Kirklees Council’s Cross Party Budget group, set up as a collaborative approach to tackling the local authority’s financial woes, appears to be falling to pieces, as a second political group has withdrawn in less than two months.
Kirklees’ Conservatives have announced that they have withdrawn from the group making them the second party in Kirklees to leave the budget group. The Tories have accused the administration of using the budget group to tie opposition parties to “unpopular decisions” while withholding “vital information”, with this being brought to light to the opposition in the press or cabinet reports.
After the Lib Dems left the budget group in September, the Conservatives say they made a last-ditch attempt to obtain revised terms of reference to allow the group to function successfully. However, the Leader of the Conservative group, Cllr David Hall, didn’t regard the revision to be satisfactory and consequently wrote to the Chief Executive, Steve Mawson, and Council Leader, Cllr Cathy Scott, stating that the Conservative Group would withdraw from the process.
Leader of Kirklees’ Conservatives, Cllr Hall said: “We were committed in good faith to playing our part in helping to address the council’s financial crisis by sitting on the working group. But having read the revised terms of reference I am not satisfied that this goes anywhere near the level of assurance we need to continue to participate.
“Our concerns about the early sight of officer reports and options have not been addressed, and yet again this week we found out second-hand about a major plank of the council’s efforts to tackle the financial challenge through cabinet papers.
“The working group is a drain on councillors’ time and energy for no benefit to the council and so, regrettably, we have withdrawn from it.
“It is now clear that the Labour Administration does not wish to discuss financial matters in good faith but instead simply wanted to tie opposition parties to the unpopular decisions they are now having to make due to their own incompetence.”
In September, the Lib Dems announced they were leaving the group, also criticising the Labour administration for a lack of openness in their decision-making and for ‘abandoning its principles’. At this week’s cabinet meeting, in relation to a separate issue, the Leader of the Council, Cllr Cathy Scott, spoke of the importance of being involved in the Cross Party Budget group and maintained that the council is transparent in its decision-making.
The budget group was set up as part of ongoing efforts to address Kirklees Council’s precarious financial position and all parties agreed to the setting up of a budget working group earlier this year. The purpose of the group was thought to be to allow all parties to contribute ideas on revenue-generating and cost-saving measures which would assist the Council in getting back on a better financial footing.