Calderdale should ‘join forces’ with Kirklees - Tory plan

RADICAL plans are being drawn up by Conservative councillors to merge services in Calderdale and Kirklees.

They also want to re-draw Calderdale electoral boundaries and create two separate councils for North and South Kirklees.

The aim is to cut costs and improve services while at the same time allowing each district to retain some form of autonomy.

Calderdale Council’s Tory group leader Stephen Baines will spell out the details next week at a joint meeting with Kirklees leader Robert Light.

In a statement, they said: “It will offer the opportunity for the biggest change in local government in West Yorkshire since the creation of the five metropolitan councils in 1973.

“Creating joint pan-council shared services for the two new Kirklees-based councils with Calderdale, offers better value for money and services.”

“The ideas that we will be putting forward offer a radical change to local government in our neighbouring councils, and the opportunity to re-invent the way our local authorities are run for the ultimate benefit of residents.”

Calderdale Council has been working on ways to share “back office” work with other councils for some time.

Liberal Democrat leader Janet Battye said a year ago that she wanted to “reduce waste, improve efficiency, flatten the management structure, streamline services and encourage cross-council working.”

Among the jobs which have come under scrutiny are computer services, human resources, legal and payroll.

Last August, Calderdale, Bradford, Leeds, Kirklees and Wakefield councils signed an agreement to share legal expertise and resources which is expected to save about £1.6 million a year across the authorities.

Taking that a step further might involve one chief executive or director becoming responsible for key services across several councils.

There has been speculation in the past of an outright merger of Calderdale and Kirklees but the idea is deemed by many to be electorally unacceptable.

Three Tory councils in London are merging services in an attempt to save taxpayers £100 million a year.

Westminster, Hammersmith & Fulham and Kensington & Chelsea said the changes would preserve frontline services but every service from chief executive and senior directors to street cleaners and social workers could be shared, they said.

Conservatives hold 21 of the 52 seats on Calderdale Council and 21 of the 69 on Kirklees Council.

They are hoping to make significant gains in the May elections, the last elections for two years to improve their chances of implementing any service restructuring.