Split ‘could cost £50m’

Kirklees Council sign split. (d15021246)
Kirklees Council sign split. (d15021246)

PROPOSALS to split Kirklees in two would cost the taxpayer millions according to council leader Mehboob Khan.

Last month the Kirklees and Calderdale Conservative groups unveiled a joint plant to split the authority in half, creating a new council to cover north Kirklees, based in Dewsbury.

However, both Labour and Liberal Democrat groups have spoken out against the plans.

Coun Khan claimed that the cost of making the changes would e £50m but, if the money was borrowed, the bill could double. Repayments would cost £4.25m per year for 25 years.

The borrowing cost would add three per cent to Kirklees residents’ council tax bills.

The figures are strongly disputed by the Conservatives who say the sums have been based on another council’s costs which are not comparable.

However, Coun Khan said: “A senior finance officer has estimated that the experience from other local government reorganisations has shown that the cost to split Kirklees Council would be in the region of a staggering £40 to 50million.

“Splitting a council involves a lot of work by a lot of people including preparing for the changes, managing the change, informing the public, set-up costs, disturbance and relocation costs, office accommodation and removal, adapting IT, a new branding and identity, changing all the signage, there would be new all-out elections and winding up costs such as redundancy costs and dealing with the residual liabilities of Kirklees.”

Coun Khan added that the senior finance officer arrived at the figure based on the costs of earlier council reorganisations, plus inflation.

Kirklees Conservative leader Coun Robert Light (Cons, Birstall and Birkenshaw) dismissed the figures and claimed the reorganisation would save the taxpayer at least £2.5m per year after the first 12 months.

He said the cost of the changes would be met by existing council savings and from first year savings driven by management changes at Kirklees and Calderdale councils.

Coun Light said that the council’s senior financial officer had got it wrong and his figures were based on the restructuring costs of Avon Council.

“Once again Labour demonstrate huge incompetence by producing figures from a completely different sort of council re-organisation in Avon which has no resemblance in any way to Kirklees,” he said.

“I had hoped that the management of the split process could be effectively achieved by any political administration but this declaration by Labour is clear evidence that they are incapable of managing such a process without it costing the council tax payers more, which sums up Labour’s record under Gordon Brown nationally and Mehboob Khan locally.”

The Tories want to hold a referendum on the issue on May 3, but the move was vetoed by Labour and the Lib Dems.

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