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.

Reducing carbon output in Kirklees

In Kirklees, we are proud of our track record as a council committed to carbon reduction.

Over several years we have developed and delivered a wide range of projects. Some have been on a very large scale and some have been smaller, but they have all made a difference in cutting the carbon footprint across Kirklees and tackling climate change.

We all know that saving energy is a win-win situation. Saving energy not only helps our climate but also saves money, which is really important for all of us at a time when the cost of utilities has risen.

Often working with our partners, we invest in practical measures with positive, practical outcomes for local people – making a difference environmentally, financially and in terms of better health.

For example, air quality is an issue that we are keen to tackle. So, as part of our planning processes, we consider traffic flow and the possibilities to reduce congestion. There are hot spots such as Cooper Bridge, where queuing traffic is a source of concern and we are working hard to alleviate the problem – because faster journeys are also cheaper, greener journeys.

We support local communities to become greener, we have introduced smoke free zones and we switch off hundreds of street lights when they aren’t needed in the early hours of the morning. Many people will also remember – and will still be benefiting from – the Warm Zone scheme.

Warm Zone was the first scheme of its kind in the UK to offer free loft and cavity wall insulation to all residents without the requirement of means testing. It improved the comfort and energy of over 51,000 suitable households in Kirklees, reducing fuel poverty into the bargain, and won a national award as the best local authority sustainable energy scheme in the UK.

Working with Kirklees Neighbourhood Housing, we also have a target to cut CO2 emissions from the council’s housing stock by 30 per cent. Solar panels have been installed in council homes and a thermal render programme is benefiting all concerned.

In Dewsbury, a new biomass fuel boiler is providing heat and hot water to nearly 200 homes in a project funded by the energy supplier. Overall, the energy efficiency rating of our council homes is among the best in the country, but we still aren’t satisfied and there is now investment in ‘hard to treat’ homes in order to become even more efficient.

All of this work tells only part of our story and, despite all the financial pressures we face due to government cuts, we remain committed to doing whatever we can. I will soon be attending a major climate summit for local leaders, which has the aim of bringing together different voices, experiences and perspectives and reaching an agreement on how best to combat climate change.

It’s an honour for Kirklees to be invited to this event and we will use it not only to express our support but also to ensure Kirklees can gain tangible benefits. Traditionally we have led the way in reducing carbon output, but other places will have great schemes and ideas of their own – ones we can bring back and adapt for the benefit of local people.

CityLab Conference 2015 – Urban Solutions to Global Challenges

When you bring together leaders from around the world, it’s amazing how many are seeking solutions to the same problems.

They may be from different continents, but there’s always common ground – such as creating affordable housing for residents and finding the most effective ways to support employment.

Once again, this was the case when I attended the CityLab Conference 2015. The event, which was billed as ‘Urban Solutions to Global Challenges’, saw 300 city and district leaders gather in London to share ideas and best practice. Kirklees was one of only four English areas represented (the others being York, Cardiff and Bristol), while global visitors included mayors, leaders and experts from Beijing, China; Athens, Greece; Nairobi, Kenya; Aspen, Canada and many other places.

CityLab1

We were invited thanks to our strong links with Bloomberg Philanthropies, which awarded funding to the council last year so that we could develop our Comoodle project and create a strong culture of sharing across the district – helping residents to help each other and do great things in communities.

The conference was excellent for learning how different people tackle similar issues, depending on their circumstances. On the question of creating affordable housing, for example, we heard about housing trusts in America, a model that’s used in Singapore and the way that authorities in Mumbai, India, try to provide secure accommodation for their huge population.

As well as being thought provoking, this pooling of information sparks ideas and conversations that can help us tackle problems on a local basis. The conference was also attended by large businesses and corporations who are keen to work with local government, so there are lots of benefits to Kirklees – making valuable connections, raising our profile and developing new ways of working which will help our local residents.

Having mentioned the Comoodle project, which promotes the sharing of council resources with community groups who can use them, I’d like to give you an update on progress. Several pilot schemes are giving us insight into how Comoodle can work most effectively, we’ve finalised a system for lending council vans for community activities and we’ve also identified a whole range of equipment and assets which will be really useful for local people to use.

 To show you how the scheme works in practice…

  •  Building Services lent portable heaters to a local church when their adult learning sessions were affected by a heating breakdown
  •  Local arts and health organisation Hoot borrowed a van from Fleet Services to kit out their new Oak Tree music studios in Dewsbury, enabling them to provide musical therapy for people with a range of health conditions
  •  And when our local Welcome Centre needed to free up more space, the council offered storage facilities at Huddersfield Market and moved 150 trays of tinned food

 I’d also like to mention the Wishes pilot scheme, which gives groups and individuals a chance to tell us what they would like to borrow.

You can make a wish at www.comoodle.com now and give us as much information as possible about what you would like to borrow, for how long and what it will be used for. If we can find it, we’ll do our best to lend it to you!

 I should probably also update you on where we are with government and devolution for the region.

While others are receiving their deals, we are still in negotiations – and it is vital that we come out of those discussions with the best deal for Kirklees and West Yorkshire.

If the price tag is an elected mayor for the region, then we have to be certain that the deal on offer is good enough to warrant paying that price. We have demonstrated to government that we are a successful economic area and we will need to be offered more than we got as part of the city deal we signed up to.

As soon as we have an offer from government, we will start the debate. This will involve full council discussions, but the views of the public and local business are important too and I will welcome those.