council, said yesterday that the new Labour-Lib Dem coalition could move Government investment earmarked for north Kirklees to pay for a new school in Huddersfield instead.
He said: “It has taken just two weeks for this Huddersfield-dominated cabinet to start deviating investment from north Kirklees.”
Last month the Examiner reported that Catholic authorities were considering opening a new high school in Rastrick and closing All Saints Catholic College in Bradley and St Catherine’s in Halifax.
Kirklees could then move Fartown High School to the All Saints site.
But Clr Light said this would mean diverting some of the £200m of Government cash earmarked for schools in north Kirklees.
He said: “Bearing in mind a brand new Fartown school would cost around £30m, and Kirklees would have to contribute around £15m for the new school in Rastrick, plus the cost of the land purchase, the overall cost could spiral towards £50m.
“These plans are clearly to the detriment of the residents, parents and future pupils in North Kirklees and cannot be allowed to happen. Is this Huddersfield-dominated Labour’s commitment to education north of Cooper Bridge?”
Clr Light said the council’s new schools boss Clr Ken Smith was trying to divert funds to his own Ashbrow ward.
He said: “It is quite clear that Clr Smith is seeking to build new schools for his ward using funds that should be allocated for Dewsbury, Batley and the Spen Valley.”
But Clr Smith rubbished the claim yesterday saying funding for north and south Kirklees was separate. The Labour councillor said: “It’s absolutely untrue. At the moment we’re drawing up plans for the £196m set aside by the Government for schools in north Kirklees.”
Last week the Labour-Lib Dem cabinet took the first step in applying for £200m for schools in Huddersfield, Colne Valley, Holme Valley and Denby Dale. A detailed plan is expected later this year.
Clr Smith said: “There are initial discussions about schools in Huddersfield and the Valleys but we want to get north Kirklees done first.”
The future of schools in Kirklees has been a long-running political issue. Last September, the north-Kirklees-dominated Conservative Cabinet then ruling announced plans to spend £200m of Building Schools for the Future cash in north Kirklees.
The controversial proposal involved closing 11 schools, including Castle Hall in Mirfield. Opposition councillors also criticised the Tory plan for including a new high school in Birkenshaw, in Clr Light’s ward.
On January 21, Labour and the Lib Dems toppled the Conservative Cabinet over the issue.
Meanwhile, Kirklees has pledged nearly £1m to help fund a new sixth-form block. The Cabinet agreed to commit up to £935,000 to help pay for the building at Heckmondwike Grammar School.