Pudsey. Where the ducks flay back’ards. The home of mythical treacle mines. And definitely NOT part of Leeds!
Well, at least that was what I was brought up to believe as a Pudsey lad in the 70s and 80s.
It was always hammered home to me by my family that Pudsey was – or should be – its own entity. Misty eyed family members would proudly speak of the times prior to 1974 and local government re-organisation when Pudsey had its own town council, grass verges and flower beds were pristine and Pudsey was never EVER neglected.
Now, of course, it’s been devoured and lives hidden way in the belly of an ‘uncaring’ monster called Leeds City Council.
Rose tinted glasses? Well, perhaps a little …
But it’s impossible not to glance over at our cousins Morley with envy – their town council somehow managed to survive post ’74 and continues to thrive even to this day. Five of their six Leeds City Council councillors are Morley Borough Independents. They even still got their own local newspaper! Clearly it’s a town that’s maintained its local identity and voice.
Heck, there’s even been talk of Morley going for complete independence from Leeds City Council. Forget Europe, could a Morley referendum be on the cards?
Food for thought. Would Pudsey getting its own town council improve local services? Anecdotally Morley residents seem very happy with their Town Council and increased local political power and identity. But it’s unlikely to return it to the pre ’74 halcyon days – and, of course, residents would be saddled with an extra precept on top of their existing council tax.
Independent research study carried out by Aberystwyth University in 2003 concluded that “the benefits of community and town councils outweigh the associated costs”. There’s greater influence on planning issues, greater mobilisation of community activity and your councillors are likely to be people who live in the area.
However, some feel it’s just another layer of unnecessary bureaucracy.
Pudsey residents may remember signatures being collected on a pro-Pudsey Town Council petition in the late 1990s and early 2000s. This post really stems from that petition and people asking ‘whatever happened to it’?
It was led by Conservative councillors Andrew Carter and Frank Robinson but had a cross section of backing from the community*. It got 10% of the electorate signing up to it (a legal trigger) but from memory the process became a political football and ended up being blocked. Which was a shame.
Earlier this year the Government cut some of the red tape needed to set up your own town or parish council, potentially making it easier for local residents to trigger a local governance review.
At the time, Cllr Ken Browse, chairman of NALC (National Association of Local Councils), said:
“Local (parish and town) councils are popular with people and can really make a difference, and for too long communities have battled with burdensome bureaucracy to get them created. The proposals to remove red tape, simplify and streamline the current process is a common sense move. We welcome the continued impetus on the creation of more new local councils to deliver services to local communities and give them a voice.”
So the big question – is the time right for Pudsey to go for it? Have your say in our fun poll and in the comments below!
* Disclaimer – I was one of the steering committee members.