Councillor Pat Allen still working for Elland

Like us all Pat has been in lock down for almost a year but has still found ways to help those in Elland who have been, and are, in difficulties as she has always done during the more than 21 years she has been a councillor. She helped found the Elland Food Bank some years ago and it has never been more needed than now. Pat is often there helping and is regularly contacted by folk in need. She also helps fill the family food bags, desperately needed by our children. Pat explained “It is not acceptable for mothers to go hungry so their children don’t, and as you can see they get a lot more than the government’s miserable offering  highlighted by     Marcus Rashford”

A message from Pat.

"Firstly I want to thank all our health, care, teachers, emergency and essential workers for the skill, dedication and sheer hard work they have undertaken for so long. We owe you a huge debt of gratitude.

Secondly, please, if you are offered a vaccine accept it! Vaccination is a key element on our route back to a more normal life.

Finally, please obey the rules. They are hard, they are inconvenient and they can be difficult but they are necessary and will, along with vaccination, save lives and help us out of this crisis.

Thank you for the part you are playing in keeping us all safe."

 

Pat Allen’s  experience is invaluable for our community. It’s been gained through sacrifice, dedication and tenacity. Make sure we keep Pat Allen and her experience — Elland needs her.

 

To contact Councillor Pat Allen  either email :-[email protected]

Or telephone or text:   07767043365

 

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Many people in Elland know that if they need help then Pat is the person to contact. Sometimes it only requires Pat to contact the right person in the right department and the problem can be solved. Sometimes it can be a matter of life and death. Pat’s help has been such that this is what some of them have written. Most of us are fortunate enough not to find ourselves in need of such help but if one day we do, we need Pat Allen to still be there to help.


An entrepreneurial and philanthropic approach is needed to reduce cuts and council tax rises.

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Calderdale Council is currently run by a Labour administration. Their budget for this year contains plans for:

  • Closure of Mixenden Activity Centre.
  • Closure of Libraries including Hipperholme and Lightcliffe, Mytholmroyd and Skircoat.
  • Cuts to Youth Justice Services.
  • Closure of Tourist information centres.
  • Reduction of opening hours of household waste centres.
  • Selling off Clay house and other cultural assets.
  • Closure of Brighouse Customer first and civic hall.
  • Scrapping a 2.5% pay rise for public sector workers and implementing a pay freeze for two years.
  • The maximum 4.9% Council tax rise possible.

Many of these cuts are the result of the Conservative Government’s continued cuts to the Council’s maintenance cuts. However, the authority ranking in the lowest 15th  local authorities in the country for home building has also meant we have lost out on millions of ‘new homes bonus’ funding. For example if Calderdale had built as many homes as Wakefield we wouldn't have needed a single penny Council Tax rise this year.

Calderdale Liberal Democrats are suggesting a more entrepreneurial and philanthropic approach is needed to help generate more of an income locally and therefore reduce the cuts to public services.

Cllr James Baker leader of Calderdale Liberal Democrats said:

"During these challenging times, the Council faces further cuts to services and Council tax rises.”

“We are once again suggesting a community lottery scheme, a system of voluntary extra contributions, and utilizing internet crowdfunding for projects to unlock the community spirit of the Borough.”

“In Halifax’s heyday the Liberal MP for Halifax Sir Francis Crossley donated Almhouses, People’s Park and Crossley Heath School to the people of the Borough. This historic example demonstrates what industry and communities working together can achieve.”

Liberal Democrat Councillor Paul Bellenger said:

“There are many areas of the Council that if managed with a more commercial and entrepreneurial spirit would provide better outcomes for residents. For example, Calderdale was losing £60K a year from running car boot sales. Whereas car boot sales could easily be generating an income with a bit of business sense.”

Liberal Democrat Councillor Ashley Evans said:

“With revenue budgets facing cuts one area the Council has got the power to do things is its capital budget. Sadly, here we see huge inequalities across the Borough. For example, suburban areas in North Halifax losing out. There is not a single capital project allocated for Warley Ward that I represent. The Mixenden Activity Centre is threatened to close and the Three Ways Centre in Ovenden is shut.”

Liberal Democrat Councillor Sue Holdsworth said:

“As a borough we are failing to fully utilise our cultural assets. From the Crag Vale Coiners to Ann Lister’s house in Shibden Hall we have some amazing stories to tell.”

“The Council’s decision to close tourist information centres when we are trying to generate foot fall and the economy after COVID is short-sighted. By improving and creating new attractions that tell our cultural history we could generate increased tourism and income for the Council.”

Liberal Democrat Councillor Amanda Parsons-Hulse said:

“One area the Council could both save money and improve outcomes is for our children who are looked after. Currently, we pay thousands of pounds a year to private providers who have cornered the market for these placements.”

“It makes sense of us to build new homes here in Calderdale to look after our children locally. This could lead to better outcomes, and more funds to spend on early intervention and preventative efforts in social care.”


Focus on Feburary's Council Meeting

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Tributes to Marilyn

The meeting started with tributes being paid to, Cllr Marilyn Greenwood (Greetland & Stainland) who died at the beginning of February. Speeches were made by the Mayor, her chaplain Canon Hilary Barber, three group leaders, the Chief Executive and other councillors. Mention was made of Marilyn’s dedication to her ward and to the causes she felt passionately about. A slideshow of Marilyn’s favourite photographs was shown accompanied by a recording of the Calderdale Choir, of which Marilyn was a member.

Waste Collections

At the November 2020 Council Meeting, a petition was submitted opposing reductions in the waste and recycling collection service that were under consideration at that time. As the petition had garnered over 3,000 signatures, the issue automatically gained a place on this Council Meeting’s agenda. Paul Bellenger (Greetland & Stainland) led the debate, highlighting the options that were being considered earlier: closure of some of the waste/recycling sites; reduced frequency of collections, and the withdrawal of the household collection service for some rural properties. James Baker (Warley) commented that the size of the petition showed how much local residents valued universal services such as waste collection. However, while Paul led, very few councillors followed, with just one Labour councillor pointing out that the Cabinet had not found it necessary to pursue many of the savings options initially put forward.

Council Transparency Questioned

James Baker questioned whether the Council was as open and transparent as it claimed. The recording of the November Council Meeting had not yet been placed on the Council’s YouTube channel; a Cabinet key decision list had again been published containing no upcoming items; Cabinet agenda papers had recently been published later than normal and spending reductions agreed under the Future Council programme were difficult to follow.

Access to Education

Ashley Evans (Warley) expressed his concern that, especially in the current lockdown situation, children from lower income households had less access to education than those who were better off. The effects this may stay with them for the rest of their lives, said Ashley.

Waste and Recycling Collections Need to be Improved

Following increases in complaints from residents about missed collections, increased fly-tipping and more sightings of rats, Ashley Evans placed a motion on the Council agenda calling for the Cabinet to come up with a plan to improve the waste collection service.

Ashley told the meeting that the quality of the waste collection was a big issue for residents and the service seemed to be struggling to cope with the extra demand caused by many people being at home and many children not at school. While the collection crews were working very hard, there were increased reports of missed collections and rats and other vermin. Fly-tipping was a big problem in some areas – especially in poorer parts of the borough – and his calls for a more pro-active approach to tackling it, including greater use of mobile CCTV cameras, had gone unanswered.

James Baker agreed that the collection crews were working hard, but recent events had tipped the service over the edge and capacity needed to be increased. James also criticised the government for not doing enough to shift workers from commercial waste services where demand had fallen to domestic waste collection where they were more needed.

Labour councillors, though, reported much better experiences with waste collections in their wards and replaced Ashley’s motion with a self-congratulatory statement of what has been done to improve matters. As Ashley pointed out, whatever has been done has been shown to be inadequate and the service being received by residents is not good enough


Council should be investing in Wind power

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Calderdale Liberal Democrats are calling for the Council to stop investing in fossil fuels and Petrol Stations and instead explore the possibility of purchasing Ovenden Moor Wind Farm.

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Tribute paid to kind-hearted Councillor Marilyn Greenwood

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Cllr Marilyn Greenwood was a devoted wife, mother, grandmother, and daughter. A person who cared so much about her family, a dedicated Councillor to her constituents and a pillar of the community. It is with great sadness that we announce her passing.

She fought hard for what she believed was right and during her time representing Greetland and Stainland Ward for the Liberal Democrats from 2014-2021.

During her term of office she represented resident’s interests on campaigns to improve children’s dentistry, to improve the local plan and adult health issues. Marilyn was passionate about trying to improve the health and lives of others.

During her final months serving as a Councillor during the pandemic Marilyn thought of others first. Working to set up a volunteer network to help vulnerable local residents she represented.

A remarkable woman with many talents, a singer, a marathon running and recently and author of a  book titled The Whistler: A Harrowing True Story. Marilyn will be missed by many but remembered by more.

 


What a load of Bollards - How the Council spent £1/2M on 'emergency active travel'

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In response to the pandemic Councils all over the Country have received funding for 'emergency active travel' (Active travel is Local Government speak for cycling and walking). This week Calderdale Council met, the lead member responsible for this funding Cllr Jane Scullion presented a report. It said:

"In response to the pandemic we’ve successfully implemented emergency active travel measures to the tune of approximately £568k. As well as social distancing, the measures have enabled 12 school streets and improved cycle facilities in a number of schools."

I was suspicious of how £568K of money was spent. It's a large chunk. It's 14 times as much as the £40K the Council provided towards ending Child Hunger. So I asked for a breakdown, and below is the list of what I was sent. 

The first thing I noticed was out of the £568K only 5K ended up to help with social distancing outside of schools. Another £13K on COVID signage. The real big ticket items were £121K on rising bollards for Halifax Town Centre and £157K on temporary barriers. I don't understand how either of these things promote cycling or walking or help combat COVID and the pandemic. I'm told as well the local authority is renting these barriers.

At a time when Local Government funds are in such short supply this represents another wasted opportunity by the Labour administration running Calderdale to both tackle the pandemic, and improve cycling and walking routes. Only a small amount of the money actually ended up being spent on improving cycling and walking routes. Most went on temporary measures to annoy and frustrate motorists.

And if anyone has any answers as to how you can spend £1,800 on a single bollard or £10,000 on a cargo bike please let us know. (update someone has kindly let us know about the £10,000 for the Cargo bike and this line was also spent on other equipment in addition to the bike itself and on some training which is good news).

 


Making Votes Matter

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This is an invitation to join the Upper Calder Valley Liberal Democrat branch meeting on 21st January at 19.00 to hear a short talk by Paul Clooney from the Make Votes Matter Team. This group of people advocates proportional representation but does not belong to a particular political party. Paul will talk for 10 – 15 minutes, followed by questions and discussion.
Proportional representation is obviously a key policy for Liberal Democrats but maybe, like me, you are unsure of the different systems used in proportional representation, or what we can do to encourage more people to support the idea. If this is the case please do join us.
The zoom details are:
https://zoom.us/j/98080186429?pwd=dTBTSTd1cjNhbXZJTHk1WHRwclh1Zz09

This meeting is not confined to members, or even Lib Dems, so if you know of anyone else you think might be interested please pass on the details.
If you would like to contact me you can do so here:

[email protected];
07967480874;
01706 558860

 


Governemnt nationally and locally should have listened to teachers

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As we head into another lockdown it is astonishing that teachers and parents in Calderdale had to put up with the farcical situation where schools went back just for one day. So much work, effort and stress went into trying to open schools only for one day later the Government to change its mind and close them. We have to acknowledge that the Teacher's Union (NEU) was right to say it was unsafe.

If the Government had acted sooner schools could have been working on home learning arrangements instead of trying to figure out if they would be able to open. Sadly the lateness with which we have entered into each period of lockdown has made each one less effective, costing more lives and hurting the economy more and more.

It is also a shame that locally here in Calderdale the Labour Council administration did not listen to many of the Concerns being raised by NEU members. If the Council had been more pro-active in listening to the NEU, rather than waiting to see what happened, and leaving it down to head teachers to make tough decisions then this situation could have been avoided.

We would now like to see the Council start to put more of an effort into tackling the increasing inequality and disadvantage that will arise from missed education. As a society we can't allow our children's future's to ruined by this pandemic. Particularly more effort could be made in setting up more apprenticeships for people leaving school during the pandemic, whose final years of education have faced such disruption.

 


Liberal Democrats condemn Labour's approach to cuts

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The blame for the cuts lies mainly with the Conservative Government, but the Labour Council's handling of things is making them worst.

Rather than balancing the books by cutting assets we argue more should be done to look at how we can generate an income to reduce cuts to public services.

Calderdale Council has to take urgent action to balance its books.

The fault for these cuts predominantly lie with the Conservative Government who have continued to cut funding to local Government. To make matters worst the pandemic has resulted in extra costs and a loss in officer capacity to deal with the pre-existing financial problems. Rather than helping Council's that provide vital public services the Conservatives have just announced they are not going to provide us with a clear three-year financial settlement. This makes it very difficult for any Local Council to make plans for the future when there is just so much uncertainty with funding.

Labour like to make out the blame for this lies all with the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats. However, in 2010 all political parties argued there needed to be some cuts. Labour politicians such as Alasdair Darling said they would cut more than Thatcher did. In 2010 there was too much fat in Local Government, but we are now cutting to the bone. 

Locally Labour have argued that they handled the initial cuts well. In 2019 Cllr Tim Swift  the Leader of the Council said "”I am proud that in Calderdale, so far we have been able to protect vital services such as children’s centres; improve children’s services; and give a sense of hope with vital investment for the future. But unless national policy changes, continued cuts in funding could put vital local services at risk." We agree that the Liberal Democrat & Labour Coalition that ran Calderdale from 2010 onwards, and then the minority Labour administration that we helped to keep in check didn't do too badly at managing cuts.

We also agree 100% with Cllr Tim Swift that the Conservatives cuts are now putting services at risk.

However rather than protecting us from the cuts the Labour administration's handling of the current financial crisis is making them worst.

Lacking Transparency, Failing to work with others and Keeping Cuts Hidden from Voters

In their 2020/21 budget for Calderdale Labour stated there would need to be over '£2M worth of cuts to be identified’. They failed to name what would be cuts as they knew they would be an election liability. Now they are trying to rush through cuts via Cabinet decisions and avoid the scrutiny of Full Council. In this sense they are acting in the same way as Boris Johnson and his Government who avoid Parliamentary scrutiny of their Coronavirus regulations. Identifying savings sooner would have resulted in better financial planning.

Opposition groups have offered to work with the administration, but they have declined to work with us. Most of the 51 Councillors you elect are excluded from any decision-making with a tiny handful of Labour Councillors that form the cabinet making all the cuts. This is leading to poor decision-making. Many Liberal Democrats in our Council group have experience of running successful businesses. All our knowledge and expertise is being wasted.

The Leader of the Council is meant to publish a forward plan of all decisions. However, cuts have either been omitted from any forward plans or they have been obscured by burying them in Cabinet Papers with names such as the ‘Future Council Delivery Plan’. In November 2020 the Council published a blank key decision list for the next three months - https://www.calderdale.gov.uk/council/councillors/democracy/key-decisions/index.jsp. Is Councillor Tim Swift seriously suggesting that in the next three months his administration will make no key decisions?

Staff at the Mixenden Activity Centre have found out the centre is going too close and that their jobs are at risk via the press. This is a disgusting way for any employer to announce redundancies to staff. We need advance notice of what is proposed to be cut, so we can properly research the areas and explore all the alternative ways to save money or generate more income.

Failing to do Equalities Impact Assessments Before Decesions are made

The Council has a public sector equalities duty to carry out equalities impact assessments on financial decisions. Guidance from the Equalities and Human Rights Commission states 'The general equality duty requires public authorities to have due regard to the aims of the general equality duty when making decisions and setting policies'. Yet the cabinet of the Council is saying it will do equalities impact assessments AFTER the cabinet paper and its reccomendations are agreed. It is impossible that they have considered their public sector equality duty of they have not consisdered the equalities impacts BEFORE decesions are made.

In the Guidance issued to public sector financial decesion makers the Commision states: 'Assessments of the impact on equality must be carried out at a formative stage so that the assessment is an integral part of the development of a proposed policy, not a later justification of a policy that has already been adopted'

 

Labour Running Budget Deficits and Lacking business sense

Labour’s budgets over recent years have all run a deficit. This has meant that the Council’s reserves have been run down. Although we accept the point you would not want vast reserves going unused whilst services were being cut, you also shouldn't delay making difficult decisions. The longer you delay the worst the financial position becomes. The Chartered Institute of public finance & Accountancy produces a Financial Resilience Index of all local authorities. They identify the current levels of reserves and changes in reserves for the local authority as high risk areas.

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Running Budget Deficits and running down reserves builds up larger problems for the future. Take your own household income. If you were eating into your savings every month then the sooner you took action to reduce costs or increase income the better. The Council is no different.

As you can see the Council has a relatively low debt burden. This does suggest there is scope to borrow to help fund changes that would be required to implement a commercialization agenda on the Council.

When it comes to running things efficiently it is clear no one in the current administration has any business sense. To give you an example they have managed to rack up losses of £63K a year from running car boot sales. They own the land, and they just need to collect money from people coming in, rent out some space for some food stalls and provide a few staff to manage it. Instead, they had staff working on overtime rates and breaking EU working time directives. Is it any wonder illegally overworked staff on overtime pay are raking up losses? When the markets service was looked at from the internal audit it got a 'weak' rating. There were poor financial controls in place for the collection of money. Only an incompetent Labour administration could lose £60K a year of taxpayers money on running car boot sales.

Liberal Democrat proposals for a green, efficient, and commercially minded Council would improve the authority’s income and mean fewer cuts to public services.

The Local Government Association has produced a best practice map of commercialisation. Commercialisation is the practice of looking at the Council’s assets and services and exploring ways in which an income can be generated from them. This income is then available for the authority to spend on delivering public services that we all rely on.

We know that Local Government has had large amounts of funding cut by Government. We can protest about the cuts, and we can blame the Government but this is unlikely to change anything. What we can do as a Local Authority is focus on improving our own approach to commercialisation. Here are some ideas of what it might mean in practice:

Improving income from our buildings.

  • Manor Heath Jungle experience costs just £1 to get in. We believe with a capital investment in the experience this could easily be turned into a tourist attraction that generated an income for the Council. The same is true of Shibden Hall and some of our Museums.
  • The Council could modernise and market its wedding services. We have fantastic historic buildings such as the Town Hall, Registry Office and Clay House for wedding venues.
  • Renting out Council space. =- The Town Hall makes for an impressive meeting venue we should look to commercialise the opportunities to rent out space rather than letting it sit empty. We also often have office space that sits empty.

Providing Support Services to Schools, Businesses and Charities

  • The Council already provides commercial services to Schools. This service should be improved and marketed.
  • We should look to expand the services we offer in areas such as HR support, Training, ICT, compliance advice and consultancy to the NGO and Charitable Sectors and to business start-ups.
  • Pest Control & waste services – The Council should look to commercialise and promote its pest control services and expand things like garden waste services and bulky waste services as commercial enterprises.

Empowering people to contribute directly

  • We would introduce a community lottery scheme with revenue raised locally going towards small grants. This would remove the requirement to fund small grants directly from Council Tax Income
  • Introduce a system of voluntary additional Council Tax Payments. In practice this would work by offering people the opportunity to donate to different funds. For example, you could pay an extra £1 a month to contribute to a tree planting scheme or £5 a month to help fund our work with homeless people. Both Labour and Conservative Councils elsewhere in the Country have introduced these schemes.
  • Introduce a Council Crowdfunding site where community projects can be directly funded by residents.

Reviewing existing fees

The Council currently charges fees for a range of services. We would review these to ensure that prices reflected the market value of the services being provided.

We do not have a monopoly on ideas for the Local Authority to generate more of an income and therefore cut fewer services. There are plenty of people in Calderdale with business expertise. We call on the Labour administration to make use of this business expertise to reduce cuts to public services.


Remembering Lord Shutt of Greetland OBE, 1942–2020

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There is a golden thread that passed through the life of David Shutt who passed away on Friday 30 October 2020, aged 78, following a short illness. Golden because that was the colour in which he fought his many elections as a Liberal and then a Liberal Democrat and golden because of the bright and lasting effect he has had on the people and communities he served during his life of exceptional public service.

David was born in Farsley and attended Pudsey Grammar Scholl before joining a firm of accountants in Leeds. After qualification as a chartered accountant he moved to the firm of Bousfield Waite in Halifax eventually becoming senior partner. He joined the Liberal Party whilst still in his teens and was active in Pudsey Young Liberals where he met his wife to be Margaret Pemberton who he married in 1965.

 

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