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Monday, April 22, 2024

Kirklees Council to claw back unspent ward budget cash to balance books

"Any uncommitted spend" will be used

Kirklees Council will be taking back “any uncommitted spend” from councillors’ ward budgets, to help balance its books.

Each of Kirklees’ 23 wards currently have an annual budget of £20,000 that ward councillors can spend on local issues and priorities. This has been the case for several years, with a £30k boost given in 2020 in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Money that has gone unspent has previously been rolled over to the next year, and by September 2023 a Freedom of Information Request showed that some wards had accumulated balances upwards of £70,000.

However, the local authority has recently put a stop to the spending of ward budgets, with an email sent to all councillors from Cllr Graham Turner, Cabinet Member for Finance and Regeneration, explaining that elected members can’t make further requests to spend the cash in the current financial year due to the “major financial challenge” faced by the council.

This called into question the fate of the hundreds of thousands of pounds racked up across the wards over the years.

The Local Democracy Reporting Service asked the council if it had plans to claw back any of the unspent cash and a council spokesperson said: “All previously approved commitments will not be affected and be honoured.

“Any uncommitted spend at the end of the financial year will be used to balance the council’s budget.”

A Freedom of Information Request made last year showed that the balances for each ward as of 20 September, 2023 were as follows:

Almondbury – £12,649.18

Ashbrow – £27,809.67

Batley East – £32,836.55

Batley West – £34,458.20

Birstall & Birkenshaw – £29,972.42

Cleckheaton – £53,132.15

Colne Valley – £28,499.16

Crosland Moor & Netherton – £75,308.12

Dalton – £18,051.87

Denby Dale – £71,501.38

Dewsbury East – £66,270.44

Dewsbury South – £14,703.06

Dewsbury West – £13,803.89

Golcar – £66,407.99

Greenhead – £51,676.08

Heckmondwike – £55,660.18

Holme Valley North – £36,189.88

Holme Valley South – £33,011.94

Kirkburton – £71,336.90

Lindley – £1,144.40

Liversedge & Gomersal – £64,100.05

Mirfield – £29,562.12

Newsome – £3,725.49

It is unclear how much money has been spent in each ward since 20 September. However, what is clear is that the council has plans to significantly reduce annual ward budgets, with the local authority’s draft budget for 2024/25 proposing a 50 percent reduction. This will see councillors allowed to spend £10,000 annually, rather than the previous £20,000, to make the local authority a £230,000 saving.

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