Minister criticises ‘Huddersfax’ proposal

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CONSERVATIVE plans to partly merge Calderdale and Kirklees Councils have suffered a major set-back.

According to Local Government Minister Bob Neill: “Such restructuring would be expensive, diverting time and resources away from improving frontline services.”

Mr Neill was responding to questions posed by Halifax Labour MP Linda Riordan.

She said she was deeply concerned about proposals by Calderdale and Kirklees Conservatives to integrate Calderdale and Kirklees Councils, to share chief officers and to redraw ward boundaries.

“I would expect them to drop this idea now that their own Minister has said it is unworkable,” said Mrs Riordan.

Conservative group leader Stephen Baines said the proposals could cut costs and would mean reducing the number of councillors in Calderdale from 51 to 36.

Mrs Riordan asked Mr Neil what plans he had to merge Calderdale and Kirklees Council and what plans he had to re-draw the Calderdale Council ward boundaries.

“We have no plans to impose local government restructuring, as evident from this Government’s implementation of the Local Government Act 2010 which cancelled the last Administration’s unitary restructuring.

“Such restructuring would be expensive, diverting time and resources away from improving frontline services.

“However, there is considerable scope for greater joint working and sharing of staff and back office services between local authorities.”

Mr Neill said such innovation did not need the permission of central Government, especially given the new general power of competence under the Localism Act 2011.

Calderdale Council is already working with Kirklees and several other councils to provide joint services including legal, payroll and some back office work.