Cllr Simon Cooke is Leader of the Conservative Group on Bradford Council.

Just a few days after announcing major reductions in Council services, the Leader of Bradford Council, Cllr Susan Hinchcliffe, decided to have her suite of offices refurbished. Two new oak doors, oak panelling for some sections of wall, lowered ceilings and a shiny new kitchenette – all intended to make it nicer for important visitors.

Throughout my years on the Council I have quite often been surprised by the Labour Group’s spending priorities, but this latest revelation has still amazed me. At a time when all but one of the City’s public toilets, visitor information centres, and community halls are being closed or flogged off, getting your own offices tarted up seems a particularly crass spending decision.  It does seem that this is part of a pattern for our Labour Council.

Cllr Hinchcliffe is forever blaming government funding reductions for the cutting of services and attacking Conservative councillors when they suggest that some of Labour’s spending decisions are pretty dumb. Right now libraries and swimming pools are closing but Labour councillors are still spending money like water:

  • Over a quarter of a million pounds to pay for full time union convenors’ wages, their offices and parking spaces.
  • Nearly £1.2 million on a swimming pools strategy that has now been abandoned because the £40 million allocated was only enough for two pools rather than the four planned.
  • Over £15,000 on a new statue – a giant bouncing baby – outside the expensively refurbished new city centre offices with the whole development capped off with fancy lighting costing further thousands.
  • 50 exciting interactive maps now decorate the city centre at a cost of some £200,000 from funds meant to promote jobs and economic growth.
  • Thousands on a survey into the ‘role of the councillor’ intended to justify opposing Conservative proposals to recommend a reduction in the number of councillors.
  • At the last full council meeting the Conservative Group proposed a five per cent reduction in special responsibility allowances for Councillors. Apparently this was a terrible attack on local government so the Labour Party voted to keep some of the UK’s most generous allowances.

At a time when Bradford Council faces real challenges, our Labour leaders prefer to spend money on frills and fripperies while removing important services like public toilets and tourist information. Even when Labour put together a strategy, as they did with swimming pools, it turns out that the  whole scheme is based on overestimated land values and the use of the only site in the city centre suitable for a station on a trans-pennine high speed railway.

Nobody denies the pressures on local councils but the sort of cavalier attitude to public money displayed by Bradford’s Labour leader beggars belief. The Labour leader claims she’s not the sort of person to be interested in how plush her suite of offices is, but her actions suggest otherwise. To spend money on your own office (there’s a splendid set of formal rooms for dining, banqueting and the Lord Mayor that could be used for important visitors) while closing down the tourist information centre in Haworth, with approaching a million visitors every year, is an insult to local residents who look to council bosses for leadership, not self-indulgence.