By KLTV Newsdesk –
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has declared the West Yorkshire-based Kirklees Council “no longer fit for purpose” as the local authority grapples with a significant budget deficit.
The council, which is under Labour leadership, is facing the daunting task of making savings exceeding £47 million in the upcoming fiscal year, prompting warnings of service cuts.
Council leaders have outlined a series of measures to address the financial shortfall, including the potential closure of care homes and leisure centres and an increase in parking charges.
These austerity measures have drawn criticism from various quarters, with residents and officials expressing concerns about the impact on essential services.
During Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday, 15 November, Mr Sunak responded to queries from Dewsbury Conservative MP Mark Eastwood, highlighting specific grievances against the council’s decisions.
Mr Eastwood pointed out the closure of the KAL-operated Dewsbury Sports Centre and proposed hikes in parking charges, characterising these moves as punitive to local residents and shoppers, particularly in the lead-up to Christmas.
In response, Mr Sunak said he shared the MP’s disappointment and claimed that ‘local residents deserve better’.
The Prime Minister’s critique comes amidst the council’s consideration of shutting down two dementia residential homes and several more leisure and sports centres, a move that has triggered pleas from concerned relatives urging the preservation of these facilities.
Additionally, senior councillors have given the green light to plans to raise parking fees in Huddersfield and throughout Kirklees, with the adjustments slated to take effect from January.
Councillor Cathy Scott, the leader of Kirklees Council, attributed the financial challenges to cuts imposed by the government, referring to the situation as a “black hole in their finances.” She emphasised that councils nationwide were grappling with similar economic difficulties.
In response to Mr Sunak’s condemnation, Ms Scott urged the Prime Minister to scrutinise the broader context of financial strain, pointing to record-high NHS waiting lists and expressing scepticism about the government’s overall effectiveness.
She questioned whether Sunak’s government itself was “fit for purpose,” suggesting that attention needs to be directed toward the broader national financial landscape.
As Kirklees Council navigates these financial challenges, the debate over austerity measures and their impact on essential services is likely to intensify, sparking broader discussions about local governance and the allocation of resources.