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Communication over Towns Fund spending has been "appalling" say Councillors

Tuesday, 21 March 2023 20:45

By Chris Young, Local Democracy Reporter

Keighley Councillors have said the communication around a £33m regeneration fund for the town has been "appalling".

Members of Bradford Council’s Keighley Area Committee claimed they had received little information on the Towns Fund – over three years after the scheme was first announced.

The Government fund will see £33m spent on numerous projects in the town, from bringing empty buildings back into use to creating a new health and wellbeing hub in the town centre.

A report before the Area Committee on Thursday gave members an update on the Fund.

It said one of the next projects will be the refurbishment and re-opening of the Market Square toilets and public realm improvements on Low Street.

Overseeing how the cash is spent is the Towns Fund Board, made up of the local MP, business leaders, Council officers and a member of the Council’s Executive.

But at Thursday’s meeting, members said little of the work done by this board had been communicated with Councillors, leaving some Councillors to fear the worst.

Referring to the report, Chair of the Committee Councillor Russell Brown (Cons, Worth) said: “There is a lot of information left out of this – so much is missing. I feel this committee has been treated quite badly by officers.

“There was so much potential that seems to have been whittled away. This should have been great for the town.

“I despair. We are three years in and we don’t seem to have anything in place. We don’t know what is going on.

“Some things seem to be at risk. It is three years since we put our bid in. £1m three years ago would buy a lot more that it would today.

“Some officers have been great, but the feedback that this committee has had from the Towns Fund has been appalling.”

Meetings of the Towns Fund Board are not held in public. The only detail from the meeting made public are the minutes, published around a week after each meeting.

The last meeting was is September.

Councillor Paul Godwin (Lab, Keighley West) said: “There seems to be a lack of democratic accountability. It is a body designed to represent Keighley but it all seems to have gone on as a separate process. It is desperately disappointing.”

Alan Lunt, the Council officer presenting the report, said: “It is disappointing you have not been kept updated.”

Members said they hoped they could “draw a line” under the issue and work closer with the Towns Fund Board in the future.

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