TWO MPs are lobbying for their constituencies to break away from Bradford Council to form a separate local authority.
Shipley MP Philip Davies and Keighley MP Kris Hopkins say their constituents do not get a fair return from their contributions to the running of the council and complain that too much investment is focussed on the city of Bradford.
But the plan by the Conservative MPs has drawn fierce criticism from Susan Hinchcliffe, leader of the Labour-run Council, who said it would be divisive and expensive, and would weaken the district's national influence.
Mr Davies said creating a separate local authority for Shipley and Keighley had been a long-term goal of his and he intends to start a petition later this year detailing the proposals.
He told the Telegraph & Argus: “Bradford Council raises a lot of money in council tax from the more affluent areas around Shipley, Keighley and Ilkley but most of it is spent in Bradford and we don’t benefit because we receive nothing back.
“Should we become our own local authority we would be around the size of Calderdale and can begin to look after our own economy, spend our council tax in our own areas and invest in our areas.
"I think this is something most people in the two constituencies would support.”
Mr Davies said the first thing he would want to look at should they become a devolved authority would be to push forward the Shipley eastern bypass proposal which has been on the back-burner for several years and would link Otley Road, in Baildon, with Canal Road by cutting through Windhill.
It is a scheme he has long campaigned for.
“The transport infrastructure is appalling around here and this would help free up the bottlenecks," he said.
“As a separate local authority we would be able to have our own representative on the West Yorkshire Combined Authority to look at transport issues affecting us as this is a matter for them.
“Other areas where devolution would greatly benefit us would be helping increase the retail sectors and the economy.
“We would be able to help our own town centres instead of seeing money and services diverted away from them such as public toilets and children’s centres.
“I think it would work perfectly well. Let’s have some proper localism.”
Mr Davies added that more affluent areas moving away from Bradford’s authority would present the city as having a higher percentage of deprivation but instead of driving Bradford down, would provide it with more opportunities for growth.
“A greater level of deprivation would help Bradford gain external support and funding to address this and so Bradford would benefit,” he said.
Mr Hopkins, who is a former leader of Bradford Council, added: “I’ve been on record for many years that I believe independence from Bradford City Hall is in the best interests of Keighley, Ilkley and Shipley council tax payers.
"My views have only hardened in recent times as Labour councillors have sought to direct resources away from these parts of the district towards Labour wards in Bradford. It is barefaced, unfair and unacceptable.
“There are many hurdles to clear before our goal can be achieved but the work goes on.”
But speaking out against the plan, Bradford Council leader, Councillor Susan Hinchcliffe, said: “There are so many things I would like our MPs to focus on to help the Bradford district as a whole.
"Dividing the people in the district in this parochial way is not one of those things. I was born and brought up in Shipley, I live in Windhill and represent that ward which is in the Shipley constituency.
"All my life I have felt part of the Bradford district. It is self-evident that we will always have a stronger, louder voice with Government by working together.
“Splitting up local authorities is directly opposite to what Government wants to see.
"It would mean doubling the costs of running local government in Bradford district – there would be two of everything where before there has just been one for the whole district.
"Two chief executives, two strategic directors of social care and so the list goes on.
"In this climate of austerity why on earth would Government do something to double costs?
"Personally, I’m getting on with the really hard work that we need to do to raise our profile and make sure we get the investment our residents so richly deserve, wherever they live in the district.”
Councillor Jeanette Sunderland, who is the Council's Liberal Democrats group leader and represents the Idle and Thackley ward, said: "I am surprised at the change of heart from the MP for Keighley who did not support the breakup of the district when he led it.
"Perhaps he senses that this is the only way that the Conservatives can regain power at a local level as the Conservatives seem to have abandoned the City of Bradford.
"Clearly the break up of the district is something that would need to be debated and decided by a public vote. We support devolution of power closer to communities away from the Council's Executive to Constituency Area Committees."
Councillor Simon Cooke, who leads the Council's Conservative group and represents the Bingley Rural ward, said it was time to look into the issue.
"Our view as a group is that Bradford Metropolitan District has never worked well as a place despite over 40 years of effort bringing together diverse communities with very different challenges," he said.
"Splitting up the district might represent a solution but we know too little about such a division, the costs involved and what its impact might be on services.
"With greater regional working and the prospect of devolution, however, it is perhaps time to look at these issues and at how dividing the current district into two new authorities might work.”