Have some numbers, don't go blind.

The local council elections seem to provide good news for both Labour and for our incumbent MP, while keeping all the possibilities (bar a LibDem victory) on the table. Looking at the six wards that (until someone corrects me) make up the constituency, we get the following total votes cast:

Labour: 9771

Conservative: 7892

UKIP: 4849

Independent*: 1991

Green: 1262

LibDem: 1164

(note: I've halved the total votes in Craven as it elected two councillors)

*Three independents stood in Craven ward, one of whom was elected. Oddly, no-one from UKIP stood in a ward where they had (in terms of massive signs in fields) quite a campaigning presence. 

So, Labour wins (as Ashcroft's polling of marginals also suggests)? Not so fast Lord Copper. I've written before about Keighley and Ilkley's bellwether electoral logic. The basic task is simple--Labour to hold their Keighley votes, to win the two-way battle in Worth Valley and get enough extras from Ilkley and Craven to construct a majority; the Tories to hold Ilkley and Craven votes, win Worth Valley and pick up enough extras in Keighley to make the difference. 

Let's take a look at the numbers of votes over the past three Bradford elections to see how the current electoral logic stacks up. Briefly, Labour held Keighley with improved numbers (good news for them), lost Worth Valley and had reduced numbers in Ilkley. Tories held Ilkley and Craven (with more to come, see below), won Worth Valley but got hammered in Keighley. To do your own research, the figures are here: 20142012, 2010.

I mentioned in the previous piece that the major concern for the Tories will be UKIP. The pre-poll pre-conception was that UKIP voters would come from the ranks of the Tories and deliver the seat to Labour. And UKIP did well in the constituency wards. Just not in the one they, possibly, believed they were strongest in. In Ilkley ward, the 348 votes cast for PJ Latham (almost exactly the same as in 2010 and 2012--no surge here, and no impact from his continual letter writing) had no effect on the Tories. The Tory share of the vote actually went up. 

In Worth Valley, UKIP made this bellwether of bellwethers (I just like the word) a three-sheep race. But, again comparing to 2012, there was no impact on the Tory vote. Indeed, the Tory vote went up (by a whole 12 votes) despite UKIP getting over 1,000 votes themselves. Interestingly, in this one, Labour hardly suffered either. UKIP votes seem to have come from nowhere. The only place where the Tories seem to have suffered because of them is Keighley Central which had been a relatively even race, but is now hugely Labour. The Tory vote collapsed here, with UKIP being involved but far from the whole story. 

Where UKIP did win was in Keighley West, and here it was Labour that suffered, losing 600 votes from last time out as UKIP came from nowhere (the Tories lost 200). It appears that UKIP will either have no impact on the local battle, or will knock Labour slightly. 

Now, we know from national polling that UKIP numbers in the general election are likely to be lower than in the locals. Indeed, this is precisely the conclusion a poll by Lord Ashcroft came to after the Euro elections; UKIP will hold 51% of their vote, while the Tories will get 21% and Labour 11%. That suggests 2473 votes for UKIP from the council election total, 1018 to the Tories and 533 to Labour. The latter still lead, but the gap narrows. 

And what of the Craven independents? Craven's walked its own path for a few years. Independent votes topped out in the 1850 area in the last two elections. The Tories in 2014 got 1800 for one candidate (Andrew Mallinson who has a personal following) and 1000 for the other. But, in 2010, the Tory candidate got over 3000. This was the strongest performance by any Tory councillor in the constituency. Of course, it was election year, but that's a lot of extra votes to go blue. 

But, of course, all of this is on a 37-41% turnout. When we have a 65% turnout, it'll be the national headlines playing out. But the original logic remains. This is still a two-horse race. With UKIP clearly taking as much, if not more, from Labour as the Tories, it comes down to whether Labour can reverse its recent losses in Ilkley and Craven and continue to dominate in Keighley (particularly Central). With an improving economy, I'd be putting money on a Tory victory. Just not very much. 

There's another little nugget or three in those numbers. Comparing the Ilkley figures with those in the last council election (2012), the electorate has increased by over 500 in two years (a 4% increase), which seems a lot, and suggests that concerns about the infrastructure of the town being stretched by an increasing population are not being over-stated. The number of actual voters has increased by about the same proportion, but that's still only 5,200 people voting, with turnout falling. Suggesting there's a limited number of engaged voters (unlike in Worth Valley where UKIP's presence meant a fairly substantial increase in turnout). Finally, the Green Party in Ilkley doubled its vote. If it grows any more (and it's already the fourth party in the whole constituency), it will start to concern Labour. 

Like a twisty, turny, tangled thing

I've talked before about some of the entertaining jumps and twists politicians have to make in Ilkley. Our local MP is Housing Minister, yet has to oppose building in Ilkley. While the local Labourites equally have to oppose their own party's council policy.

Sometimes it gets downright silly. Remember that stuff on the precept? Well, it looks like Labour is going to make a political issue of it. Or so says Labour candidate Sandy Macpherson. Only...he's not standing against Parish Chair Funky Gibbons in a parish election, which the precept affects. 

He's standing against him in a Bradford council election. Now the issues in this election would, presumably, be rather different. The issues, you might think, for a BMDC election, would be the council's intention to build 800 houses on the green belt (in Macpherson's own Ben Rhydding no less), and their slashing of services (until they miraculously found £1million down the back of the sofa) in Ilkley and other outlying (read-'Tory') areas. All of which rather put Labour on the back foot.

The same thing is noted in the campaign against the new housing. The main twitter campaigner against the scheme* has spent much of the past two weeks vociferously attacking Kris Hopkins. Yet Hopkins is against the Ilkley building. Not a single tweet against the Bradford Labour party. It's not an example of best tactics. 

Would it put more pressure on the Bradford council to a) support Labour in the next council election or b) threaten to abandon the party because of its support for housing, imperilling their ability to win the seat back at the general election?

So this blog is left in the position of wanting a Tory victory at the next BMDC election (to help end the prospect of new building in green belt) and the Tories being swept from power in Ilkley itself, to end the lack of accountability and transparency in budget setting. Of course the latter actually requires someone to have the balls to stand against them, rather than whining from the edges about gerry-mandering

I almost sound like Nick Clegg.

*edited for factual accuracy and politeness

Trebles all round

Following the last post, I've had a number of people now assure me that the Ilkley Riding School rent their land (area B on this map) from Bradford Met. Now, I still have some doubts, given the official Bradford review of potential building land (page 23 on this PDF) has the land's availability as 'uncertain' which presumably it wouldn't be if BMDC owned it. 

Of course, the availability might be about something other than ownership. If BMDC do own it, there's another motive for their desire to build, despite there being no need. Not only will they get a grant from government for doing so, but they'll make a profit on the development. Happy hour in central hall. 

But, then, if they DO own it, how did they get it? If it's part of the 1974 settlement, it's not theirs' anyway. And independent Ilkley could/should take it back.

Build it and they will...

Tonight there's a public meeting organized by the Parish Council on Bradford council's plans for more housing in the town (and across the valley). There's already been a 'lively' Civic Society meeting (though the report is before the meeting took place...)

Opposition is ramping up. A lot of activity is coming via benrhydding.org, which will be hosting resources once public representations can be made (starting on Monday 17th Feb). The core strategy can be found (if you download the PDF) here. As you might remember, the 800 homes suggested for the town is a reduction which was trumpeted by the city council as a result of all the listening they were doing. The map (PDF) of potential sites is here.

Leaving aside for a moment the building on green belt and the potential for CPO of land (unless the riding school owners will, in fact, become developers in a JV*), and the fact that one of the sites does rather, you know, flood. Bradford council has it reasons: it has to meet housing targets set by the government (indeed, they've recently done rather well out of their desire to build), and it is supposedly one of the fastest growing cities in the country. The core strategy tackles this by developing targets for building on brownfield sites around the city centre, alongside bringing empty houses back into use (8.37% of homes in Manningham are currently empty according to the evidence base). And, of course, building on some of the greenbelt. 

But are new houses in Ilkley actually needed, or in any way relevant to perceived demand? Where Bradford is growing (if it actually is) appears to be through birth rather than migration; it's the bulge in the under-5s and under-19s that specifically led to the census population reports

Bradford’s population is increasing: from just over 500,000 estimated by ONS in 2008, it is expected to increase to at least 40,000 over the next 25 years, mainly due to a high birth rate

(from the 'Bradford Housing evidence base' (PDF))

And these, patently, aren't likely to be buying (or wanting) houses in Ilkley (or Menston or Burley or any other leafy part of the city). In fact, they're not likely to be buying houses at all. 

Given the level of empty homes mentioned above, there's actually a question over whether even Bradford itself really needs more new housing. We know, for instance, that the market is suggesting (unlike Ilkley) that there's no demand for new housing in Bradford itself--prices are dropping or stable in both sale and rented sectors. And there's currently little demand to bring those empty Manningham homes back into use. 

For Ilkley, there's nothing in the core strategy about enhanced infrastructure. Schools in the town are already over-full: Ashlands building new classrooms means they'll have two classes at 30 pupils per year from now on; IGS is nearly at 2,000 pupils, even its massive Year 7 entry (245 pupils!) is 50% over-subscribed and far too big to be effective. The Medical Centre is at capacity, judging by the lack of ease in getting an appointment. And, as for traffic through the town...How are an extra 800 households to be supported?

There's also a major (for Ilkley near-fatal) flaw in the way the core strategy is set up. As Cllr Cooke has pointed out, Leeds made a huge mistake in not detailing that brownfield sites should be utilised first before the greenbelt is taken away. Given the issues around development of brownfield sites, indeed, it's likely that the green belt will go first: it's relatively easy, and, more importantly, very profitable for the developers. 

Now, given there is no increased demand for housing in Bradford, possibly no actual population growth, and, even if there was, it's not relevant to Ilkley, one does wonder why the council is so eager to build all over the valleys. The prospect of that £20million in extra funding can;t be having an influence surely? 

*NOTE: subsequent twitter conversation suggest that the land used by the riding school next to the A65 is actually BMDC's; any information gratefully received.


To the Manor (re)born

As predicted previously, there was a sudden change of heart regarding support for the Manor House Museum. Indeed, almost exactly as suggested, funding will be cut but not ended if Ilkley PC can provide some of its own money. 

Parish council chairman, Mike Gibbons, has negotiated a £13,000 deal which would keep the museum’s doors open for further year.

Well done to Funky there, though the story isn't clear whether Bradford are now putting in 26K and IPC 13K, or whether the 13K is simply half of the new running costs/ 

Presumably the £13,000 that Ilkley PC will now invest will come from the enhanced precept pot. Which might explain the rise. Can't say I object to that (indeed I suggested it in my original post), but some public consultation would have been nice. I'm reminded of the Mayor in Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, "I've invested the entire town's budget without consulting anyone in this..."

I do wonder, though, whether the money Bradford have therefore saved has been covered by closing services elsewhere in the town. 

So, for a year, we still have a museum and community space that isn't very good, but isn't THAT expensive (it can really be run on £26-39,000pa? How much are the likely capital costs over the next decade?). I'm aware of at least two separate groups in the town having meetings about future plans. You've got a year, guys. 

This, of course, isn't the only backing down Bradford have been doing recently. There's also been a twelve-month reprieve for Ilkley Children's Centre. 

Albeit, bizarrely, the Gazette originally ran a story entirely focusing the proposed reprieve on the Labour PPC, John Grogan, even though he'd clearly had nothing to do with it. Blah blah 'has welcomed the decision' is a sure sign that a journalist is casting around for a hook. 

A preceptual issue

(is that a ridiculous headline or what?)

News comes through that the Parish Council are to increase the precept by 22%. This was signed off at the last Council meeting (no minutes yet, so I don't know whether it was done in private session). 

To pay for the coming of the Tour de France to the town. A bicycle race that is coming anyway. And which will massively benefit everyone from local hotels to farmers who are suddenly turning their fields over to campsites,. Now, it's not clear from the Gazette story what exactly the PC are planning to do with this money (big screens to watch on TV something that is, you know, happening live in the town?), but I bet the bandstand will be involved somehow. There's also an unexplained increase in support for the Christmas Lights, from £2,000 to £16,000. These were the lights that were meant to save the town money because of being LED, of course--'as little as £50 a year' was the figure quoted when the gorgeous (and now absent) councillor for South Ilkley made the proposal. 

Now, this is only an extra £5 per head on the average property (not that there are many of those in the town). But it's been done without consultation and without clear and publicly available plans for use. It might be represented (and has) as councillors paying for their own 'jollies' as part of the event. Councillors can get very defensive about such suggestions. Last year, when the public raised questions about the level of the precept, they got a response based on councillors being unpaid. Now, that can be read in a number of ways. 

Flicking back through history, the precept has been increased rather a lot since it came into being in 2002. At that time it was set at £9 for a Band E home. It's now going to be £24 for a Band D home (so slightly more for a Band E). That's an increase of nearly 200% in twelve years. Inflation rate during that time? Fairly steady at around the 3% mark annually. By 2006, the Band D properties would be paying £15. Much of this remained unspent at year end. 

2012 then saw another 20% increase 'to pay for the Jubilee' (so that's a 50% increase over the past two years). And it's this combination that really sticks in the craw. If it went up 20% to pay for the jubilee, and there isn't a jubilee this year, presumably that spare cash can be used to pay for any civic activity around the Tour. Or does the Tour need EVEN MORE money? No case has been made. 

As there will also be an increase in the Police's council tax precept as well ( a decision made by a Police Authority committee with no public debate or, as far as I can see, no consultation), we'll have to hope that Bradford Council keeps its own demands at current levels. It's a Labour council, though, so that seems unlikely. 

WIth a sign on the door, part two

Eventually I found my way to the report on local housing.

However, I'm having less luck in locating the Ilkley Parish Council budgets. There's nothing on the PC website except the minutes for meetings. And they ARE only minutes; including ones resolving acceptance of a budget, but no attached reports. Now, Bradford Council, of course has to publish its entire budgetary process. Including specific details of any expenditure over £500. Why does this legislation not apply to Parish Councils?

It makes it somewhat difficult to analyze what the PC spends its money on. Almost as if they're doing it deliberately. Anyone want to bung in an FoIA request?

How local?

Currently the front page of the 'Ilkley Gazette' website has a total of one local story on it. There's nothing to link to all the recent work they've done on the precept, on the Manor House, on the Film Festival. The paper's been vastly improved under its latest editor, but the site doesn't reflect that. Which is a shame.