Bill bidding to split 'cash cows' Keighley and Shipley from Bradford Council control rejected
Conservative MP Robbie Moore, who represents Keighley, put forward a Private Members’ Bill that seeks to allow parliamentary constituencies to hold referendums to create their own councils based on constituency boundaries.
His plan was supported by neighbouring Tory MP Philip Davies, who represents Shipley.
Mr Moore said that his constituency and neighbouring Shipley “generate the highest revenue of tax to Bradford Council through our council tax and business rates payments”, but claimed local public services were not distributed fairly.
He added: “A root cause for so many of these problems is that many of my constituents feel that they are being used as a cash cow for Bradford with very little coming back in return.
“Council tax, business rates are all sent from my constituency to Bradford City Hall with nowhere near the equivalent of those funds coming back to be reinvested in our area.”
Mr Davies highlighted a council decision to close a swimming pool in Bingley in his constituency contrasted with the authority going ahead with building five other swimming pools in other parts of the district. He added a feasibility study on plans to build a Shipley Eastern bypass was around three years’ late.
Mr Moore said unhappiness with the current boundaries dated back decades.
“In 1974, the city of Bradford metropolitan district council was created to administer the newly formed metropolitan borough instigated by the Local Government Act of 1972, and ever since that year when our area’s decision-making powers were stripped and our assets were simply handed over to Bradford City Hall things have never been the same.”
The Keighley MP explained that his Bill would allow two or more parliamentary constituencies to group together to create the boundaries of new local authorities if a referendum on the issue proved successful.
He said: “A petitioning system will be created to enable local government electors in any constituency area to indicate their support for a referendum to be held on the creation of a new local authority.
“If 10 per cent or more of people in these given constituency areas give their support for a referendum via the petitioning system then a referendum will be able to be held amongst all electors within those constituency areas proposing to form a new local authority area.”
“Once the referendum is held, if a majority of people have signalled they want a new council to better represent them, then the mechanics of setting up a new local authority should be enabled.”
But Communities minister Kemi Badenoch said the Government “cannot accept this Bill in the way it has been drafted”.
She explained: “It would be very, very sweeping indeed. So we would be concerned by a number of aspects of this approach.
“First, parliamentary constituencies may not be a sound basis for establishing the right level of service delivery, that’s got to be a consideration. We also need to make sure the boundaries can be established only where there is a safeguard against anything that might lose the confidence of the local democracy.”
Ms Badenoch also insisted “a referendum could be promoted by some politicians of a particular party and lead to the creation of councillors primarily on a party-political basis”.
She added: “As the Bill is drafted, there’s no sort of prudential mechanism to stop something like that from happening.”
She said she would meet with Mr Moore and Mr Davies to discuss their concerns.
MPs ran out of time to finish debating the Private Members’ Bill and the issue will be picked up again on March 18.
But it is unlikely to progress without support from Government.
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