John Grogan’s piece on the Ilkley Gazette's website is worthy of a prize for the skill with which Ilkley Town Council history is being re-written.

John is correct in stating that the May 2023 local elections resulted in the election of 7 Conservative Councillors and a collection of all of the other affiliations. Mr Milner worked around the clock in order to establish an us and them hung Council. Mr Milner then did attempt to break with the usual democratic process for electing a Mayor and Chair of the Council by offering a ‘behind closed doors’ deal that would ensure that he would be Mayor. In any event I, (and my fellow Conservative Councillors), opted for the time-honoured practice of a democratic vote, which resulted in the outgoing mayor using his casting vote in favour of Mr Milner, whom was one of the minority of four Labour Councillors.

The determination of many of the Council’s important decisions by use of a casting vote had only just got started. One could see the use of a casting vote as an improvement on the tabling (at short notice) of the blanket 20mph scheme when only seven (half) of the 14 strong chamber were present, in September 2022. Mr Grogan refers to this manoeuvring less than one year ago as the Council’s “long standing Policy”. It seems quite odd that such a long-standing policy resulted in two full-to- capacity public meetings being held in quick succession when the “long standing policy” saw the light of day.

If one takes the time to visit the Mayor’s blog on the Ilkley Labour Councillors website, one could be forgiven for thinking that Ilkley Town Council was run by the minority Labour Councillors and, in particular, the Mayor Karl Milner with his casting vote.

I believe that the narrative since the extraordinary meeting on 1st August, is that whilst Karl and his collective want a town wide 20mph speed limit, they want less than the currently planned 143 speed calming measures. At the Extraordinary meeting there were no less than three separate opportunities to vote to pursue a scheme with a reduced number of traffic calming measures. The first opportunity was lost when the vote was tied and Karl decided not to use his casting vote (motion 2324/67 b). The following motion (2324/67 c) also tied on a vote and again Karl decided not to use his casting vote. The third opportunity (motion 2324/67 d) didn’t even have a proposer.

The mayor’s casting vote was of course used to support the town wide 20mph speed limit and to restate a commitment to the s278 Agreement with Bradford Council, even though such Agreement has in fact been invalidated by the scope changing without the necessary consultation with Ilkley Town Council.

Maybe Mr Grogan will have more influence than several hundred Ilkley residents at the meetings and the 1,000 that responded to the Consultation, with his single-handed approach to Bradford Council, to put traffic calming measures where he deems appropriate. Time and again at the extraordinary meeting amendments that suggested consultation with Ilkley residents fell away on tied votes with Mr Milner’s casting vote conspicuous by its absence.

Mr Grogan urges caution over the possibility of the frustrated and ignored Ilkley residents organising a Parish meeting and a Parish poll. He is at pains to point out the strictures around such a meeting and the fact that the vote would not be binding, I guess nothing new there then. I would urge caution in continuing to ignore the voters that you are supposed to represent as voters can have long memories and there was very little that was fair about the conduct and outcome of one of the largest public meetings in Ilkley’s history.

Sean Spence