Liberal Democrat support request for government help with carbon reduction

Local Liberal Democrats gave their support for the lobby of government on Calderdale’s ‘ask’ for help with reducing carbon emissions, extending renewable energy, developing sustainable integrated transport, reducing fuel poverty by improving affordable warmth.

We’ve come a long way with the work done by Calder Energy Future over the last few years” says Liberal Democrat Group Leader, Cllr Janet Battye. “This is now a strong working group with active involvement from enthusiastic people across all areas of the community, including businesses.

But the challenge is so significant that it can’t be met without real and tangible support from government, so I’m delighted that we’re being represented in this national lobby.

I’m sorry to hear that it’s likely that only one of our newly elected MPs will be there. I understand that although the date was fixed with Craig Whittaker before the election, he may be too busy to participate in it. This issue is important to many local people so I hope that it’s important to him and that he will represent us.”

Liberal Democrats not Supporting Labour or Conservative Council Leadership Bids

Calderdale Council’s Liberal Democrat Group has not supported either the Conservative or Labour groups’ nominations for Leader of the Council.

Liberal Democrat Group Leader, Cllr Janet Battye (Calder) told us: “We have not done a deal with either group, and have not even tried to. We will support or oppose any decisions that are made purely on their merits and whether we believe these to be in the best interests of the people of Calderdale.”

“Our priorities in opposition will be to push for the policies democratically determined by our local grass roots members and included in our manifesto for Calderdale. These include sorting out the mess of the Highways Department, reforming the Council so local residents have a real say in decision making and ensuring the Council is  run efficiently to mitigate the impact of increased cuts a majority Conservative government is likely to impose

Read our local election manifesto

Our local election manifesto sets out our ambitions to improve local services. To date we are the only political party in Calderdale to publish a local election manifesto for the local Council elections that take place on May 7th, the same day as the general election.

The manifesto sets out policies and ideas we would implement if we were running the Council. Some of the highlights of their manifesto include:

  • A commitment to resurface local roads.
  • Reforming the Council’s top heavy management structure and sharing “back office” functions with other local organisations and services to make the Council more efficient.
  • Exploring the possibility of the debt on Calderdale Royal Hospital being bought out to get rid of the debt that Labour saddled local people with.
  • Continuing to improve waste collection and recycling to include garden waste and plastics.
  • Involving local people more in how the Council makes decisions through consultations, ward forums, web casting meetings and opening up planning committees.

Our local election manifesto is full of ideas from our grass roots members who are all Calderdale residents.  All of our members were invited to attend our manifesto day where everyone had a chance to discuss and put forward ideas to be included in the manifesto. As a democratic party our members who are all local Calderdale residents have had a real say in shaping this manifesto.

On May 7th there are two elections and people will have two decisions to make. This manifesto demonstrates our serious commitment to improving local services and the difference voting Liberal Democrat locally will make.


Mohammad Ilyas launches Halifax Liberal Democrat Parliamentary campaign

The Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate for Halifax Mohammad Ilyas opened his campaign office on Hopwood Lane last Saturday to mark the start of his election campaign.  Mohammad who lives in Halifax is the first ever British Pakistani candidate to have been selected to contest the seat.


Mohammad joined the Liberal Democrats in 2002 and has never been a member of any other party. He is a firm believer in having a fair, free and open society for all regardless of class, colour or religion. A hard working individual who has strong beliefs of liberal values, Mohammad is a firm believer that local people need a change that offers hope for a better future.

Mohammad is an experienced campaigner and represented the Liberal Democrats in the Park Ward, Calderdale as a Councillor from 2008 till 2012. The seat had previously never been held by the Liberal Democrats, having always been a Labour strong hold.

Mohammad feels that Halifax needs a local campaigner who lives in the area and is willing to fight for the local people. Over recent years, he has campaigned on many local issues. These have included:

  • Talking to local faith groups into understanding the liberal rights of gay men and lesbians.
  • Fighting to provide necessary parking for local residents.
  • Successfully campaigned to remove illegal dumping in local area.

Mohammad is of Pakistani origin and moved to this country in 1973. He currently lives in Halifax and is married with 4 children. He is self-employed and runs a Driving School.

Speaking at the launch Mohammad said “I want to fight to bring different communities closer together in Halifax. Liberal Democrats as a party believe in a tolerant society in which everyone regardless of class, colour, sexuality or religion can co-exist peacefully alongside each other.”

Councillor James Baker said “Whilst the likes of UKIP play on fear of people who are different we offer a different vision. A vision of hope in which people of different backgrounds work together to build a peaceful, tolerant and understanding society. It is in celebration and respect of our differences that we will build that society, and I am proud to be working towards that goal with Mohammad and the Halifax Liberal Democrat team.

Liberal Democrat Environmental Budget Changes Agreed


Local Liberal Democrat Councillors have succeeded in getting proposals on affordable warmth and reducing the use of energy in council buildings included in Calderdale Council’s budget plans.

“We think that it’s time that Calderdale Council took some serious action on issues that it’s been talking about for a long time” says Cllr James Baker (Liberal Democrat, Warley), Chair of the Council’s Economy and Environment Scrutiny Panel.

Councillor Baker said: “I’m delighted that the affordable warmth scheme I proposed was agreed. Around 93 people a year in Calderdale die prematurely as a result of living in cold homes. These people are all someone’s grandparents, friends and relatives. Now some of the money saved by the Council through the better use of technology will be used to fund a £1.4millon programme of work to insulate some of the coldest houses in the borough. Lives will be saved from this measure, and many more people will have their quality of life improved by being lifted out of fuel poverty. It will also reduce the burden of costs placed upon the NHS as prevention is cheaper for the taxpayer than cure. I would have expected Labour to understand and support this, but they didn’t.”

This scheme simply wouldn’t have happened without the support of Calderdale residents who vote Liberal Democrat in local elections. It is a crying shame that Labour failed to back this measure, simply because we proposed it and they did not want to be seen backing a Liberal Democrat amendment. I can’t understand that kind of party political petty mindedness.

Cllr Janet Battye (Liberal Democrat, Calder), a member of the Calder Energy Futures group added: “We also want the Council to reduce its use of energy and reduce carbon emissions. This needs some investment, but lower energy bills means that the Council should get this money back within 5 years and continue to save money after that. Labour didn’t support that either.”

Why don’t Labour understand the value of consultation?

Local Liberal Democrats are frustrated that Labour councillors don’t seem to value the Council talking to local people through public consultation.

Cllr Janet Battye (Liberal Democrat, Calder Ward) told us: “It was very frustrating to have to listen to Labour councillors saying that consulting the public wasn’t necessary, and that only the election results mattered. Five years ago, when the Council was faced with making substantial changes and savings, we conducted a large public consultation exercise. It wasn’t simply a matter of asking people for “yes” or “no” answers; but working through a number of exercises with them and encouraging them to tell us what they thought. Thousands of people responded in various ways – my own ward forum in Hebden Bridge was packed out. They shared their ideas with us and we listened and thought about it.”

“That work resulted in the Council adopting a set of principles and priorities – protecting local services, working closely with other organisations to deliver services, raising charges. That guided our budget proposals for the following few years.

“Five year on, we believe that it is time to do this again, to have a real conversation with local people and listen to what they say to help shape services over the next few years.”

“Liberal Democracy is about sharing power with people” said Cllr James Baker (Liberal Democrat, Warley ward). “Labour think it is only about winning elections and then doing what they want. The last Labour government tried to encourage councils to engage more with their residents, but that clearly had no effect on the current Labour councillors.”

Council Budget Agreed – Labour Plans Rejected

Liberal Democrat councillors have supported a budget for Calderdale Council that will deliver:

  • A Council tax freeze
  • A 20% saving in the Council’s energy bills to be achieved through an investment in LED lighting in Council buildings and solar panels
  • A £1.4m investment in an affordable warmth insulation scheme that it’s estimated will save the NHS £4.65m in associated health costs.
  • All future savings the Council has to make in 2017/18 to be shaped by a major public consultation this summer.

In Contrast Labour’s plans would have meant:

  • Council tax rises in two out of the next three years
  • Money taken out of the road maintenance budget
  • An £800,000 cut in Children Services in 2017/18
  • No public Consultation

Liberal Democrat group leader Councillor Janet Battye (Calder) said “We would have preferred to see all the parties represented on the council work towards an agreed budget, but that clearly didn’t happen. That being the case, we had to choose between proposals put forward by the Cabinet and those put forward by the Labour group. Both have their good points and their bad, but in the end we thought the Labour proposals had more bad than good points. We couldn’t support Labour as they have made it clear they will put up taxes and won’t consult with residents across Calderdale about the future of the Council.”

Deputy leader of the Liberal Democrat group Councillor James Baker (Warley) said “There was a clear choice on the table. The amended budget we supported will consult with local people whereas Labour would have cut funds from road maintenance, cut from children services, and put up taxes to spend on the schemes they have decided they want to pursue.”

Calderdale Liberal Democrat’s Budget Amendments

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Budget 2015/18

Our principles: As Liberal Democrats, we believe that it’s important that Calderdale has a thriving economy, and cares for its local people. Supporting local businesses has to be an important feature of this, while making sure that Calderdale is a good place to live in and visit.

We also believe that the role of the Council, as the elected representatives of local people, is to lead, co-ordinate and facilitate local services. In our extensive consultation exercise in 2010, local people told us that they wanted us to protect local services but that the Council doesn’t have to directly provide local services.

We also know that local people want efficient and effective services, with an open, responsive and accountable Council. They have told us that they are prepared to pay more for some services in order to protect others.

Our achievements: In taking a leading role in running the Council in recent years, we have ensured that:

  • Youth unemployment has reduced significantly, with more apprenticeships

  • Schools have benefitted from some protection of funding and the Pupil Premium (worth some £25m)

  • Investment in local businesses and transport through the Council’s Economic Task Force, and active partnership in Leeds City Region/Combined Authority

  • Green economy and environmental issues taking a higher priority: highest waste recycling in West Yorkshire and the Community Energy scheme

Our aspirations for this budget period: In these next 3 years, we are looking to:

  • Keep Council tax increases to the lowest possible with no increase next year

  • Continue to improve the efficiency of the Council through reducing “back office” costs and explore sharing services with other Councils, etc

  • Work with local people to protect local Council services alongside developing and supporting local community services

  • Continue to support local businesses and the local economy, reducing unemployment and providing more apprenticeships and training for young people

In particular, we want to see the Council take action on the following two specific issues and commit to one general one:

Real action on energy reduction

As Liberal Democrats we are committed to real action to tackle climate change and reduce our reliance on unsustainable fossil fuels. Some targets have been placed on the Council to reduce its energy bill. We think it’s time for a much bolder and radical approach. We will set a tough target of saving 20% from our energy bills by 2018. This is achievable through a major investment in solar energy and LED lighting in Council buildings. This invest to save scheme would pay for itself through the savings in energy costs. After about five years the cost of the investment will have been paid off and the Council will then benefit financially from these savings.

This measure will be self-financing and will result in reduced energy consumption and the creation of more renewable energy. It’s a bold and forward thinking approach modernising Calderdale Council’s estate of buildings.

Affordable Warmth Scheme

In Calderdale in 2013 there were 93 excess winter deaths attributed to cold homes. Improving the insulation in homes, particularly those of vulnerable people, will help reduce the number of people suffering in cold homes. It will mean fewer people living in fuel poverty, fewer fossil fuels burnt to heat homes, and more money in residents’ pockets to be spent in our local economy.

The National Institute of Environmental Health and the Building Research Establishment have suggested that targeting the borough’s worst housing with a £1.4m investment programme could save an estimated £4.65m in associated health care costs. At a time when health services are under pressure this is a sensible and pragmatic measure the Council could take to help save lives in Calderdale.

Through smarter working and the use of technology we believe that the Council could save even more money than currently suggested. We are therefore proposing to increase the savings target for making better use technology by £100,000 and use the additional savings to fund the repayment of a £1.4m capital investment to combat cold homes in Calderdale.

Involving Local People

The public consultation referred to above was carried out nearly five years ago. It was an extremely useful piece of work, but its relevance and usefulness will necessarily diminish with the passing of time. For a number of reasons, then, including the forthcoming general election, we believe that this summer is the right time for the Council to undertake a similar consultation and engagement exercise that will assist in shaping the Councils policies and budgets for several years to come. That is why we welcomed the Cabinet’s proposal to carry out such an exercise and why we now call upon the Council as a whole to make a commitment to undertake this work.

Cllr Janet Battye

February 2015

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Liberal Democrat Amend Cover


Number of children in prison cut by half, new figures reveal

The number of children in prison has been cut by a half since the Liberal Democrats came into Government, statistics uncovered by Julian Huppert MP reveal.

Between April 2010 and November 2014 the number of under 18s in custody fell from 2,149 to 1,055 – a drop of 51 per cent.

Cambridge MP Julian Huppert uncovered the figures in an Oral Question to Justice Minister Andrew Selous in the House of Commons this week.

The dramatic drop comes after Liberal Democrats in Government pushed for the Youth Justice Board to have more powers to help rehabilitate offenders in the community, rather than locking them up.

Now Dr Huppert is calling for a Women’s Justice Board to be set up in the next Parliament to take similar action to cut down the number of women in custody. This follows calls by Simon Hughes – the Lib Dem Justice Minister – to do the same.

Liberal Democrat Julian Huppert MP said in the chamber:

“That is a substantial decrease and it is very welcome, particularly at a time when crime is falling.

“Much of it has been due to the excellent work of the Youth Justice Board, which should be congratulated.”

He added later:

“We have been working hard in government to cut re-offending rates and keeping young people out of prison goes a long way to preventing them from picking up bad habits.

“Working to rehabilitate them in their communities, where they can be productive and learn new skills, helps to get their lives back on track. Not only is this important for the individual concerned, but it makes good economic sense for the taxpayer as well.

“The Youth Justice Board has done some excellent work with young people and I am confident similar work could be put into practice to help women stay out of prison. Women are often the backbone of a family and giving them custodial sentences can have a huge effect on the children.

“It is absolutely clear from the results we have seen with youth offending in a relatively short time that the measures we have put in place are working. We know that prison doesn’t work. People get into a revolving door situation where they go to prison, come out and reoffend and go back in again. We have to cut our prison population and I am very encouraged by the results we are seeing.”

Victory – Here is the People’s Commission Report to Download

Calderdale Liberal Democrats have been arguing over this past week that the People’s Commission report be released to the public before the Council meeting on the 9th February. Our argument is that people should have a right to let their Councillors know what they think of the report before that meeting, so the Council debate can be informed by public opinion.

We have also argued that as the People’s Commission is a report to a public meeting it is covered by access to information rules contained within the 1985 local government act. This law stipulates that non-confidential reports must be made available to the public before the meeting. We think there was a strong legal argument in addition to the morale argument as to why it should be published.

Today we have been informed that a copy of the report has been leaked to the press. We are not aware who leaked the report to the press, and ours was a point of principle that it should have been made freely available. In light of the press obtaining a copy a decision has now finally been made that the report will be released to the public. It’s a shame this has only arisen due to the report having been leaked, the Council should have published the report it’self on principle.

Regardless this is a victory for openness and transparency over the wishes of Conservative and Labour members of the Commission who sought to try and keep this report confidential and hidden from the public until after Councillors had debated it. We are now re-publishing the report on our website so it is freely available for everyone.