A letter from Mark Stidworthy, Former Ilkley Town Mayor
Ilkley’s Road Safety Action Group (IRSAG) has called a Town Meeting to force a Parish Poll on plans for 20-mph zones in Ilkley, even as implementation is set to begin. If agreed, a poll will be held between 4pm and 9pm on a single day in the next month, at which electors (who will not receive individual household polling cards in advance) will be asked a question of IRSAG’s choice leading to a result that tells us nothing more than the single-issue opinion of a self-selecting group choosing and able to participate. This will cost Ilkley Town Council, and therefore precept payers, upwards of £30,000, in addition to room hire costs incurred so far for the additional meetings.
Information circulated by Ilkley Town Councillors of all political persuasions, and indeed IRSAG itself, no longer makes the false claim that consultations have not taken place. It is now conceded instead that disappointingly few people chose to engage with the many hours of meetings and discussions in public that preceded the 20-mph proposals. Since the formal plans were brought forward in December 2022 there has been a fully contested Town Council election. This resulted in a net gain of one seat for the Conservatives, who campaigned, negatively, almost entirely on this single issue. The result is a Town Council that, objectively-speaking, is balanced politically in a similar way to the previous one. This hardly suggests that the views of IRSAG dominated the political concerns of Ilkley residents when they went to the polls in May.
Few residents, including myself, will conclude that the 20-mph zone outcome is perfect or delivers exactly what we wanted in all respects. Nonetheless, as is appropriate in a liberal democracy, established processes for reaching decisions about such matters at local level have been followed. The scheme will improve road safety and encourage active travel. The (capped) funds were budgeted by the previous Town Council over the course of its term (with no additional costs for current precept payers) or could come largely from Community Infrastructure Levy funds.
Let us place the proposed spending on any poll in context, as this will come directly from Ilkley Town Council funds (and therefore the pocket of each Ilkley householder). £30,000 equates to about half the town’s annual expenditure on our public toilets. It represents the entire annual budget for a grant-awarding committee such as Community Engagement and Partnerships (which could have provided 5 to 10 grants to deserving local community groups). It will cost at least £4.15 per precept-paying Ilkley household, a potential increase of 7.6% on the current Band D precept of £54.33, an amount already pared to the bone at the behest of the town’s Conservative Councillors.
I would be personally disappointed if local democracy was held to such a costly ransom by largely anonymous minority interests. I would also be surprised and saddened if Ilkley residents would genuinely prefer to spend £30,000 of our money on a political campaign to make our roads less safe.
A Town Meeting is to be held next Tuesday to discuss the rollout of 20 mph zones and calming measures across Ilkley, further details are available here.