Calderdale Council’s Liberal Democrat group has won the Green Campaigning Group of the Year Award for 2016. The award is one of a number made annually by the Local Government Association’s Liberal Democrat Group.
Liberal Democrat Group Leader, Cllr James Baker (Warley) told us: “I am very pleased that the group has won this award. It recognises our local campaigns on environmental issues over many years.”
“This award was made because of our recent work on the Green Economy in Calderdale, securing a £1.2 million affordable warmth insulation scheme in the Council’s 2015/16 budget, and getting the Council to commit to a 20% cut in its electricity consumption.”
“The Liberal Democrats are totally committed to protecting our environment and we will continue to press the Council to do more locally as well as playing its part in pushing for action nationally and internationally” said Cllr Baker. “Reports this week have shown that, globally, last year was the hottest on record. June was the hottest June ever recorded and the 14th month in a row to break this record. Action is on the environment now is more important than it ever has been.
An impressive and detailed report into the Green Belt has recently been discussed by the Council. This draft report suggests that some areas may be removed from the Green Belt and which will be subject to further review. However to date we have been unable to obtain the detailed list of where all these sites are.
Calderdale Liberal Democrats have now made a formal freedom of information act request to Calderdale Council to reveal the details of the 64 Greenbelt sites in Calderdale that will be examined for review.
Councillor James Baker (Leader of Calderdale Liberal Democrats) said: “We campaigned on the Council for all working group meetings to be held in public and for their papers to be published online. We were also informed by the Labour cabinet that this information would be in the public domain when the papers for the meeting were published.
You can imagine therefore how disappointed we are that it has been impossible to get hold of the appendix to this report that lists all the sites. We raised this at full Council on 20th July and we have now submitted a formal Freedom of Information Act request for the information.” Rather than accept this document should have been made public, Labour Councillors have acted defensively, accusing us of dishonesty, and claiming the report is too large to publish online. This is regrettable.”
Liberal Democrat councillors fully support the recommendations of the Calderdale Flood Commission. The Commission was set up following the floods that devastated parts of the borough on Boxing Day 2015 and has spent the last few months collecting evidence from local people, the emergency services, the Environment Agency, Yorkshire Water and others.
Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group, Cllr James Baker (Warley) said: “The Commission has produced a good, detailed report. This is an example of cross-party working at its best. However, now that the Commission has examined the evidence and its recommendations have been accepted, the Council needs to turn those recommendations into action. Calderdale Council must play a significant part in tackling the causes of flooding and reducing its effects. It needs to do this as a service provider, a community leader and as a regulator. The Council cannot do everything, but it must play a leading role in co-ordinating the activities of others and keeping up the pressure on central government, government agencies and the insurance companies. Accepting that flooding is always going to occur does not mean that steps should not be taken to reduce the effects on our communities”.
As part of the process of producing a local plan, Calderdale Council is reviewing the local Green Belt.
Cllr Ashley Evans (Liberal Democrat, Warley) said: “An impressive and detailed report into the Green Belt has recently been discussed and this suggests that some areas may be removed from the Green Belt. However, once a site has been built on it is gone forever, so we must be extremely careful about this.”
“It was virtually impossible to see the details of the 64 sites that are to be examined further. More information has been promised, but has not yet arrived. I accept that printing out thousands of pages and sending it to councillors would not be a good idea, but I don’t accept that it couldn’t be made available on-line. The Chilcot Inquiry report into the Iraq war is available on-line and that consists of 12 volumes containing 2.5 million words. These things can be done, if there is a will to do them.”
“Members of the public should use the consultation process scheduled for later this year to make their views known, but they need to have all the information they can on what the Council is proposing. More houses are needed, but building these must not alter our communities out of all recognition.”
Construction worker laying bricks showing trowel and guideline.
Liberal Democrat Group Leader, Cllr James Baker (Warley) said: “Our population is increasing and the way we live is changing and both are increasing the local demand for housing. However, figures just released show that during David Cameron’s premiership, house building was at its lowest level since 1923. Many people – especially young people – are struggling to get onto the housing ladder. We need more houses to rent and to buy and covering the whole range of types and prices.”
“Calderdale needs a strong construction industry to provide the houses and the jobs that local people need. Action needs to be taken now to equip our young people with the skills the industry needs, especially if we are to become less reliant on workers from across Europe.”
“Houses need to be of good quality and built in the right places. We must protect our green spaces and especially the Green Belt. We want to see an emphasis on building on previously-developed brownfield sites. As the Council has given planning permission for over 3,000 homes on sites that are currently not being developed, building these homes would be a major step forward and reduce the pressure to build on other, less appropriate sites”
“With interest rates at record lows, now is the time to be investing in housing to ensure a better future for Calderdale residents”.
Nigel Farage had said that if the referendum result was 48-52 then there would likely be another referendum. It was clear that he and other people who wanted to leave the EU wouldn’t have given up if their side had lost. Likewise those of us who want to remain in Europe are not giving up.
The Liberal Democrats respect the result of the referendum but it hasn’t changed our beliefs or values. We are still a party that is firmly committed to a UK that is part of the European Union. Many people consider themselves to be European as well as British and we will continue to stand up for those people, and the 48% of people who voted for us to remain in Europe.
We will be fighting the next general election on a platform of either keeping us in Europe or taking us back into Europe if we have already left by then. It is this stance that has seen a massive boost in our local membership, which is up 20% here in Calderdale and up over 12,000 nationally. Whilst Labour and the Conservative’s argue among themselves we have a clear purpose and vision. We think that as the promises of the leave campaign unravel more and more people will come to regret having voted to leave the EU. That leaving the EU won’t fix all our problems as promised.
Locally we are pragmatists, we realise that Leaving the European Union will have profound consequences locally, regionally, nationally and internationally. That Local people, the local economy and Council services will be affected; and Calderdale Council has a role to play in ensuring that any harmful effects are minimised and any new opportunities are grasped.
That is why we have called for the formation of a cross-party working group on the Council In order that Councillors from all parties work together to get the best out of whatever situation arises. Our views on Europe are clear, but regardless of them we will work in the best interests of local people.
Councillor James Baker
Leader Calderdale Liberal Democrats
This evening I have contacted both the Council leader, chief executive and leader of the Conservative group to propose the formation of a cross-party group to steer our Borough through the impact of the referendum result.
There are economic consequences and other implications to the Council in leaving the EU, many of which have not been thought out or explored. It is also now apparent that the leave campaign had no plan as to what would happen if they won. With the Prime Minister’s announcement that he is stepping down the country appears to have been left without effective government.
As Liberal Democrats our position on Europe has always been clear. We respect the result of the referendum but our beliefs have not changed. We still believe our nation is better off in Europe. We will continue to campaign for a Britain in Europe.
This is a time of great uncertainty and worry for many people. We want to work constructively with other political parties locally in Calderdale to ensure our Borough is best prepared to weather any uncertainty, and take advantage of any opportunities that arise. That is why we are proposing a cross-party steering group to provide leadership and stability. It is the right thing to do to help the people of Calderdale in this time of uncertainty.
Councillor James Baker,
Leader of Calderdale Liberal Democrats
This evening many of us are reacting to the shocking news that one of our West Yorkshire MPs Jo Cox was brutally killed whilst serving her community.
Jo was a passionate supporter of positive contribution immigrants can bring to our communities, the plight of Syrian refugees, and the need to stay a member of the European Union. These are all causes and values that many Liberal Democrats hold dear.
Tonight we stand shoulder to shoulder with the politicians in West Yorkshire’s Labour movement who we know and work alongside with . Many of whom will be grieving the loss of a friend. Our thoughts go out to Jo’s family, no child should lose a mother and no husband should lose a wife in such a hateful act. We hope some small crumb of comfort is taken in the knowledge that the values that Jo stood for will never be extinguished as easily as her life was brutality taken today.
All of our local campaigning for the European Referendum is currently suspended in respect of Jo. We will return to this campaign with zeal however, and return to it in the knowledge that we are fighting for light, peace, and international cooperation against the tide of dark nationalistic hatred that is sweeping our country.
Councillor James Baker, Leader of Calderdale Liberal Democrats
The allegations, which have come to light in a leaked series of emails reported by the website Impolite Conservations and local news site Heb Web paint a picture of infighting, secrecy and unaccountability within the local Conservative party, with relations between the MP and the local members described as “toxic” by the resigning Chairman.
This state of affairs is directly attributed to a “breakdown in relations with the MP and two officers of the Association”, which directly implicates Conservative Group Leader Cllr Scott Benton & the Association Treasurer (and new Mayor of Calderdale) Cllr Howard Blagborough, both of whom represent Brighouse Ward.
Councillor James Baker leader of Calderdale Liberal Democrats said “We are calling on Craig Whittaker MP to explain to the people who elected him what has gone on here. People deserve transparency and openness from their politicians. We have also called on Calderdale Council to investigate this matter as it implicates both the leader of the Conservative group and the Mayor of Calderdale.”
Jennie Rigg, Chair of Calderdale Liberal Democrats & candidate for Brighouse Ward said “Scott Benton has to give answers to these serious allegations. As leader of the Conservative group on Calderdale Council he has a duty to explain himself.”