Petition launched to sack Northern Rail

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Calderdale Liberal Democrats have launched a petition to demand better transport investment in our Railway and to sack Northern Rail.

Councillor James Baker said: "As someone who commutes for work myself I am all too aware of the frustration that is felt when at the end of a long day at work when you just want to get home you are faced with a cancelled train service."

 

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Our 2018 Local Election Manifesto

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The Liberal Democrats exist to build and safeguard a fair, free and open society, in which we seek to balance the fundamental values of liberty, equality and community, and in which no one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity.

Our 2018 Local Election Manifesto was put together by local residents, our members who live in Calderdale. It says what a Liberal Democrat run Council would strive to achieve for the community in which we all live together.

If you support these ideas and our values then vote for us on May 3rd. Together we can change the direction of Calderdale.

You can download a copy of our 2018 local election manifesto here


Budget report - Tories vote for a 6% Council tax rise!

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Budget Council Report
 

Tories Vote for 6% Council Tax Rise

The Conservative Group on Calderdale Council voted for a 5.99% rise in Council Tax for the coming year – despite spending five and a half hours of the meeting complaining about this was too high. Whatever the Tories put in their leaflets the fact is that, when it came to the vote on setting the Council Tax, every member of the Conservative Group who was at the meeting voted to increase Calderdale Council’s part of your Council Tax bill by nearly 6%.

Last year they voted for a 4.86% rise, despite spending the whole of that meeting complaining it was too large an increase. At that time you could only see this to be true by looking at the minutes of the meeting, this year you can do this and watch the recording of the meeting (https://calderdale.public-i.tv/core/portal/webcast_interactive/338536) to hear (but probably not see) each of them saying ‘for’ when voting on setting the Council Tax at a rate 6% higher than it is now.

          

Conservative Spending Plans Thrown Out

In the first significant vote of the evening, Liberal Democrat councillors voted against the Tory budget plans – as did Labour and Independent councillors.

If the Tories had had their way, many people on Council Tax benefits would have had to pay much more, £1/2 million would have been cut from Adult and Children’s social care, funding of Children’s Centres would have been cut by £690,000, the Housing Service would have been cut by £200,000 and council staff would have seen their pay and conditions significantly altered – and not in good ways. Not all of these points will find their way into Conservative leaflets but the fact that they would result in a Council Tax rise of ‘only’ 3.75% (including the 3% Adult Social Care Precept) will.

The Tories also planned to remove the extra funding for the environmental task force, which Liberal Democrat councillors pushed to get included in last year’s budget. Similarly, the cut to the Housing Service would have reduced the work done on affordable warmth, promoted by Liberal Democrats a few years ago.

The Conservative group’s proposals were not all bad news, especially if you are a management consultant, as they contained a sum of £200,000 to be paid to consultants to tell the council how to cut spending on social care.
As Liberal Democrat Group Leader Cllr James Baker said, these were not the proposals of a group serious about running the Council. James listed a number of Conservative-run authorities – that is, where Conservatives are actually having to make decisions about running a council, rather than just providing an irresponsible opposition – where Council Tax levels have been increased by the maximum permitted and still enormous cuts have had to be made.
 

Liberal Democrat Spending Plans Thrown Out

In a vote that was closer than it might have been, the Liberal Democrat Group’s budget proposals were also defeated: five votes for, 39 votes against, with four abstentions (the Mayor, who abstained on everything, the two Independent councillors and Conservative Councillor Andrew Tagg).

This Liberal Democrat budget proposals set out to:
  • Provide additional funding the winter gritting service – over and above the increase proposed by the Labour Cabinet;
  • Provide additional funding for highway maintenance;
  • Clean our streets with extra funding for Safer, Cleaner, Greener teams;
  • Create a budget for repairing or replacing play equipment in our parks;
  • Provide additional funding to support projects for young people;
  • Introduce a CCTV camera in West Vale to monitor traffic and tackle anti-social behaviour;
  • Fund two additional traffic calming schemes;
  • Continue the emergency living support grant;
  • Fund a Fire Safety Officer to implement lessons learnt from the Grenfell Tower fire, and
  • Protect the most vulnerable with extra funding to help the homeless. 
    The Liberal Democrat proposals also removed the Cabinet’s proposed cut to the Council’s enforcement team that could reduce the action taken against fly-tipping and anti-social behaviour.
To help to pay for these increases in spending the Liberal Democrat Group suggested two small-scale innovations – the setting up of a local lottery and using crowdfunding as sources of income to fund local community initiatives. Because of the difficult financial position Calderdale Council finds itself in, other reductions in spending were also included. The ones most likely to attract attention in the coming months are the reduction in library opening hours, which both Labour and the Conservatives opposed, and the introduction of unpaid leave for Council staff. This was also included in the Conservative proposals.

As Cllr Ashley Evans pointed out, the Liberal Democrat Group finds itself in the position of putting forward the “least worst cuts”.

It might be useful to some people to note that the Conservatives voted against:
  • CCTV for West Vale;
  • Increased funding for Youth Services (twice);
  • Traffic calming in Warley and Greetland & Stainland (twice);
  • Increased funding for play equipment in parks, and
  • Increased funding for highways maintenance.
 Labour also voted against these, but the traffic calming and Youth Service items were included in the budget they voted for.

Compromise Reached

Sometime after 11pm, Liberal Democrat, Labour and Independent councillors voted for the amended budget put forward around five hours earlier by the Leader of the Council. In a council where no political group has a majority, a compromise was inevitable and the amended budget was the result of discussions held over previous days. Discussions also took place between the Liberal Democrat and Conservative groups.

The Liberal Democrat Group supported this budget because it:
  • Reduced the saving required in Enforcement;
  • Included more money for the Safer, Cleaner, Greener Service, and
  • Included money for traffic calming measure in Greetland & Stainland and Warley 
    The final budget included the idea of establishing a Council-promoted lottery but did not, though, include money for CCTV cameras in West Vale, nor for improvements to play equipment.


Inconsistent Tories

Conservative councillors started the evening as the meant to go on – by asking for an adjournment so that they had time to look at the amended proposals being put forward by the Leader of the Council. Complaints about the lack of detail in the proposals continued for much of the evening. Cllr Marilyn Greenwood helpfully pointed out that detailed explanations for everything contained within the budget had been available for some time. That’s not what people wanted to hear, though.
The Tories complained about the lack of detail in the proposals of others, but they voted to cut Social Care spending by £500,000. We know there is no detail in this, as £200,000 was to be spent on consultants to come up with a plan. Sticking the word ‘transformation’ in a budget and banging on about ‘efficiencies’ are not the same as actually having some idea about what should happen.

They complained about prudential borrowing increasing the Council’s costs ‘for decades to come’ – but then proposed more of it;

They complained about the regressive nature of Council Tax – but then tried to make it much more regressive by imposing enormous increases on the poorest.

They claimed that their proposals made it clear that they planned to increase the Council Tax contribution rate of some benefit claimants to 30%, but no figure was given in the detailed sheets.

They complained about previous savings proposals being agreed, but not delivered. Their budget contained proposals that cannot be delivered without the agreement of others, notably the Boundary Commission.

They described the proposal to establish a council-promoted lottery as a ‘terrible idea’ and a ‘dangerous proposal’ that encourages gambling. The Conservatives, though, run their own lottery (https://lottery.conservatives.com/) and it is not unknown for Conservative-run councils to promote such schemes.

The Halifax Courier last week was full of Conservative councillors complaining about potholes and cuts in the highways maintenance budget. This week they voted against Liberal Democrat plans to increase this budget.

They complained about the inclusion of traffic calming measures for Greetland & Stainland and Warley being included in the budget, but they included plans to spend money in a number of places – all of which were coincidentally in Conservative-held wards. 

A Good Budget?

Although Liberal Democrat influence improved the Labour Cabinet’s proposals, it is still difficult to describe it as a good budget. There are too many cuts in it, and the Council Tax rise is higher than the Liberal Democrat group would have liked. This is due to the Conservative government continuing to cut the grant given to councils. In a few years this will disappear entirely. Councils up and down the country are struggling to balance their budgets, so it can’t just be a problem caused by the incompetence of Labour-run Calderdale Council, as the Tories suggested.

Government policy on Council Tax has also changed. A few years ago, councils were given money to freeze Council Tax. Now councils are being encouraged to increase Council Tax: the Adult Social Care precept has been introduced and the limit on Council Tax rises has been increased. Council Tax, which falls disproportionately on poorer people, is not a good way to address national problems such as social care for children and the elderly.


Quotes of the Evening
Not sure which is the winner – you can decide. Was it one of the Conservative councillors who noted that “we’ve heard a lot about the public sector tonight”? Not quite sure what he was expecting at a meeting at which a local authority was setting its budget. Or perhaps it was one of his colleagues who uttered words to the effect “I don’t know what’s going on in my ward”. Both of these statements have the advantage of being true, which can’t be said of everything that was said during the meeting.

Our Innovative proposals that protect services

Following the final local government financial settlement and feedback from our draft proposals, we are pleased to now release our final budget proposals to Cadlerdale Council.

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Liberal Democrat Budget Proposals for Calderdale Council 2018/19 – 2020/21

As Liberal Democrats we are keen to explore innovative ways of running and delivering local services. It is, for this reason, we are proposing a host of innovative new income sources. Picture a brighter future, a future in which the Council utilises technology, revitalises grass-roots democracy, and adopts new ways of working to protect the front line services that you rely on.  

 

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Calderdale Liberal Democrat Budget Proposals - Innovating to protect services

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Like many Northern Councils Calderdale Council has faced unprecedented cuts. This is against the backdrop of the Government being forced to borrow £122Bn extra to try and cover the cost of Brexit. Rather than ending the cuts to local government, we are as a nation now borrowing more to pay for Brexit.

On top of this, the number of elderly and vulnerable people the Council has a responsibility to look after is increasing. For every £1 the Council spends, 32.69p goes on supporting this group of people. In addition, while we welcome the 2% pay rise Public Sector Staff will be getting, this additional cost has not been adequately financed by the Government, so the burden falls onto the local Council to fund this pay rise.  It is against this challenging economic backdrop that we have prepared our budget proposals.

The Consumer Price Index rate of inflation is currently at 3%. We therefore propose putting up Council tax in line with this to ensure the Council maintains its spending power. In addition we are proposing to make use of the 3% Social Care Precept in 2018/19. This money will be spent directly on providing care to the most vulnerable. Despite these measures we still need to cut £1.8M from the budget in 2018/19 rising to £6M in 2019/20.

As Liberal Democrats we are keen to explore innovative ways of running and delivering local services. It is for this reason we are proposing new income sources. A local lottery scheme to support local good causes, a crowdfunding scheme to raise money towards community projects, investing more in commercial property developments and providing more commercial services.

We also want to reform how the Council is run. By reverting to the Committee system of governance we could cut the number of Councillors in receipt of additional responsibility allowances. By empowering all Councillors to make decisions in committees we would revitalise our local democracy and save money.

Our priorities in this budget have been finding innovative ways to raise revenue, and using this revenue to both protect the most vulnerable while providing more of the front line services that people value such as gritting, well maintained highways and parks.

We will increase Council spending to:

  • Protect the most vulnerable with extra funding to help the homeless;
  • Provide and additional funding as pledged for our winter gritting service;
  • Provide additional funding for highway maintenance;
  • Create a budget for building new park play equipment;
  • Provide additional funding to support projects for young people;
  • Introduce a CCTV camera in West Vale to monitor traffic and tackle anti-social behaviour;
  • Undertake two additional traffic calming schemes;
  • Continue the emergency living support grant;
  • Appoint a Fire Safety Officer to implement lessons learnt from the Grenfell Tower fire.

To achieve this we will:

  • Introduce two days unpaid annual leave for Council Staff;
  • Outsource and/or Collaborate on the delivery of Back Office Services;
  • Reduce Opening Hours in Hub and Spoke Libraries by 30%;
  • Move to a Committee System of local governance and cut Councillor pay;
  • Introduce a local lottery scheme;
  • Start to raise funds for community projects via crowdfunding;
  • Start investing some of the Council’s funds into commercial property;
  • Increase charges for bereavement services;
  • Offer more commercial services to raise revenue.

You can download and view our full budget here.

We have provided information sheets with our budget on any growth areas or savings that were not contained within the cabinet's proposals. If you want information on any of the funding proposals that are also in the cabinet's proposals then you can view those here.

These are our draft proposals and we have published them for public consultation. We would love to hear what you think so please feel free to leave your comments or to get in touch with us about them. 


81 teachers in Calderdale on long-term stress leave

There were 81 teachers in Calderdale on long-term stress leave in 2016/17.

It means one in twenty-seven local teachers has been off work for longer than a month with stress in the past year.

The Liberal Democrats have said the figures "laid bare the impossible pressures teachers are under" and warned that stress caused by an obsession with exam results is fuelling the teacher recruitment crisis.

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Hundreds of homes across Calderdale left empty for years 

Nearly 100 homes in Calderdale have been sitting empty for ten years or more, research by the Liberal Democrats has revealed. 

The figures, uncovered through Freedom of Information requests, show that there are over 1,300 homes across Calderdale that have been empty for six months or more. Of these, 278 had been empty for two years or more, 101 for five years or more, and nearly 100 have stood empty for at least ten years.

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Conservative MP for Calder Valley fails to stand up for our Greenbelt

Despite his claims to be standing up to protect our Greenbelt a  freedom of information act request carried out by Calderdale Liberal Democrats has revealed that Craig Whittaker the Conservative MP for Calder Valley has not had any formal correspondence with the Department for Communities and Local Government over the Council's local plan.

Calderdale Council is currently being forced by the Government to find housing sites for nearly 16,000 new homes in its local plan. Any plan that involves building this many houses in the Borough will lead to the loss of greenbelt in places like Greetland, Stainland, Brighouse, Elland and Halifax. 

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Council Supports Liberal Democrat Call to halt Universal Credit

Calderdale Council has backed the Liberal Democrat group’s call for the roll-out of Universal Credit to be halted until the many problems with the scheme are sorted out.

Cllr Pat Allen (Elland) placed a motion on the agenda of the Council Meeting (22nd November) setting out the problems that have dogged the scheme and calling for the government to suspend its roll out until these are sorted out.

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Council Should Use Its Legal Powers To Tackle Anti-Social Behaviour

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Liberal Democrat councillors are urging Calderdale Council to do more to tackle anti-social behaviour.

Recently-released figures show that reports of anti-social behaviour increased by over 13% between 2014 and 2016, and that over 5,500 reports have been made so far this year.

Liberal Democrat Group Leader, Cllr James Baker (Warley) says: “just a few individuals engaging in anti-social behaviour can have a devastating effect on other people and the communities in which they live. The rise in reported incidents over the last three years is very worrying and suggests that there is still a lot of work for the Council, the police and others to do to make sure that people are safe and feel safe.”

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