The Conservative government has launched a consultation on the closure of 91 courts and tribunals in England and Wales. These proposed closures would affect the Halifax County Court and Family Court and the Halifax (Calderdale) Magistrates’ and Family Court.
Under these proposals residents of Calderdale would be required to travel to Bradford to access justice; journey times to Bradford from many parts of Calderdale are significantly longer than assumed in the consultation document.
The historic Grade II court building is an important asset to Calderdale, and the Ministry of Justice’s consultation includes no plans as to what would happen to the building if the Courts were to close.
Taken alongside cuts to legal aid the closure of local Courts will restrict people’s access to justice, particularly for local residents who lack the means to travel easily. Calderdale Liberal Democrats are opposing the closure of our local court. We urge you to support our campaign and sign our petition here.
We are submitting an urgent late motion to next Wednesday’s meeting of Calderdale Council opposing this closure. We hope the Mayor will accept this late item as the consultation on the Court’s closure was only announced yesterday.
Today a new network of families whose lives have been wrecked by our current approach to drugs will hand in a letter to 10 Downing Street calling for the legal regulation of drugs. Anyone’s Child: Families for Safer Drug Control is a project supported by Transform Drug Policy Foundation.
A spokesperson for Anyone’s Child said:
“Our vicious and stupid drug laws don’t stop young people from taking drugs. But putting dangerous criminals in charge has devastating results for them and their families. In 2002 David Cameron called for a debate on legal regulation. Since then, there have been over 26,000 drug deaths in the UK – compared with 453 UK soldiers in Afghanistan. Enough is enough. He should immediately commission an independent review of our drug laws. The government knows the evidence proves that legally regulating drugs would help protect all our families.”
You can read their letter to the Prime Minister here
Calderdale Liberal Democrats are calling on Calderdale Council and the West Yorkshire Combined Authority to increase the pressure on the government to press ahead with the electrification of the rail line from Manchester to Leeds. The Transport Secretary, Patrick McLoughlin, recently announced that a number of electrification schemes, including the Manchester-Huddersfield-Leeds line, would be ‘paused’.
Cllr Battye Liberal Democrat group leader said: “We are deeply concerned about this decision, and the knock-on effects it is likely to have on the electrification of the Calder Valley line. These schemes form part of the ‘Northern Powerhouse’ plan that was promised by the Conservatives during the election campaign. This plan now seems to be in serious trouble only a matter of weeks later. If the Conservatives’ ‘Northern Powerhouse’ is to mean anything, this work has to be done and it’s simply not good enough for them to blame Network Rail for any problems.”
“Electrification of the rail routes is an important next step in the improvement of public transport in the North as the lines are heavily used by an increasing number of people to get to work, as well as for pleasure.”
“It is important that Calderdale Council and the Combined Authority speak out clearly in support of rail electrification and that we all continue to make the case for it as strongly as possible. I have tabled a motion to next week’s Council meeting to allow the Council to publicly and forcefully make the point that this work needs to be carried out as soon as possible”.
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.”
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
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.
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.
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.”
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.”
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.”