Have your say on the future of museums and galleries

The council wants your views on the future of its museums and galleries – please take part and have your say.

This is a really important process because our museums and galleries will be changing. Unfortunately it’s not a question of ‘if’ this will happen, it’s a matter of ‘how’.

I’ve talked before about funding cuts from central government causing immense pressure on council budgets. Museums and galleries are one of many, many services which need to be reshaped, but the engagement process which is currently under way isn’t just about financial savings. It’s something we should be doing anyway, because we need to make sure our visitor attractions are relevant to local people and fit for the 21st century.

We want venues which are not only high quality but also appeal to a range of people in a way that provides longer-term viability.

To me, our museums should not be about rooms full of curiosities – they should tell our local story and resonate with audiences.

Different approaches have already been trialled, for example a successful pop-up museum. We are looking to offer new ways of experiencing our collections and your views are important in shaping the future.

The council’s present museums are Dewsbury Museum in Crow Nest Park; Bagshaw Museum in Wilton Park, Batley; and Tolson Museum in Ravensknowle Park, Huddersfield. The council also manages Huddersfield Art Gallery and is responsible for two historic houses: Oakwell Hall and Country Park, Birstall; and Red House Museum, Gomersal.

The available funding means the number of sites needs to be reduced and it’s being proposed that Oakwell Hall and Country Park would stay open, along with Bagshaw Museum. Both of these sites are in North Kirklees while, in the south of the district, both Huddersfield Art Gallery and Tolson Museum would stay open for the time being.

However, to attract more visitors into a revitalised Huddersfield town centre, the council would look to develop a combined Huddersfield Museum and Art Gallery in a town-centre location still to be decided. Once this was open, Tolson Museum and the current Art Gallery would close and appropriate collections would transfer to the new site.

This would leave the three sites as Oakwell Hall and Country Park, Bagshaw Museum and a new Huddersfield Museum and Art Gallery. Other sites would close and their collections would be transferred or stored. We are mindful of the historical context of our buildings, so this would be considered when alternative uses were being found.

It’s inevitable that museums and galleries will change so, as the saying goes, doing nothing is not an option. Instead we want to hear some really constructive feedback which will help us to make difficult decisions.

You can find a lot more detail, including a survey, on our dedicated web page. Please have your say by the deadline of July 24th – thank you.

Focus on the future

Following an uncertain and difficult couple of months both inside and outside the council, I have now been re-elected as Leader of Kirklees Council.

A lot has been said and written about how and why we were in the position where we temporarily did not have a political leader, but now our focus has to be on the future.

The Jo Cox murder, the EU referendum, and political struggles at a national level have all served to highlight issues and tensions we must address. Leadership has to be at the heart of our response to those issues.

Councillors have to step up their community leadership roles, and I have committed to involving a wider number of councillors so that all 69 have a role; and not just those in Cabinet or on licensing or planning committees.

I have asked Cllr Shabir Pandor to be my deputy – his previous cabinet roles and experience outside the council mean that he brings a challenge and perspective we will need if we are to reach the best decisions for all of Kirklees.

My Cabinet will be:

Name Description of Portfolio or other responsibility
David SheardShabir Pandor LeaderDeputy Leader – Strategy and Strategic Resources, New Council & Regional Issues (Shared Portfolio)
 Peter McBride  Economy, Skills, Transportation & Planning
 Naheed Mather  Housing and Enforcement Management
Musarrat Khan Other Place:Highways and Neighbourhoods
Erin Hill Family Support & Child Protection(Statutory Responsibility for Children)
Viv Kendrick  Adults, Health & Activity to Improve Health(Statutory Responsibility of Adults & Public Health)
 Masood Ahmed  Community Cohesion & Schools
 Graham Turner  Asset Strategy, Resources & Creative Kirklees (Arts)

The challenges we face are huge – we have talked endlessly about finances, but the reality is that we must live within the budgets we have while still tackling our major priorities.

How we work is key to our service delivery in the future – if we can get right the Early Intervention and Prevention and also the Economic Resilience strands, we will see more manageable future demand on services, at the same time as a positive impact on our local economy.

Many of our decisions will be emotive – none of us became councillors so we could close buildings and services down. But hard decisions must be made so we can protect the services we see as essential.

The hard work does not start here – it has been going on for some time – but the pace certainly has to pick up from now on.

Thank you

I was first elected in Kirklees in 1982 having previously worked for the council when I came out of the RAF in 1974.

Over that time I have held many positions culminating in my current role as leader of the council. I have worked with many Officers and Councillors, whereas the quality and dedication of councillors has always varied, I have found little variety in the quality and dedication of the Kirklees workforce, it has been almost constantly excellent. One need only to consider the number of ex-Kirklees workers doing well in other authorities, I doubt if any other authority can match the number of chief executives or senior officers doing well in other authorities who “learned their trade” at Kirklees.

It would be wrong, and much too long a task to single out any individuals, but I must thank specifically our current workforce, who have done a more than excellent job over the past couple of years in the face of a constant onslaught of cuts and other pressures. Few people realise the work that has been required as the workforce has shrunk significantly or the pressure that has put on our workers, workers that are constantly insulted by central government and the press.

I also must specifically thank the current Cabinet for their dedication and efforts over the past two years. On nearly every day of the week from early in the day till late evening six members were working in the office on their portfolios and helping each other and contributing to the cross cutting themes that contributed to the council policies. These six members have also been available late into the night and at weekends to explain our policy and direction to anyone who asked.

Cathy Scott has taken the Housing portfolio and made it a Home’s portfolio, advancing our strategy to create an organisation that delivers on all fronts. Steering the merger of Building Services and KNH, working with all involved to see a smooth transition into a service we could be proud of. Ensuring our strategy for creating more homes of all tenures, particularly homes that people can afford, she has also co-operated with other Cabinet members in our wider agenda and played a full role in developing the policies that keep people safe and tackling inequality.

Thank you Cathy

Steve Hall rose to the challenge to oversee significant developments to the speed and quality of decisions through planning committees – a thankless yet vital task in that very few members of the public understand the system and fewer still understand how vital development is for the future of the council and how much some perverse decisions were costing us. He also saw through massive changes in the Place Directorate, a department hit proportionally hardest by the cuts. Steve was tackling the costs of road maintenance and was keen to see us delivering more with less.

Thank you Steve

Graham Turner took on one of the most diverse and challenging roles in the Cabinet, that of Resources. A title that does not reflect the importance of the task, hard enough in normal times, but near impossible in “interesting times”. Not only do we have to keep an eye on council finances but managing incredible levels of “downsizing” including asset transfers, demanding hours and hours of patient negotiations. The Resources role touches nearly every aspect of the council, the very survival of the council is dependent on steering a financial plan, on making unpopular and tough decisions when required, and sticking to them.

Thank you Graham

Erin Hill is probably the youngest cabinet member Kirklees has ever had, but it does not show. Before joining the Cabinet she had taken on a “shaky” licensing committee, steering it towards being more aware of current problems, the way she tackled this entrenched committee demonstrated her ability to be an excellent cabinet member. She was much more than a breath of fresh air to children’s services at probably the most difficult of times for the service with all the failings reported from other authorities. She demonstrated an ability to absorb large amounts of information and translate the guidance into action.

Thank you Erin

It is very difficult to comprehend that Viv Kendrick is only one person. It would be very difficult for anyone to comprehend the changes to adult social services, the move to “New Council” let alone to steer them to success, at the same time being bombarded with numerous current cases that she tackled with gusto. Few could achieve the same results without the wealth of experience Viv has. The changes to adult services probably demand too much of one person, yet Viv also took on the role of chairing the Health and Wellbeing Board, in better times a role that would be a full time job for anyone, another role in constant flux.

Thank you Viv

Peter McBride probably demonstrates my biggest failure. Knowing that Peter’s wealth breadth and quality of understanding of economic development, apprenticeships, strategic planning and regional politics cannot be matched even by a number of people and despite Peter wanting to impart this knowledge to others, I failed to ensure that happened. This meant that Peter not only undertook one of the most difficult tasks this council has ever had, the LDF, he also made sure that Kirklees punched well over our weight at the region, policies that Peter developed have been accepted as regional policy.

Thank you Peter

Tackling Poverty in Kirklees

I want to start this week’s blog by passing on sincere condolences to everyone affected by the Brussels terror attacks.

Such incidents never fail to shock us. They are a terrible waste of life, involving innocent people going about their everyday business, and the repercussions are felt all over the world.

We all remember the Paris attacks in November. I visited the French capital shortly after those atrocities, seeing the personal tributes to the victims which emphasised the brutality and waste. I intend to visit Brussels – I want to pay my personal respects to the dead, the injured, their families and friends and the nation as a whole.

This will be a show of solidarity with the people of Belgium and I am inviting fellow Kirklees Councillors, from any political background, to join me on that trip. We will be funding the visit personally, of course, and it will be important for us to demonstrate that we stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our friends from Brussels.

I’M PLEASED to say that the council has agreed an updated version of our plan to tackle poverty in Kirklees.

This vital piece of work was led by four of my Labour colleagues – Cllrs Viv Kendrick, Cathy Scott, Marielle O’Neill and Sheikh Ullah. It aims to provide practical help for those in local communities who are suffering the effects of poverty and also to play a key role in ensuring Kirklees is a place where healthy people enjoy a great quality of life via a strong and growing economy.

The strategy concentrates on the things that we, as a local authority, can do to support people – whether they already suffer from poverty or at risk of doing so. And there are some stark facts that highlight the need for this work:

One in three Kirklees households is in poverty, a figure which includes around 18,000 children
  • One in four Kirklees households has an annual income below £10,000
  • One in five older people are classed as being in poverty

We made a start some time ago by being an early adopter of the Living Wage for council staff, as well as through our contributions to the Combined Authority’s Low Pay Charter. But we are determined to do more by tackling the root causes of poverty (in areas such as education and employment) and also by getting more money into people’s pockets so that we tackle the symptoms.

The new-look strategy, which has just been adopted by full council, is underpinned by:
  • Pockets – policies to boost household resources
  • Prospects – our work to improve long-term life chances for local people
  • Prevention – to prevent people sliding into poverty
  • Places – providing the services which help to enhance job prospects

We are looking at some very practical steps. These include helping people to move away from loan sharks or payday lenders. As part of this, we are working to bring a credit union back to the authority so that residents can get help with financial management.

But, looking wider, there’s a whole host of actions to be taken as part of our strategy. You can read lots more about them here. We are determined – truly determined – to address these issues and make a lasting difference in people’s lives.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Chancellor’s budget statement March 2016

The Chancellor’s budget statement did not give us the devolution prize we want for Yorkshire, but I am hoping that the signs are still encouraging for us to reach the right deal.

On the plus side, the confirmation of better rail and road links is welcome – however, as always, we now need to see the detail to ensure that Kirklees benefits from this investment. And improvements to the M62 will hopefully reduce the congestion and the loss to the economy of time spent in heavy traffic on the motorway.

But on the negative side, it is disappointing that George Osborne made no mention of the progress we have made so far on a devolution deal for the Leeds City Region. I believe this is the only viable footprint that will allow us to make the economic achievements we all want to see. We know there is widespread support for our proposal from local business leaders, and while the current situation is frustrating, we will continue to work to secure the right deal for the region.

That means a deal that builds on what we have already achieved – an increase in economic growth and a focus on skills to meet the needs of existing and future businesses.

I believe there is still time to agree a deal within the 2017 timescale that other northern regions are working towards, especially as there is the determination of everyone involved to make sure that we get the balance right between speed and getting the right deal to give us the best chance of making economic progress.

West Yorkshire council leaders are aiming for an urgent meeting with government to make sure we reach a deal as quickly as possible – any further delays will be to the detriment of jobs, growth and business investment in our region.

 Personally I have always been in favour of an approach to devolution that would be consistent across the country. I think this would have been more open. But as the government has chosen this ‘deal making approach’ we have to work with it.

Tackling inequality in Kirklees

Tackling inequality is something most of us feel strongly about.

It comes in many forms, but in this latest blog I want to talk about economic inequality – the way that people’s economic wellbeing can vary.

The gap between rich and poor has become a major global challenge. That gap is increasing and it’s important for countless reasons that we do our best to address the problem. There are many steps we have taken locally to cut the level of economic inequality across Kirklees. And I also want to look at the wider, global picture and the role Kirklees is playing as a champion in this vital piece of work.

In the last few days alone, a decision has been made locally which will bring huge economic benefits. Members of the Cabinet (the council’s main decision making body) have agreed to invest £2million from the capital budget, plus a further £850,000 of Dewsbury Townscape Heritage funding, to help make Pioneer House suitable for local students.

Pioneer House is an iconic building in Dewsbury and the plan, enabled by the council, is that our friends from Kirklees College will bring it back to life by moving in around 1,000 students. This will bring jobs to North Kirklees, be a boost for town centre business and also open up new opportunities for disadvantaged young people who may otherwise be NEET (not in education, employment or training).

Promoting employment and house building is another way that the council is tackling economic inequality. We do everything we can to attract and retain business in the area and we proactively work with developers, including to bring difficult sites into use.

The council has adopted the living wage to support lower-paid staff and has set up Comoodle to create a strong culture of sharing resources. We work directly towards our economic strategy, which aims to build resilient, self-sustaining communities. And all of this is just the tip of the iceberg in Kirklees.

Yet we are also leading the way on a much bigger scale. As I said earlier, economic inequality is a global issue – and it is sparking a global response.

 At the end of March, I will be representing Kirklees at the launch of the ‘Inclusive Growth in Cities’ campaign. The campaign aims to
  • raise awareness of inequalities
  • focus the debate on finding concrete solutions
  • and empower local government to be leaders in achieving inclusive growth

I’m pleased to say that Kirklees is being recognised as an international champion of this work . . . . and we are in some illustrious company. There are about 25 champions around the world, with other regions or cities including Santa Monica and Los Angeles (USA), Otsu (Japan), Lima (Peru), Lisbon (Portugal), Paris (France), Madrid (Spain), Seoul (South Korea), Curridabat (Costa Rica) and Cape Town (South Africa).

Leaders from all of these places will assemble for a special event in New York, providing a unique chance to discuss economic inequality on a local, regional and global level. This will add to the international work of the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) and will be a great opportunity to share policy and learn from each other.

We will be looking at different areas such as housing, transport, education and employment. There is a strong commitment among us to make a genuine, lasting difference – and I know these conversations will lead to positive outcomes for our local residents.

The council’s budget for the next four years has now been set

The spending plans, which were agreed at a meeting of the full council, are our response to swingeing cuts in funding from central government.

There’s no doubt that the cuts have hit us disproportionately here in Kirklees – especially when you compare our local figures with parts of southern England. In turn, this has already led to us making major reductions.

Inevitably, however, we are now forced to cut even deeper and the effects will be felt widely across the district. Unfortunately, while it’s impossible to know how many posts will be lost, this impact will include losing some jobs across the council. Nobody, least of all local councillors like myself, wants to be faced with these very tough financial decisions affecting so many residents and communities. But it’s important to remember the harsh reality we are facing: we can only plan a budget with the money available, not with the amount we would like to have.

Most of the groundwork for this year’s budget was done in 2015 when councillors voted on a three-year plan. The picture was later changed by another government announcement which made our situation worse, but we are bridging the extra shortfall by using reserves.

Even with the savings we have already made, which add up to more than £106 million to date and a further £29 million planned over the next few years, we still face a budget gap of £38 million in 2019/20. The gap would have been bigger, but we started preparing for these problems a long time ago – and the work already undertaken has put us in a stronger position to cope.

It’s important that we concentrate on big priorities. This means investing in areas which help people to do more for themselves, keeping a focus on things that only the council can do and supporting vulnerable people to stay in control of their own lives.

I’ve talked before about ‘New Council’ and stepping in as early as possible to deal with issues affecting people and communities. This way, we can reduce the risk of problems escalating and becoming more expensive further down the line. This is vital to our approach – investing now to save money in the future.

The budget meeting included an agreement that Council Tax will rise by 3.95%, of which 2% will be spent on the rising costs of adult social care. The different political groups on the council all included this rise in their budget proposals, so it was a decision with cross-party support. The different groups also put forward very similar revenue budgets, highlighting that the council’s options are limited when trying to meet priorities and protect vulnerable people.

As well as Council Tax, we will continue to bridge the funding gap by selling buildings we don’t need or, in some cases, transfering them to communities. Changes to the way we manage the local environment have already been made and we will continue reviewing the way we deliver a wide range of services.

These are extremely difficult times, but we are doing everything we can to ensure fairness for all.