CRAVEN and Ilkley ward politicians have slammed council plans for a multi-million-pound spending boost for Bradford city centre.

Councillor Adrian Naylor (Craven, Ind) and Councillor Anne Hawkesworth (Ind, Ilkley) are dismayed that cash can be found for central Bradford while outlying areas like Silsden and Ilkley suffer the effects of austerity.

They say smaller towns and villages also need similar investment to support jobs, leisure and living conditions.

In comparison with the £60 million of council spending this week earmarked for Bradford city centre, the council has slashed funding to communities like Silsden and Ilkley for facilities such as libraries, community buildings and public toilets.

The protest came this week as the council’s ruling Executive discussed a shopping list of measures aimed at attracting ‘urban entrepreneurs’ to the city centre.

This included £9.4 million to relocate the market, £8.9 million to renovate St George’s Concert Hall, £25.3 million for the new 1 City Park office block, £3 million to regenerate the ‘Top of Town’ shopping area, and a £12 million loan to a company hoping to reopen the former Odeon as an entertainment venue.

In a report to Executive members on Tuesday, council officers insisted Bradford city centre was a key location for employment in the district with a growing population of 530,000.

They said: “It is the place where investment activity can combine collectively to maximum benefit. It is home to over 2000 businesses that support 22 per cent of jobs, generating 31 per cent of the district’s Gross Added Value.”

The officers claimed the city centre had to become a “liveable, vibrant and attractive” place to encourage businesses and talent in growth areas such as retail, business services, digital and creative industries.

Cllr Naylor, who sits on both Bradford and Silsden councils, pointed out the report’s figures showed that almost four out of five jobs were actually outside the city centre.

He said: “It seems logical you would put the money where you would have the most impact. What is being done to generate jobs in those outlying areas like Silsden?

“Surely we should spend more money there, because that’s where the need is for development and that’s where people are moving into new housing.”

Cllr Naylor estimated that 1 City Park would need to generate rents of £25 per square foot to repay the council’s investment, but even Leeds business district cannot charge that much.

Cllr Naylor and Cllr Hawkesworth also criticised the Executive for holding much of the city centre funding discussions in secret due to “commercial confidentiality”.

On behalf of the council’s Independent members, Cllr Hawkesworth asked serious questions about the plans to give a loan for the Odeon project.

She asked if an objective assessment had been carried out on the likely impact of the opening of the Odeon venue on budgets for other venues, including the King's Hall in Ilkley. She said: "The council owns and operates two performance venues in central Bradford (the Alhambra Theatre and St Georges Concert Hall) which will be in direct competition with the Odeon should it reopen as a performance venue. The Independents Group wishes to ensure that a proper impact assessment has been undertaken in respect of the effect on the two council owned venues."