Huddersfield beats Barcelona and Athens to 1m Euro prize

KIRKLEES has been hailed alongside Barcelona and Athens to land a prestigious 1 million Euro prize to help communities make the most of shared assets.

Kirklees Council leader David Sheard

The West Yorkshire council centred on Huddersfield beat off competition from 150 European cities to land the cash from Bloomberg Philanthropies’ 2014 Mayors Challenge, a competition that encourages cities to come up with innovative ideas to solve major challenges and improve city life, much to the delight of its leader, Coun David Sheard.

He said: “It trips off the tongue - Barcelona, Athens, Stockholm, Warsaw and Kirklees.”

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Kirklees’ idea will help communities make use of untapped resources by pooling idle council assets, from lawnmowers to trucks, unused space to skills and expertise. The ‘assets’ will be available through an online sharing platform which will allow for borrowing, bartering, and time-banking.

Kirklees was the only area in the UK to win one of the prizes. Barcelona won the top 5 million Euro prize to develop ‘trust networks’ to reduce social isolation in over 65s, with Athens, Stockholm, and Warsaw also being awarded 1 million Euro for their ideas.

Coun David Sheard said the challenge had encouraged the council to look creatively at how it used resources.

The leader has been open about the need to make tough decisions as the council faces budget cuts of around £70 million over the next three years.

The project, which is already under development, will encourage communities to “pull together” to make a real difference in their communities.

“It’s important to say that this funding doesn’t alter our financial position at all, but we recognise that as a council, we have to find other ways to get people to help themselves,” Coun Sheard said.

“We have to cut 40 per cent of what we’re doing, so we have to look at innovative ways to do things differently.

“It’s not just a matter of physically helping people at the time, but building that feeling of cooperation, that people can do things themselves. Instead of saying, ‘insurance could be a problem’, or ‘health and safety’, it’s about saying there are assets here, let’s use them.

“In a changing environment, with diminishing resources, the ability to create a platform that allows people to share ideas, skills, and equipment is a timely innovation. 

“By building a vibrant sharing economy in Kirklees we can get people of all ages involved in developing much needed closer community links.”

Bloomberg Philanthropies was founded by former New York Mayor Michael R Bloomberg. He said: “To meet the biggest challenges of the 21st century, city leaders must think creatively and be unafraid to try new things – and the Mayors Challenge is designed to help them do that.

“We received great proposals from all over Europe, and the competition over the past year has been fierce.

“The decision for our selection committee was not easy, but the five winning ideas represent the best of the best, and all have the potential to improve lives.”

As part of the competition, Coun Sheard will travel to Los Angeles next week where council leaders in the finalist areas will share their ideas.

He added: “What Bloommerg is saying, is that no-one is going to reinvent the wheel, let’s sit down and see how it works elsewhere, and share what we are doing. There’s a huge benefit to be had by talking to other leaders.”