In June 2021 the Dewsbury Town Deal Board was cock-a-hoop with Dewsbury's success in receiving government approval in principle to the Town Board bid for £25 million of Towns Fund money. This was to be matched by a similar amount from Kirklees Council making up a total with some private development money of close to £6o million of investment in the regeneration of Dewsbury.
At the Town Board meeting of that month the Board discussed at length the importance of ensuring that the people of Dewsbury were kept well informed of progress especially because there was a further twelve months of administrative work to get through while the detailed plans were submitted to meet all the government requirements before there was any prospect of bulldozers appearing on the streets. A number of Board members spoke on the subject and the minutes of the meeting note that the Chair, Keith Ramsay, newly appointed and paid by Kirklees Council, agreed.
The Towns Fund is specifically directed towards economic regeneration and the Board consists of a number of individuals representing local interests, particularly from business. Presumably, the government intended that the Board should introduce some new thinking into local government and actually get things done. However, all the administrative processes and support for the Board come from the council as what is termed the 'accountable body'.
The Chair of the Board is the link between the two. The Chair is responsible for taking the decisions and recommendations of the Board and arranging with the council for them to be carried out using the Towns Fund resources allocated to the Board.
Since June 2021, the Town Board has discussed this issue on nine, yes, nine occasions. In August, September, November and December of 2021. Then in February, March, June, August and September of 2022. At various times members have suggested low cost, practical ways of providing basic information about the Town Investment Plan to the people most interested, i.e. those living and working in Dewsbury and walking the streets of the town. But nothing has happened.
The latest meeting of the Town Board took place on 30th March 2023 and the draft minutes published 5 days later record that there was no further discussion about telling the people of this town what is going on. The next meeting is not until 18th May, i.e. nearly a full two years since the first decision.
To this day, approaching two years after the first decision of the Board and numerous reminders of the need, there is not one word about the Town Investment Plan visible in Dewsbury town centre to inform the local community about what is going on.
There will, inevitably be lots of words used to explain the delay. There wil be talk of Covid and inflation and construction costs and that the council is doing its very best to deliver the best possible developments for the community. But the Chair and the council has forgotten the most basic fact of all. The people of this town are not stupid and can see that we have been told nothing for nearly two years and are being treated like idiots. We can understand problems and delays and inflation. We live with it every day of our lives. What we also understand is that when the Board has returned to this question nine times over two years and still nothing happens then someone is not doing their job.
Just giving us the basic information of what is planned to happen, when and where, is all we ask. If a project is running late or cannot be delivered as first envisaged then just tell us. Delivering the projects with all their complexities is the council officers job and we wish them well.
The people of Dewsbury just want to be told what is going on.
Keith Ramsay, described on Linkedin as an experienced Board Chair and Non Executive Director and paid by the council to chair the Dewsbury Town Board has been offered the opportunity to respond to this post.
His reply will be published here when it is received.