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Councillor condemns Kirklees plan to close town hall to save cash

A Cleckheaton ward councillor has condemned the actions of Kirklees’ Labour administration as “appalling” following the shock announcement that the town hall is set to be mothballed.

Yesterday (September 18) the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) reported that Cleckheaton Town Hall will be mothballed indefinitely from the end of the calendar year. Ward councillor and Lib Dem Group Leader, Cllr John Lawson, says local councillors were repeatedly told that the council had no plans to close their town hall but a report to a cabinet meeting next Tuesday (September 26) would suggest otherwise.

The plan for Cleckheaton’s Town Hall comes as part of a review of the council’s property estate and is subject to the approval of cabinet next week. This is one of the ways the council is looking to make the £47m needed to balance its books and avoid effective bankruptcy.

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Cllr Lawson said: “I can’t begin to express the feeling of sadness among residents in Cleckheaton on hearing this news. All three local Liberal Democrat Councillors have been chasing Cabinet for details on timelines for repairs for the last two years and we have been told repeatedly that there were no plans to close the Town Hall.

“This move by Kirklees Labour proves that they are no longer acting in good faith in Spenborough, they have known about this for weeks if not months. To tell us not to worry, then put the centrepiece of the town on a trajectory of laying idle, falling into disrepair and eventual ruin is just an appalling about-face.

“Sadly our Town Hall is not the first example of slash and burn tactics as Labour struggle to come to terms with the dismal decision-making and missed opportunities of their previous leadership. It’s becoming clear that they have run out of ideas.

“Yes, there is a Conservative ideology of defunding councils that hits Kirklees especially hard and that means many councils, even well-run ones, are now close to breaking point. Our Town Hall however, was opened in 1892 and has survived countless calamities, now we see a Labour Administration that doesn’t understand and doesn’t care, wash their hands of their responsibility to our town.

“Labour undoubtedly have their eye on the £0.7 million in allocated funds and the savings made through delayed repairs. It seems that they haven’t thought through the impact on the Folk Festival, Spen Amateurs and the day-to-day users like the University of the Third Age. The loss to community and business in the town has been brushed aside in a race to avoid bankruptcy.

“Cabinet’s rapacious renewal plans for Huddersfield are still going forward and their Town Hall is covered in scaffolding as it undergoes repairs. I look forward with interest to the next grandiose scheme to be revealed in Huddersfield while Cleckheaton loses its heritage and its Cultural Heart.”

Part of Cleckheaton Town Hall had already been closed due to being unsafe and in need of repairs. The council became aware of a problem above the main stage in July 2022, though repairs were never made, with the council saying that a survey needed to be carried out to determine whether the damage extended further.

This lack of action saw a number of events cancelled, including the nationally-acclaimed Cleckheaton Folk Festival, and others moved to alternative locations. This caused upset among the local community and saw residents become vocal, demanding an end to the “neglect” of their town hall and beginning a petition that now has over 1,300 signatures.

According to locals, including the Folk Festival Director, Dave Minich, who gave a deputation at a Full Council meeting in July, rumours were circulating among the community that the town hall would be permanently closing its doors.

Kirklees Council was approached for comment.

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