Council budget report dispute in Keighley area

Councillors Russell Brown, left, and Glen Miller, second from right, join Haworth business owners with the petition against the closure of the public toilets in the village's Central Park

Councillors Russell Brown, left, and Glen Miller, second from right, join Haworth business owners with the petition against the closure of the public toilets in the village's Central Park

First published in News

Conservatives at Bradford Council – led by Worth Valley councillor Glen Miller – claim their attempts at creating an alternative to Labour’s cuts programme are being hampered.

The opposition group says crucial details about the authority’s finances had been withheld from them.

Bradford Council is due to set its budget for the next financial year in February, and the ruling Labour party’s proposals – which include cuts to the youth service, children’s centres and mobile libraries – have proved controversial.

The other political parties are expected to present their alternative proposals, or any suggested amendments to Labour’s budget, next month.

But Coun Miller said a booklet containing key financial background information was only given to them on Monday last week, leaving them little time to prepare.

He and his Worth Valley colleagues have voiced strong opposition to cuts including plans to shut the Central Park public toilets at Haworth and withdraw funding from the village’s Treetops children’s centre.

He said: “Developing budget proposals for an organisation the size of the Council is not easy and it is likely that having read the budget book very many questions would have to be asked and facts established before they could be used in any proposals.”

He claimed the situation put opposition parties at a disadvantage to the Labour leadership.

Coun Howard Middleton, of the Liberal Democrat group, said: “It does seem to be a tighter timetable than we have had previously.”

But he said a ruling party would always have more access to financial information than opposition parties.

Council leader Coun David Green (Lab) denied any underhand tactics, saying the timing of the release was the same as in previous years.

He said: “Coun Miller is using this as a smokescreen for the fact that he has no credible proposals to offer.

“He has year-round access to officers and information to assist him in producing proposals. When in opposition the Labour group always used those opportunities to present credible alternative budgets.

“I wrote to Coun Miller in October inviting him to offer alternatives and to work with us on at least some aspects of the budget. The fact that he has done none of these things says more about him and his commitment to the job than it does about the council.

“Consultation started in September, proposals are under unprecedented scrutiny and, for the first time, we have a comprehensive range of financial information in one place on the website, including the budget book.”

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