Leader hits back at Tories’ quite ‘ridiculous’ criticism

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The leader of Kirklees Council has hit back at “ridiculous and misleading” claims about proposed changes to children’s centre and library services in the area.

Coun Mehboob Khan decided to speak out after he said local Conservatives have claimed that areas without Labour councillors would be more affected than others.

Last month demonstrators took to the streets to protest at plans to cut back on children’s services.

The idea was to scale down its Sure Start Children’s Centre services at 17 of the 32 centres across the borough to save £1.5m in the latest round of council cuts.

Coun Khan said: “We are doing everything possible to protect the services that are really important to our communities – and that’s a very tough challenge because Eric Pickles, (Secretary of State for Local Government) and his Tory-led government are hitting Northern councils much harder in the pocket than councils in leafy shires.

“Unlike other local authorities we have no plans to close any children’s centres. Instead we plan to focus our resources.

“Clearly needs are more acute in some areas than others, and our vision is to involve local people and councillors in designing and commissioning services in each area.

“Our aspiration is for all children’s centre buildings to remain open with a range of universal and targeted services.

“The Tories’ comments are ridiculous and they are deliberately misleading local communities.

“Not only that, they have also jumped the gun because final proposals to redesign children’s centre and family support services are still being developed.

“In some areas people had already spoken to us about having a role in services and we have seen a positive response from several groups about working in partnership with the council.

“The Labour administration is committed to keeping libraries open against the backdrop of budget cuts.

“We would like people to help us with that and to find innovative ways of providing an effective long-term service.

“The number of library users has fallen quite significantly across Kirklees, but community-run libraries have been successful elsewhere and this is an idea that is very much worth exploring.”