Frustration over “secret” talks about new Dewsbury police HQ

Secrecy surrounds plans to create a new police headquarters in Dewsbury.

And it has led to accusations that some key figures have been kept in the dark – and effectively “gagged” by being prevented from asking questions about the project.

The Local Democracy Reporting Service revealed last week that West Yorkshire Police is in the process of buying the Halifax Road campus currently occupied in the town by Kirklees College.

If the scheme goes ahead it will consolidate the force’s divisional HQ in Dewsbury.

But whilst discussions have been going on behind the scenes cross-party members of the Police and Crime Panel, a scrutiny body, said they had not been kept in the loop.

One member, the Lib Dems’ Clr Cahal Burke (Lindley) said he and a colleague had been “gagged”.

“We were prevented from asking questions and scrutinising the matter,” he said.

“We were gagged. That’s not the way it should be done.”

Dewsbury councillor Masood Ahmed, who represents Kirklees Council on the panel, described being “put on the spot” at a full council meeting last week when asked about the proposals.

He said: “I was asked a question and I had no answer. That put me in a bad position.

“Not knowing made me look a bit silly. I was upset by that.

“The Police and Crime Panel (PCP) is a scrutiny body. We are there to scrutinise the Police and Crime Commissioner and the Chief Constable. That’s the platform [for this to be discussed].”

Clr Ahmed (Lab, Dewsbury South) raised the issue at a meeting of the PCP last Friday (Sept 11).

He asked if Dewsbury was the best strategic location for a new divisional headquarters and whether it was value for money.

He also also suggested that he and others should have been given background information on negotiations for the site.

Police and Crime Commissioner Mark Burns-Williamson said his response was limited as the issue was “very much subject to legal, planning and commercial confidentiality”.

He admitted that the modernisation of both Huddersfield and Dewsbury stations had been in the capital programme “for a long time” but that it was not appropriate to discuss the issue in public.

He offered to meet Clr Ahmed privately for an update.

He added: “We are just not at that stage of having those conversations with members of the panel or anybody else at this stage.

“We have been in dialogue with Kirklees Council for a long time about certain sites and we are at a very delicate stage.

“We can’t really say too much more than that at the moment.”

He was chided by panel chair Clr Mohammed Iqbal (Lab, Hunslet and Riverside) who said it was “a matter of courtesy and working relationships” to keep panel members informed.

He added: “It often is embarrassing when councillors and panel members don’t know something and the public end up hearing first.”

However other panel members were denied a chance to ask questions about the issue by Clr Iqbal, who said it was “too early to have a conversation on this platform” about the HQ development.

Clr Mark Thompson (Con, Birstall and Birkenshaw) attempted to ask Mr Burns-Williamson for clarity on the headquarters move but was prevented from doing so.

“Clr Iqbal shut me down before I asked a question, but he didn’t know what that question was. It was a question directed at the PCC that deserved an answer.

“There was no clarity there whatsoever because of the vagueness of the response or the lack of ability to ask the pertinent question.

“I don’t feel informed at all. Why is somebody not answering a straight question?

“You have a Dewsbury councillor and two other councillors that are on the PCP that didn’t know anything

“I am as much in the dark as anybody else. I don’t understand why it’s not an open book. I don’t understand what about this requires secrecy.

“And I am still waiting for a response.”

Clr Burke said: “We are there to scrutinise. It should be transparent.

“I was not privy to any information and thought it was disappointing that I had not been briefed.

“There was no prior notification.”

YorkshireLive – Halifax