THE Parish Poll called to challenge the new 20mph zones in Ilkley will cost taxpayers more than £40,000, it has been revealed.

The Parish Poll took place after residents voted to hold it at a packed meeting in October last year at the King’s Hall in Ilkley, instigated by the Ilkley Road Safety Action Group (IRSAG).

Opponents to the road calming measures voiced their disquiet at the plans, which they said were being forced through despite widespread opposition from the townsfolk.

Now the final bill from Bradford Council for implementing the poll has landed on the doormat of Ilkley Town Council – and at £44,637.24 it is half as much again as the £30,000 town mayor Karl Milner predicted it would cost when he branded the exercise a “zombie poll” that would make no difference.

The figure includes VAT, which means the final figure that will come out of town council coffers is £41,238.39.

Cllr Milner was right – although a majority voted against the 20mph scheme, Bradford Council has now carried out the works in Ilkley.

But the Conservative group on the town council said the higher than expected cost was “just the price to be paid when democracy is ignored”.

The bill was made public at the town council meeting on Monday evening.

Cllr Milner, who said he was speaking in a personal capacity, said today: “The only possible outcome of calling a Parish Poll when the orders for work had already been sealed was that Ilkley residents would be footing the bill.

“It takes ten people in a room to spend 40 grand – this is clearly flawed legislation but that doesn’t mean those who know better should take advantage of it.”

The meeting that decided to push ahead with the Parish Poll was called by Ilkley Road Safety Action Group.

James Stretton, of the group, told the Ilkley Gazette they were still formulating their response, but added that for comparison, the cost of staging last May’s local elections was about £16,000.

Mr Stretton said that he understood councillors have requested a breakdown of the costs, which he said should be put in the public domain before the IRSAG formally commented.

Cllr Milner, though, said the cost should have been expected by IRSAG and what he called their “Tory chums” on the town council.

He added: “We pleaded with them to consider their actions and made it very clear that this poll was out of any official process and could have no effect on the 20mph scheme which the public had already voted for in a referendum, yet, in an act of vanity, they chose to blow the money.

“We could have spent that £40,000 productively here in Ilkley, on anything the residents chose – subsidising swimming lessons, filling in potholes, planting trees – instead we had a meaningless piece of political posturing and we sent our money to Bradford. The next time this town wants to punch itself in the face we know who to call – the shadowy IRSAG and their Tory chums.”

Cllr Steve Butler, speaking on behalf of the Conservative councillors on Ilkley Town Council, said that although the Tories did not call the Parish Poll, they entirely supported the right of the electorate to do so.

Cllr Butler said: “If the residents had been listened to properly the Parish Poll would not have been demanded. It took place because the town mayor used his casting vote to go against the wishes of the majority of our residents who clearly opposed the proposed scheme for a town-wide 20mph zone and speed humps.

“It is shameful that the results of the consultation process, the voices of residents who attended the largest meetings ever organised by the town council and the results of the Parish Poll have all been ignored. The Conservative councillors will query why the cost of the poll was so high but feel that this is just the price to be paid when democracy is ignored.”

A Bradford Council spokesperson said:  “On 3 October 2023, at an extraordinary meeting of the Ilkley electors, a Parish Poll was demanded under the Local Government Act 1972.   The poll was held on 23 October 2023.   

“In accordance with the legislation the poll was administered by the Returning Officer of Bradford Council,  the cost of which must be recharged to the parish council.

“The total cost for the Ilkley Parish Poll was £41,240.39 + vat = £44,637.24 and the payment is due on receipt of the invoice. The costs include staffing costs for the elections and count and for printed materials."