Council Working Groups to be Open to Public

Liberal Democrat councillors have welcomed the decision to hold meetings of Council Working Groups in public.

Cllr James Baker (Liberal Democrat, Warley) told us: “I raised this matter at the Council Meeting held in February and so I am very pleased that it has been accepted by the Council. This is an important step in making the council more open and accountable to the public. As a result of us raising this issue, the public will now be able to attend Council meetings that were previously held behind closed doors”

“There will be times when information about individuals or sensitive financial matters are being discussed and these will have to be considered in private, but that is no different to what happens now at all Council committee meetings. The important principle has been established that these meetings will be held in public unless there is a very good reason not to.”

“This is just the latest example of something that Liberal Democrat councillors have pursued over many years. We pressed for a public question time at meetings of the full Council, and introduced it at Cabinet meetings. The public have a right to know not only what decisions have been taken on their behalf, but also how those decisions are arrived at. This should be a more open process from now on” said Cllr Baker.

Calderdale Labour leader rejects calls to take action against candidate defending Ken Livingstone’s ‘Hitler’ comments.

Both the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats have asked that the Calderdale Labour party take action against a Calderdale Labour candidate who has called for Ken Livingstone to be reinstated into the Labour party. Their candidate has also shared a story that claims Livingstone was ‘vindicated’ in making his anti-Semitic ‘Hitler’ comments. The story rakes up an old conspiracy theory that Hitler was a Zionist which was first cooked up by up by an American Trotskyist called Lenni Brenner.

A further Labour candidate has shared a petition calling on John Mann to be expelled from the Labour party. This is the MP who stood up to Ken Livingstone for making his comments about Hitler and Zionism.

BringBackKen

mn ken

However rather than take action against these candidates the Labour leader has sought to defend their actions. Claiming that they are opposed to anti-Semitism. He goes on to warn the  Conservative leader and another Conservative Councillor about possible legal consequences for making allegations against Labour candidates. You can read a copy of his email that was sent to members of the Council below.
Thank you for your email.
 
I can assure you that every member of the Labour group, and all our candidates, stand by the values stated in the amended resolution from the council debate last Wednesday.
 
And to provide further context, rather than the selective quotes forwarded to you, M Naeem has also clearly indicated his support for Jeremy Corbyn’s statement on the issue confirming his and our opposition to anti-semitism.
 
This is an important issue which should not be used for cynical political advantage. I was therefore shocked and dismayed to see Cllr Tagg say in the forwarded email “we need to take advantage of this”. I hope that you will agree that this is completely unacceptable.
 
May I also point out that both you and Cllr Tagg have re-published the email subject line, “Anti-Semitic Labour candidates”. As the email names two individuals, this appears to be a specific allegation that these two individuals are anti -Semitic. I am not a lawyer but that would seem to be potentially libellous and may also involve the publication of a false statement regarding a candidate, which is an election offence under s106 of the Representation of the People Act 1983. This is likely to be particularly serious in regard to Naeem, who was for many years the Chief Executive of Rochdale Racial Equality Council. –
Email to Councillors from Tim Swift – Labour Council leader – 2nd May 2016

Calderdale Council has spent £327,000 on empty offices at Dean Clough.

DeanClough

Calderdale Council moved out of the offices it was leasing at Dean Clough two years ago, but is still paying £163,500 per year for the space. That means that the Council has paid out nearly one-third of a million pounds for something that is of no benefit for the people of Calderdale.

As the lease has over six years still to run, a further million pounds could well be wasted in the same way. Clearly the Council needs to take action to reduce this wasteful spending or, hopefully, get rid of it altogether.

This also calls into question the wisdom of the Council in entering into long leases that it can’t easily get out of.

Even if the Council’s coffers were overflowing with cash, this would be an unacceptable waste of public money. In these difficult times it is even more intolerable.

The tax-payers of Calderdale and the Council staff who are at risk of losing their jobs over the coming years would be right to be appalled by this wasteful use of scarce resources.

Those members of Calderdale Liberal Democrats who enjoyed our guest speaker at our AGM…

… may be interested to know that she is writing a book based partially on the speech and Q&A she gave us. If you would like a copy you can back the kickstarter here.

The amount being asked for the Kickstarter is symbolic — £1,008 is the fee for UK citizenship *after* you’ve already passed the so-called citizenship test and paid thousands in visas, which Holly has. I’ve gone for the signed copy, myself.

Those of you who couldn’t make the AGM, I can promise you a good read if you buy the book. Holly is a great, engaging writer, and certainly has interesting things to say (as those who did make the AGM can attest).

Housing Improvement Areas for flooded homes

 

Liberal Democrat group leader Councillor Janet Battye is calling for new ‘Housing Improvement Areas’ to be set up to enable Calderdale Council to work with all the homeowners and residents in areas affected by floods. A plan could then be devised to refurbish houses devastated by floods and build in long-term flood resilience and protection.

Cllr Battye (Calder) said: “After talking to residents in my ward, Hebden Bridge and Todmorden, it seems to me to make sense for the Council to bring together groups of residents and homeowners to help them work out what needs to be done for individual houses and for the locality. That way houses can be fully repaired and refurbished following the Boxing Day flood and be future-proofed against further flooding.

“By an imaginative scheme like this, we can help areas of housing get properly repaired and look better than they do at the moment, but also take advantage of the opportunity to protect them from future flooding. It may need walls being built, drainage improved, or pumps installed.

“I am sure funding could be found if there is a will to do this. The new Flood Fund created by the Council at its recent Budget meeting could fund Council staff to help run the scheme, and the £5,000 resilience grants can be pooled. Any and all other sources of funding should be pursued.

“The recent floods showed the ability and willingness of local people to work together for the common good and the Council could now build on this. Together we can achieve much more than we can individually” said Cllr Battye “and there is scope to establish these improvement areas from Todmorden through the Calder Valley to Elland and Brighouse.”

 

Liberal Democrat Group Statement on Calderdale Council’s Budget

Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group, Cllr Janet Battye (Calder) said: “The Council finds itself in a difficult position as the Conservative government has failed to provide enough funding for flood recovery and has also reduced the government grant the Council is getting. Although we appreciate the challenges the administration has in drawing up a budget in these difficult circumstances we couldn’t support either the Labour or Conservative budget proposals.

“Locally, the Conservative’s budget proposals to withhold staff sick pay for three days would penalise people who are genuinely ill and result in them coming in whilst sick and spreading diseases. They also proposed to remove negotiated pay scales for staff. The Council should be a decent employer with good management practices and these proposals are not in accordance with that.

“They claim that parking is a ‘basic right’ and we must keep parking charges low whilst proposing to increase charges elsewhere, such as the bulky waste collection fee. People have said that they are prepared to pay more for some things to protect local services: changes in charging needs to be better thought through than this.

“Labour proposed that everyone ought to pay more Council tax to cover the cost of the flooding. We don’t think it’s fair that people on a low income in Calderdale will have to pay more because people elsewhere in the Borough got flooded. The cost of the flooding should be borne by central government and fair taxation systems where the richest pay most, not local Council tax payers.

“If the Liberal Democrats were running Calderdale Council we would want a Council that gets things done and is greener in approach. We’re frustrated at how long it’s taking this Council get the Local Plan done, to complete the review of Council buildings, and to share services and costs between the Council and other organisations within Calderdale,. The Boxing Day floods showed the value of “community hubs” which local people started for themselves and we want to see the Council doing more of this.

“We’ve asked the Council to implement a host of energy efficiencies such as switching to LED Street lighting, and improving the energy efficiency of Council buildings.

“If measures such as these were implemented, then the Council could have more funding available for the services which matter to everyone, such as keeping the streets clean and free of dog fouling.”

Kramer comments on Google tax deal report

Commenting on today’s report by MPs on the Public Accounts Committee about the UK’s controversial tax deal with Google, Liberal Democrat economic spokesperson Susan Kramer said we need to ‘fix the broken tax system’.

“This report puts beyond doubt the simple fact that our tax system is broken.  The fact that Google, or any other big multinational company, can get away paying the bare minimum of taxation puts British business at a competitive disadvantage and leaves ordinary tax payers worse off.

“Instead of trying to claim credit for what is a truly pathetic settlement with Google, the Chancellor should be trying to fix a corporate tax system that is clearly no longer fit for purpose.  We need a system which allows HMRC to bring the full weight of UK law in ensuring that companies pay their fair share, no matter how much an hour their lawyers charge.”

It is a mistake to force a new contract on junior doctors – Norman Lamb

“It is a mistake to force a new contract on junior doctors when there is clearly still such strong opposition to its terms. There is a serious risk that large numbers of junior doctors will leave the NHS to go and work abroad, which will have serious consequences for the health service and patient safety.

“Growing demand for services, coupled with a funding settlement which doesn’t keep up, are the fundamental problems facing health and care and yet the Government is refusing to take real action to address this.

“What we need is a cross party commission to fundamentally review  NHS and care funding, to ensure we can give a fair deal to both patients and NHS staff in years to come.

“Forcing changes to the junior doctors contract is completely the wrong thing for the Government to be focussing on at this critical time in the future of the NHS”.