Calderdale Lib Dem Conference motion opposes new surveillance powers

Calderdale Liberal Democrats are sponsoring a motion to federal conference on the emergency surveillance powers currently being rammed through parliament. The motion has the support of the local party and a bunch of conference representatives. It has been submitted to the party’s Federal Conference Committee who will determine if the conference motion is selected for debate.

The Liberal Democrat constitution states “We look forward to a world in which all people share the same basic rights” we believe passionately those basic rights include the rights to privacy as enshrined in the European Convention of Human Rights. In order to protect that right we urge fellow Liberal Democrats to help enshrine the 10 principles on proportionate data retention set out in the European Court of Justice Ruling on the EU data retention directive  into our party policy.

Recognition that DRIP does not comply with these principles or our basic rights will put us back in a position where we can demand the UK Government provides the necessary and proportionate safeguards that help to protect us against abuses of power.

The text of the motion submitted is as follows:

Conference believes that the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Bill does not comply with the criteria of proportionality for retention of communications data (as set down by the European Court of Justice ruling on the retention of data generated or processed in connection with the provision of publicly available electronic communications services or of public communications networks – Directive 2006/24/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 15 March 2006 and amending Directive 2002/58/EC) and as such does not comply with Human Rights legislation. 

Conference is opposed to giving sweeping powers of statutory instrument to the Secretary of State for the Home Office to create retention orders and increase state surveillance powers without the public or parliamentary scrutiny afforded by primary legislation. 

Conference notes and reiterates its support for the Digital Bill of Rights motion passed by Spring conference 2014. 

To ensure compliance with the Human Rights Act 1999 and the European Convention on Human Rights, Conference moves to adopt the following ten criteria for proportionate data retention (as laid down by the European Court of Justice ruling on the Data Retention Directive 2006/24/EC) into party policy.

1, restrict retention to data that is related to a threat to public security and in particular restrict retention to a particular time period, geographical area and / or suspects or persons whose data would contribute to the prevention, detection or prosecution of serious offences (paragraph 59);
2 ,provide exceptions for persons whose communications are subject to an obligation of professional secrecy (see paragraph 58 of the judgment);
3, distinguish between the usefulness of different kinds of data and tailor retention periods on the basis of the data’s possible usefulness for the purposes of the objective pursued or according to the persons concerned (paragraph 63);
4, ensure retention periods are limited to that which are ‘strictly necessary’ (paragraph 64);
5, empower an independent administrative or judicial body to make decisions regarding access to the data on the basis of what is strictly necessary (paragraph 62);
6, restrict access and use of the data to the prevention, detection or prosecution of defined, sufficiently serious crimes (paragraphs 60-61);
7, limit the number of persons authorised to access and subsequently use the data to that which is strictly necessary (paragraph 62);
8, ensure the data is kept securely with sufficient safeguards to ensure effective protection against the risk of abuse and unlawful access (paragraph 66);
9, ensure destruction of the data when it is no longer required (paragraph 67); and
10, ensure the data is kept within the EU (paragraph 68).

Why the Bedroom Tax must now be scrapped

The spare room subsidy more commonly known as the bedroom tax was an attempt to try and encourage social housing tenants living in properties with spare rooms to downsize. The intention was to free up larger properties for families on the waiting list, currently living in overcrowded housing. This is similar to what Labour introduced for privately renting tenants on local housing allowance in 2008. The wider issue is of course the housing crisis brought about by a chronic lack of affordable housing built under last government. To address this in government we have now increased the number of new affordable homes being built to the fastest rate in 20 years.

To mitigate against any adverse affect of the bedroom tax would have on local residents Liberal Democrat ministers argued that Councils should be given extra money in the form of a discretionary housing payment fund, this money was to help those most in need. Unfortunately in the last year the Labour administration only spent £94,425 of the £383,941 allocated to it from the government for this purpose. This is money that could have helped those most in need has been wasted by the Labour run Council.

An interim report into the policy shows that only 4.5% of people affected have actually downsized, whereas 6% of people affected have been forced to incur extra debt on credit cards or personal loans to afford their rent. This clearly shows that the policy has not been achieving its aims, and is not helping to enable more people to get on in life. This fact coupled with the local Council’s incompetence in using money allocated by the government to help local residents has led us to the conclusion the bedroom tax should be scrapped and replaced with a fairer policy.
Alisdair Calder McGregor – Liberal Democrat PPC for Calder Valley
Mohammad Ilyas -Liberal Democrat PPC for Halifax
Cllr Janet Battye – Leader of Calderdale Liberal Democrat Council Group
Cllr James Baker – Deputy leader of Calderdale Liberal Democrat Council Group
Halifax Liberal Democrats condemn violence in Gaza.

Mohammad Ilyas the Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate for Halifax has condemned the violence being carried out against Palestinian civilians in Gaza. The death toll is rising all the time but so far almost 200 Palestinians have been killed with just one Israeli casualty.

Commenting Mohammad said “The Palestinian people are suffering disproportiontely in this conflict, mothers are losing their sons, fathers their daughters, brothers their sisters. A ceasefire is urgently needed.”

Councillor James Baker (Warley ward) added “The terrible images of the suffering experienced by the Palestinian people in Gaza reinforce the urgent need for Hamas and Israel to agree a ceasefire. “

Council changes its mind on displaying banners

In answer to a question to Calderdale Council’s Cabinet meeting on Monday by local ward Councillor Janet Battye, Cllr Barry Collins (Cabinet member for Economy and Environment) conceded that, after removing banners for the last year from the railings in the middle of Hebden Bridge, Calderdale Council has changed its mind. The Council will now revert to the long-standing practice of allowing local community groups to display banners advertising events for a reasonable period provided they are removed promptly after the event.

“Thank goodness that common sense has prevailed” says Councillor Battye. “It’s nonsense that there are only two “authorised” places for banners when, in fact, they are displayed all over Calderdale in the middle of villages and towns to let local people know what events are taking place.

“The sensible step to now take is to ask Neighbourhood Wardens to keep an eye on them – they know what’s going on and can enforce this arrangement more sensitively so that it works for everyone”

Labour would cut Calderdale Council grant to offset business rate income

The Local Government Chronicle is reporting that Labour would cut the grants Councils receive from government to offset any income they generate through business rates. The news follows Ed Miliband’s announcement that under a Labour government powerful new city and county regions would be able to keep income generated through business rates.

  “Meanwhile, councils in “powerful new city and county regions” would be able to keep all income generated by business rates under a Labour government, but this would be offset by a reduction in grants, the party has announced.” – Local Government Chronicle 1/7/14

Councillor James Baker Economy & Environment spokesperson for Calderdale Liberal Democrats said ” On the one hand Labour are making a song and dance about Council’s being able to keep a greater amount of income generated through business rates, yet on the other they are announcing they would cut the grant Councils receive to offset that income.  Given they have stated this would be a cost neutral proposal, what  incentive is there for Council’s to promote economic growth if the reward is a cut in their grant?



Falling unemployment helping to provide opportunity for all

Calderdale Liberal Democrats have welcomed falling unemployment levels across the borough. Latest figures on those claiming Job Seekers Allowance show that there are now more than a thousand less people unemployed in Calderdale than when Labour left office in 2010.

Liberal Democrat parlimentary candidate for Calder Valley: Alisdair Calder McGregor said:

It’s fantastic news that unemployment has fallen across Calderdale, as the vibrant local small business scene here benefits from Liberal Democrat policies for SMEs.”

Our Apprenticeship policy is also helping to get young people into a trade & learning business skills early, enabling them to get on in life on their own hard work.”

Economy & Environment spokesperson Cllr James Baker said:

Liberal Democrats in Government are not only helping to build a stronger economy, but also a fairer recovery. Our tax breaks for people on lower incomes are helping to ensure that everyone is given an opportunity to get on in life.”

As of May 2014 there were 4,613 people claiming JSA which accounts for 3.5% of the working population. This is a fall of over 1,000 from the figure of 5,978 which was 4.6% of the population when Labour left office in 2010.



Tories back Labour’s bigger, more expensive Cabinet

Despite Labour not having a majority on Calderdale Council, Labour will continue to hold the most important roles on the Cabinet after their nomination for Leader of the Council received backing from Conservative Councillors.

The first action of the Labour Leader was to increase the size of his Cabinet, increasing the cost to local taxpayers.

Liberal Democrat Group Leader, Councillor Janet Battye told us: “We shouldn’t really be surprised at either of these actions. The Conservatives have a history of backing Labour in this – this time they went as far as actively voting for it. Voting Conservative in the recent local elections seems to have the same effect as voting Labour.”

The Liberal Democrats also attacked Labour for increasing the size of the Council’s Cabinet. “This means that yet another member of the Labour Group is entitled to an additional £12,000. If there ever is a time to increase payments to councillors, this is not it” said Cllr Battye.

“I don’t think this is a good start to the new council year. The Council needs someone to challenge what Labour do over the coming year, and this is a role that the Liberal Democrat group will happily take on” said Cllr Battye.

Highest priority for Todmorden: Tackling the derelict site on Hope St?

After the Calderdale Council elections, as we start another year and another summer, we’ve still got the awful derelict site on Halifax Road, next to the Health Centre. The weeds are growing higher and rubbish is still being dumped over the back of it.

Meanwhile, building work is starting on the Abraham Ormerod/old cinema site, a planning application is being made for housing on Cinderhill Mill (with every chance of it being built as the housing market improves and we need more housing in Todmorden), and we’re enjoying using the open space where the old Rose St Health Centre used to be.

So, in terms of important “gateway” sites, Hope St is still the worst eyesore. Calderdale Council has powers to get something done about it, we’ve petitioned them and they say they’ll do something. The new owner shows no signs of either tidying it up or using it. So my challenge to Calderdale Council in this coming year will be: get on and do something about it!

Councillor Janet Battye

A fairer deal for pub landlords

Thousands of pub landlords will be protected against unfair treatment and hardship under new plans unveiled today.

The announcement follows a long-running campaign by Lib Dem MP Greg Mulholland, who was one of the first MPs to highlight the unfair treatment of landlords tied to pub firms. Two weeks ago he presented a petition of more than 45,000 signatures to introduce a pubs adjudicator. Today, the Coalition Government has announced it will do just that – creating an independent Pubs Adjudicator to ensure landlords who are tied to large pub firms are no worse of than independent pubs.
A new code will also give pub landlords more rights, such as the right to request a rent review if they have not had one for five years and the Adjudicator will have the power to fine companies that breach the code.

Currently, landlords who are tied to large pub firms say they are struggling to make a decent living and more than half say they are earning less than the minimum wage. Today’s announcement will help to tackle this unfairness in the system.

Last year Calderdale Liberal Democrats ran a successful campaign to help save Calderdale’s pub. The campaign saw Calderdale Council adopting a range of polices to help try and protect local pubs from closure.  Commenting on the proposal Cllr James Baker said: “We are very pleased to see that Liberal Democrats in Government have been taking action to try and save our local just as Liberal Democrats here in Calderdale have successfully been campaigning on the issue.

Cllr Baker & Battye supporting the Little Valley brewery based in Calderdale. Photograph by Jade Smith.

Cllr Baker & Battye supporting the Little Valley brewery based in Calderdale. Photograph by Jade Smith.

New Park on Sandhall Green

Work has commenced on a new park on Sandhall Green in Warley Ward. This work is being undertaken with money from the development of some new houses nearby. Liberal Democrat Councillors James Baker & Ashley Evans requested a list of any such monies still to be spent in Warley Ward, and pushed for it to be spent on improving green spaces.

A full consultation was carried out with local residents, to determine what people would like to see on the Green and the plan produced by Council staff in the Safer Cleaner Greener team represents these views. A link to download a PDF of the plan of the new park is available at the bottom of the page.

Councillor Ashley Evans by Sandhall Green where work has started on a new park.

Councillor Ashley Evans by Sandhall Green where work has started on a new park.