ILKLEY'S MP John Grogan has called a campaign by a fellow MP to break the town away from the control of Bradford Council a "costly diversion in time and money for the local taxpayer". Conservative MP Philip Davies has recently launched his Leave Bradford Council campaign, and is collecting signatures on a petition. It is calling for the Parliamentary constituencies of Shipley - which includes Menston and Burley-in-Wharfedale and Keighley - which includes Ilkley - currently part of Bradford Council, to become their own separate local authority. Mr Davies, the Shipley MP, has been calling for the split for several years, and made it one of his pledges in the last General Election. It was backed by former Conservative MP for Ilkley Kris Hopkins.
However, the idea does not have the support of his successor MP John Grogan (Lab) or the leader of Bradford Council, who has claimed that the split would create extra bureaucracy and could lead to “worse outcomes” for the people of the constituencies.
Mr Grogan said: "For me splitting up the Bradford district would be a costly diversion in time and money for the local taxpayer. It would mean losing important economies of scale in the provision of public services
"Besides, once you start trying to split up the district there is no way of telling where it would end? If it becomes everybody for themselves, would relatively affluent Ilkley really want to join up with, and subsidise, poorer areas of Keighley, for example? No doubt some would argue to join North Yorkshire but this would mean less money spent on schools and buses and trains than currently. In addition parts of Shipley Constituency are very close to Bradford city centre. It just makes no sense.
"Bradford Council has had to face massive cuts in recent years but I think has maintained its commitment to Ilkley. The jewels in the crown of the town such as the Library, the King’s Hall and the Lido have all been protected. The Council has also been instrumental in securing funding for a new £4.7million expansion of Ilkley Grammar School. This will see the construction of a new teaching block with 15 classrooms.
"The Tory group on Bradford Council, including when my predecessor Kris Hopkins was leader, have never endorsed the campaign to divide up the area. Equally, Tory grandee, Keighley-born Eric Pickles, rejected any such plan when he was the Minister in charge of Local Government. Actions speak louder than words. Keighley and Ilkley certainly need a strong voice within Bradford District. I think the best way forward is for the district councillors representing those areas together with the respective town councils and indeed myself to provide that."
In a letter from Mr Davies to his constituents, he said: “Bradford Council has consistently prioritised spending in their city centre heartlands at the expense of the outlying areas of the Keighley and Shipley constituencies. With the creation of a separate council the money raised by council tax will be spent in our local community by people who know you and your issues, rather than being delivered by more remote councillors in Bradford with little interest in our areas.”
He said he would be at events throughout the district to gather support for the split and he hopes to collect enough signatures to convince the Secretary of State to launch a boundary review.
Mr Davies said: “We’ve been getting a really good reception from different parts of the constituency. We need to show the Secretary of State the strength of feeling. I’m pretty sure the majority of constituents agree with me on this. I’m doing what I promised to do before the last election, and I want my constituents to decide if it is something they want to see.”
Bradford Council leader Susan Hinchcliffe said: “It simply does not make sense to set up two local authorities where you now have one, especially at a time when Philip Davies’ own government is slashing its funding for services to everyone in this district. To set up another local authority would double the costs – each would have to have its own chief executive, senior management team and bureaucracy to deliver the same or possibly worse outcomes. Philip Davies wants richer areas of the district to break away from the rest but where does that argument end? Does Baildon then say it wants nothing to do with Windhill and go for its own independence?
“Philip Davies should be supporting our calls to end his government’s damaging cuts.”