Prime Minister Rishi Sunak declares Kirklees Council 'not fit for purpose'

Kirklees Council is “not fit for purpose” according to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, but the leader of the council and Mayor of West Yorkshire have hit back at his comments.

As Kirklees Council continues to make cuts to its services to address the £47m black hole in its budget, the Prime Minister has spoken of his “disappointment” in the local authority. This comes at a time when care homes and leisure centres are in the council’s firing line.

The subject arose at Prime Minister’s Questions on November 15 where Dewsbury MP Mark Eastwood said: “ Kirklees Council have closed Dewsbury sports centre; delivered just 14 per cent of educational healthcare plans within a 20-week target; are unable to deliver a five-year land supply – just three of its many failings.

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“Now they want to introduce extortionate car parking charges, punishing hard-working families and destroying the high street in our towns and villages. Would my right honourable friend agree with me that Labour-run Kirklees Council is no longer fit for purpose?”

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has criticised Kirklees Council. Photo credit: Leon Neal/PA WirePrime Minister Rishi Sunak has criticised Kirklees Council. Photo credit: Leon Neal/PA Wire
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has criticised Kirklees Council. Photo credit: Leon Neal/PA Wire

In response, the Prime Minister said: “I share my honourable friend’s disappointment with the Labour-run council in Kirklees. Just this week we saw, I believe, a Labour councillor suspended for antisemitism. As he said, they’ve also closed Dewsbury sports centre and are proposing to increase car parking charges, punishing local businesses and shoppers in the run-up to Christmas. The council is clearly no longer fit for purpose and local residents deserve better.”

However, Leader of Kirklees Council, Councillor Cathy Scott who has previously attributed the council’s financial predicament to a lack of fair funding from the Tory government, said: “With councils across the country facing a £4 billion black hole in their finances, NHS waiting lists at record highs and a Prime Minister who needs to raid the political graveyard just to find a Foreign Secretary, maybe Rishi Sunak needs to ask himself whether his government is fit for purpose.

“What a shame that Dewsbury’s Tory MP doesn’t use his privileged position in Parliament to do something useful for people in our area who desperately need help with the cost of living crisis and want the government to fund our public services properly.”

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The topic was also raised by Mayor of West Yorkshire, Tracy Brabin, at a full council meeting on Wednesday where campaigners had delivered emotional speeches pleading for a re-think of proposed cuts. She said: “Listening to the MP for Dewsbury was really heartbreaking actually. That you are going through so much, had he been here today to listen to those petitions, I don’t think he’d be focusing on car parking charges actually.

“And for our Prime Minister to then declare Kirklees not fit for purpose was an absolute outrage. I think it’s absolutely disgusting. Because let’s not forget, bringing in David Cameron who is the architect of this disaster of austerity is just an absolute sucker punch to communities like ours who have had 60% plus cuts to funding, so no wonder we’re in this difficult situation.”