The MP for Ilkley is to spearhead the “no” vote campaign in his constituency in next year’s referendum on a directly-elected Bradford mayor.
Conservative MP Kris Hopkins said an overwhelming vote against a Bradford-based directly-elected mayor on May 3 will strengthen the case for an Ilkley and Keighley breakaway from Bradford.
The former Bradford Council leader says people should vote against the chance of electing a mayor. He instead repeated his call for Ilkley people to be given a chance to vote on a breakaway from Bradford Council.
He said: “It is more than 13 years, when I was first elected as a ward councillor, that I first made clear my view that the interests of Ilkley council tax payers would be much better served outside the grip of Bradford City Hall.
“And my opinion did not change during my four years as leader of Bradford Council.”
Mr Hopkins said he had campaigned against a directly-elected mayor since it was first suggested by the Conservatives in opposition.
He said: “As a manifesto commitment, I did not seek to block the proposal in Parliament. But I regard the referendum itself as a somewhat different matter.”
Mr Hopkins believes an overwhelming “no” vote would strengthen the case to the Government of home rule for Keighley and Ilkley.
Mr Hopkins said: “The arguments in favour of independence are strong. I know of few people in Keighley and Ilkley who look towards Bradford in terms of their own identity.
He says Keighley and Ilkley residents pay more council tax than the residents of the three Bradford constituencies combined Bradford would also benefit from a breakaway, he believes, as the true level of Bradford’s deprivation would be exposed.
Ilkley Parish Council chairman, Councillor Heathcliffe Bowen, said the parish council had not debated the subjects of a directly elected Bradford District mayor, or a breakaway from Bradford.
But speaking as an individual member of the parish council, he questioned the benefits for Ilkley of independence for the Keighley constituency.
“I would want to think very long and hard about any breakaway,“ he said. “We probably have a better relationship with Bradford than many parishes in other areas have with their district authorities.“ Coun Bowen questioned the economies of scale, and suggested that “affluent outlying areas“ such as Ilkley, Addingham and Burley would pay for the new authority.