Kirklees Council has had £110 million cut from its funding over the last five years and is set to be starved of millions more over this parliament. It appeared the government were starting to understand the impact this was having on people and local authorities when they announced a £300 million ‘transitional grant fund’. Unfortunately Kirklees will see none of this. With the fund coming from a currently unknown source, it has emerged that wherever this money is found, the vast majority – some 85% – is to be given to affluent Tory controlled councils who have had far lighter cuts over the last five years.
It is clear that the government have little time for Dewsbury or Kirklees. However, I have made it my duty to hold them to account on every false promise and misleading statement made about our area.
Before Christmas, following a question by my colleague Jo Cox MP for Batley & Spen on the social care crisis we are faced with, The Chancellor Duchy of Lancaster, Oliver Letwin accused Kirklees Council of having ‘£200 million in useable and unused reserves’. Knowing this was an outrageously incorrect statement I had the official figures confirmed. It is in fact less than a fifth of the stated amount. I raised a point of order on the issue to ensure that it wouldn’t go un-noticed.
You may remember that prior to the general election, Chancellor George Osborne told a local newspaper that Dewsbury would be an Enterprise Zone within 100 days of the election. An Enterprise Zone would have meant that any new business or existing business moving into a town premises would be spared rates for 5 years as a means of encouraging investment.
As soon as I was elected I started to push the issue, last year asking twice in the House of Commons as well as submitting a written question and being fobbed off each time. Recently I raised it again, pointing out that it had been nine months and there had been no mention of an Enterprise Zone in Dewsbury. As usual I was fobbed off by the Minister. This time completely avoiding the answer, he insinuated that Dewsbury should look to prosperous tourist towns for tips on how to regenerate.
It is obvious that the government has no intention of granting Dewsbury an Enterprise Zone. But I’m pleased to have exposed the Chancellor for his broken promise in what was a despicable piece of electioneering. I will continue to lobby for much needed investment in our town and to hold the government to account on behalf of local people.