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Council Snippets What’s been happening on Calderdale Council

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More Council Cuts to Come

As things stand, Calderdale Council will have to reduce its spending by over £13m over the next three years. This is on top of the £93m that will have been made by next year.

Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group, Cllr James Baker said: “The scale of the cuts is now too large. The Council has done a good job in becoming more efficient but there is only so much that can be done without damaging services. It is now a crunch time in local government.”

Departmental Merger Moves Forward

The Council has agreed to merge the posts of Director of Children’s Services and Director of Adults, Health and Social Care. Other changes to the two existing directorates will be decided later. Deputy Leader of the Council’s Liberal Democrat Group, Cllr Ashley Evans said: “I don’t think that the how and why of this move have been fully considered. Both of these directorates are large and complicated. Putting then together will result in an even bigger, more complicated directorate. Children’s Services have only just come out of ‘special measures’ and there is a danger that the Council will take its eye off the ball of improvement. I know that many councils have already merged these two departments, but many haven’t and some of those that had have now split them again. I am not convinced that the case has been made.”

Taking Action on Dangerous Driving

After a few small changes were made to James Baker’s motion on dangerous driving to include points made by the Labour and Conservative groups, everyone present supported it. Cllr Baker said: “The issue of dangerous driving is a major concern to many councillors, and it’s not just about speeding but includes tailgating, driving without insurance and driving while using a mobile phone. I think the standard of driving is deteriorating. There is an economic case and a moral case for tackling this issue.”

At the end of the debate Cllr Baker added: “It’s good to see local democracy in action with this issue being discussed at a number of Ward Forums, but with a quango making decisions on the use of speed cameras, decision-making is moving away from local people. The Council now needs to turn its words into actions and Conservative councillors could raise the matter of police cuts at their Party Conference next week.”

Improving Social Care

Liberal Democrat councillors supported a Labour motion on Social Care. Cllr James Baker said: “We agree that better joined-up working between social care providers and the NHS is needed. Social care doesn’t come cheap, though, and we may have to put our hands in our pockets and pay for it. As a society, we need to look at this issue and it may be that extra taxation is needed.”

 

20mph Zones

Liberal Democrat councillors opposed a Conservative motion to halt the introduction of 20mph zones until their effectiveness has been demonstrated. Cllr James Baker said: “The Conservatives know that this matter is to be discussed at the Economy and Environment Scrutiny Panel meeting in November. This motion is premature as all the evidence they want can be reviewed in detail at that meeting.”

Cllr Paul Bellenger said: “20mph limits do work, but it’s about education, not just physical changes to roads. Drivers need to be made aware of the dangers of driving over the speed limit.”

Grammar Schools

Liberal Democrat councillors supported a Labour motion asking the Government not to proceed with its reported policy of allowing the creation of more grammar schools. Cllr James Baker said: “We seem to have a policy based on nostalgia, but we need a forward-looking education policy. The evidence shows that grammar schools don’t help the majority of pupils who don’t go there. There are many more pressing problems in education, such as teachers leaving the profession because of the bureaucracy involved and box-ticking education.” 

Valley of Sanctuary

Liberal Democrat councillors supported the Labour motion that would “make Calderdale a formal part of the City of Sanctuary movement committed to building a culture of hospitality and welcome, especially for refugees and asylum seekers seeking sanctuary from war and persecution”. It being rather late by the time this was discussed, hardly anyone spoke on the matter. The motion was supported by Labour, Liberal Democrat and Independent councillors, with the Conservatives abstaining from voting. 

Small Victory

Ashley Evans again beat his Labour opponent from May, this time to become a member of the Warley Trust. His margin of victory was, though, considerably smaller this time.

Compulsory Purchase Powers

Cllr Ashley Evans asked if Calderdale Council intended to follow Birmingham City Council’s example of making more use of compulsory purchase powers on land owners who refuse to develop their land, thus reducing the need to develop on green field sites. The answer, though in considerably more words was basically “no, it’s not needed here”.

Glyphosate Weed Killer

Cllr Marilyn Greenwood asked if the Council had any plans to stop using glyphosate weed killers and switch to safer alternatives because of concerns about the effect on human health of glyphosate. The answer is that the Council aims to reduce its glyphosate usage by 10% each year until 2021. It has managed this this year, but has not yet found a suitable alternative. 

Greetland Station

Cllr Marilyn Greenwood asked whether the portfolio-holder for Regeneration and Economic Development would press for a feasibility study into building a passenger rail station at Greetland. The answer is that this was looked at in 2014 and was not thought to be commercially viable.

Marilyn’s argument is that things have changed: there are now plans for major alterations to the nearby road network and (possibly) to the hospital, which is relatively close by.

Planning Enforcement

James Baker asked about taking enforcement action against people using residential premises for car sales and repairs. The official answer was, roughly, that this is a very complicated area. However, later in the meeting the portfolio-holder distanced himself from this answer (prepared by officers) saying that it was a typical response that set out why the problem was not being fixed, rather than saying what was going to be done to fix it.

Monitoring Council Spending

Paul Bellenger asked a question about the sometimes large variation in council spending between the projections resulting from monitoring carried out in November and the actual spending at the end of March. He wanted to know if monitoring processes, and the way these are reported to councillors, needed to be improved. The answer, again taking up rather more words, was that both are being looked at.

We must fight to keep Britain open, tolerant and united – Tim Farron’s speech to Conference

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Tim began with a story from just after the referendum…

At the start of his speech, Tim spoke about a meeting held in Preston – the town he grew up in and learnt his values in – to talk about the referendum and the realisation he’d had there:

The people in that church hall in Preston, they’d voted differently to me but I thought, you know what, we’re on the same side here.

We see a London-centric no, Westminster-centric approach from politicians and the media. Treating the provinces as alien curiosities.

Those people in Preston and Sunderland and Newport see a divide between those who win and those who lose. When the country is booming, they don’t see the benefit. And when the country is in decline they are the first to be hit.

Those people … wanted, quite understandably, to give the powerful a kicking. So they did.

At that meeting they talked about low wages. About poor housing. About strains on hospitals and schools. Their problems weren’t caused by the European Union, they were caused by powerful people who took them for granted.

By politicians who have spent decades chasing cheap headlines and short-term success for their political careers, and never acting in the long-term interests of the whole country.

So those people in that room, like millions of others, wanted, quite understandably, to give the powerful a kicking. So they did.

…he then set out how he wants to reach out to Leave voters…

I wanted Britain to remain in the European Union and I still do. But we have got to listen, to learn and to understand why millions of people voted to leave. We can’t just tell them they’re wrong and stick our fingers in our ears.

So I want to do two things.

I want to persuade those who voted leave that we understand and respect their reasons, that we are determined to take head on the things about today’s Britain that have left so many people feeling ignored and I want to give them their say over what comes next.

…next, he turned to Theresa May and her “plan” for Brexit…

Theresa May – tell us what Brexit really means. You’ve had three months. You are the Prime Minister. Stop dithering. What is your plan?

The Liberal Democrats have a plan. We know what we want and we know where we want to take our country. When Theresa May does agree a deal with the EU, we want the people to decide.

Not a re-run of the referendum, not a second referendum, but a referendum on the terms of the as-yet-unknown Brexit deal.

…he then turned to the refugee crisis…

The biggest crisis facing our continent since the Second World War. They did nothing to help right until the point they thought it was in their short-term interest to act, when a photo of three-year-old Aylan Kurdi face down in the sand was on the front page of every newspaper.

The people were shocked, heartbroken, they demanded action and the Tories did the bare minimum. But since the front pages have moved on, they have barely lifted a finger.

Now there are some on the centre left who are squeamish about patriotism, but not me. I’m proud of my country; I hate it when my government makes me ashamed.

I hate it when my government makes me ashamed.

…and told a story from Lesbos…

We’d helped to land a flimsy boat of desperate refugees, I was handing out bottles of fresh water and a few yards away was an aid worker from New Zealand, who knew that I was a British politician.

She looked at me and shouted,

stop handing out bottles of water and take some f***ing refugees

Because that is how Britain is seen. Mean and not pulling its weight. And maybe that doesn’t bother some people, but it bothers me.

Because I am proud of who we are – always a sanctuary for the desperate, the abused and the persecuted; and I will not stand by and watch my country become smaller, meaner and more selfish.

That is not Britain. We are better than that.

…he then turned to the NHS and social care in England…

For years, politicians have chosen to paper over the cracks rather than come clean about what it will really take – what it will really cost – not just to keep the NHS afloat but to give people the care and the treatment that they deserve.

And that means, finally, bringing the NHS and the social care system together.

…and laid out why improving social care matters to him…

In my Grandpa’s journey through Alzheimers, he had good care in the home he spent his last couple of years in. But when he first became ill after the death of my Grandma, the place he was put in was despicable.

Lonely, unclean, uncaring. It’s a few years back, but as I fought to get him out of that place and into somewhere better, it occurred to me that this was a standard experience for too many older people and their loved ones.

Maybe some people can just shrug and accept this, well I can’t.

I’ve seen enough terrible old people’s homes. And I’ve seen enough people who’ve had to wait forever for treatment – particularly people who don’t have someone to fight their corner. It’s not civilised to let people slip through the net.

It’s not civilised towards the people who love them, who go out of their way to try and make their lives easier when everything else is making their lives harder. It’s not civilised and it’s not good enough.

…and proposed a solution to improve social care and make our NHS fit for the future…

We need to face the hard truth that the NHS needs more money – a lot more money – not just to stop it lurching from crisis to crisis but so that it can meet the needs and the challenges it will face in the years ahead. So that it can be the service we all need it to be for the long-term.

That means having the most frank and honest conversation about the NHS that the country has ever had. What Beveridge did for the 20th century, we need for the 21st century.

We need to face the hard truth that the NHS needs more money – a lot more money

In Norman Lamb we have the politician who is most trusted and respected by the health profession – and deservedly so. And Norman and I are clear, we will not join the ranks of those politicians who are too scared of losing votes to face up to what really needs to be done.

We will go to the British people with the results of our Beveridge Commission and we will offer a new deal for health and social care, honest about the cost, bold about the solution. If the only way to fund a health service that meets the needs of everyone, is to raise taxes, Liberal Democrats will raise taxes.

…Tim then turned to our schools…

Governments have designed an education system especially at primary school level that is focused not on developing young people for later life, for work or for further study, but on getting them through the wrong kinds of tests.

It’s not about whether kids can solve problems, or converse in other languages – or even their own. It’s about statistics. Measurements. League tables.

Instead of building an education system, we have built a quality assurance industry.

Instead of building an education system, we have built a quality assurance industry.It’s no wonder so many teachers are so frustrated. No wonder so many leave the profession.

…and laid out a plan to reduce testing and give teachers freedom to teach…

I want our schools to be places where our teachers have the freedom to use their skill and their knowledge to open young minds, not just train them to pass exams.

I want them to be places where children are inspired to learn, not stressed out by tests.

So I want to end the current system of SATS in primary schools that are a distraction from the real education that professional teachers want to give their children; that weigh heavy on children as young as six and add nothing to the breadth of their learning.

…and then launched a blistering attack on grammar schools…

What are we doing, in 2016, threatening to relegate 80% of our children to education’s second division by returning to the 11-plus? Every parent wants to send their kids to a good school. But more selective schools are not the answer.

We need better schools for all our children, not just those who can pass an exam at the age of 11. We can’t just leave children behind.

…he then turned to his problem with Jeremy Corbyn…

My problem with Jeremy Corbyn is that, for him, holding the government to account is not a priority. Winning elections is a bourgeois distraction – unless it’s his own leadership election.

It is baffling to see the Labour Party arguing about whether or not they should even be trying to win an election.

Can you imagine that? The Liberals and Liberal Democrats spent decades out of power and then when the opportunity finally came – in incredibly difficult circumstances, when the easiest thing in the world would have been to walk away – we chose to take power because we knew the point of politics is to put principles into action. To get things done. Not just to feel good, but to do good.

It is baffling to see the Labour Party arguing about whether or not they should even be trying to win an election.

So we took power … and we got crushed. So you could forgive us for thinking twice about whether power is really worth it.

But of course it’s worth it.

Having fine principles but no power is just turning your backs on the people who need you the most, its letting someone else win the day.

…and had a message to everyone who wants a real opposition to the Tories..

Whichever party you supported at the last election, we all know that Britain needs a decent, united opposition. So if Corbyn’s Labour has left the stage, then we will take the stage.

Britain needs a strong opposition. The Liberal Democrats will be that strong opposition.

…Tim then set out his plan to build a Britain that’s open, tolerant and united…

So here is my plan. We will dramatically rebuild our strength in local government, deliberately, passionately, effectively.

Winning council seats is our chance to shape, lead and serve our communities to put liberalism into practice.

Liberals believe in local government, I believe in local government, every council seat matters to me.

So my challenge to you is to pick a ward and win it, and my commitment to you is that I choose to build our party’s revival on victories in every council in the country.

And my plan includes continuing to grow our party – our membership is up 80% in just 14 months – but that is merely a staging post, we will continue to build a movement that can win at every level.

I will lead the Liberal Democrats as the only party committed to Britain in Europe, with a plan to let the people decide our future in a referendum on the as yet non-existent Tory Brexit deal.

I will lead the only party with a plan for our country’s long-term future. Green, healthy, well-educated, outward-looking, prosperous, secure.

I will build the open, tolerant, united party that can be the opposition to this Conservative government. On NHS underfunding, on divisive grammar schools, on its attacks on British business.

I want the Liberal Democrats to be ready to fill the gap where an official opposition should be. I want the Liberal Democrats to be the strong, united opposition.

That is my plan. I need you to join me to fight for it.

…Tim then set out the biggest threat to the Tories…

Well, look, no one believes, whether boundary changes happen or not, that Labour will gain a single seat from the Tories. The SNP could only possibly take one seat off the Conservatives. But there are dozens of Tory seats in our reach.

Which means that the only thing standing between the Conservatives and a majority at the next election is the revival of the Liberal Democrats.

…he gave a warning about Brexit and coined a phrase…

When Conservatives talk about a ‘hard Brexit’, this is what they mean. A Brexit that cuts us off from our neighbours, no matter what the consequences for people’s jobs and livelihoods.

A Brexit that toys with the lives of hard-working people who have made Britain their home, paid their way and immersed themselves in their communities, just as more than a million Brits have made their homes on the continent.

A Brexit that will leave us poorer, weaker and less able to protect ourselves. But we will not let Nigel Farage’s vision for Britain win. To coin a phrase. I want my country back.

…and Tim closed with this note of hope for our party.

Together, we must fight to keep Britain open, tolerant and united. Together, the Liberal Democrats must be the real voice of opposition. Together, we must win.

Lib Dems Call for More Council Action on Dangerous Driving

Calderdale Council’s Liberal Democrat group is calling on the Council to take more effective action to stop dangerous driving. The issue will now be debated at next week’s Council meeting.

Councillor James Baker (Warley), leader of Council’s Liberal Democrat Group says: “Traffic accidents cause tremendous personal grief and immense expenditure by the public sector. We believe that the Council can and should do more – on its own and by working with others – to tackle this problem.”

“This is a very important, and growing, issue for communities across Calderdale. It affects a wide range of people: pedestrians trying to cross roads; parents worrying about their children playing outside; aggressive driving and tailgating is making the lives of motorists a misery, and high insurance rates are hitting our purses.”

“Figures from the Department for Transport suggest that over £2m could be saved for each fatal accident that is prevented. Much of this falls on the Police and the NHS and it could be better spent on other things.”

“We believe that local councils are well placed to take more effective action on dangerous driving, especially on speeding, which has been shown to lead to more, and more severe, accidents. As well as taking action itself, the Council should also ensure that it is working with others – particularly the police – to clamp down on dangerous drivers,” said James.

The motion submitted by James for discussion at the Council Meeting to be held on 29 September 2016 reads:

Tackling Dangerous Driving

This Council notes that:
a) Traffic accidents cause immense personal grief and trauma to those involved and to witnesses;
b) The Department for Transport estimate that the financial cost of accidents can be enormous: over £2million for a fatal accident; around £25,000 for even a ‘slight’ accident;
c) Nationally, the cost of all reported road accidents is estimated to be over £16billion. Some argue that the true cost may be twice this amount;
d) Much of this cost falls on the public sector, especially on the Police and the NHS, and
e) Driving at high speed increases the number and the severity of accidents, and is a matter of real concern to many Calderdale residents.

This Council believes that reducing incidences of dangerous driving (including speeding) is a matter in which it should play, along with its partners and local communities, a significant role.

Council therefore resolves to:
a) Reaffirm that tackling the issue of dangerous driving is important to this Council;
b) Support, wherever possible, requests by local communities for the provision of speed cameras;
c) Use its position as a multi-functional local authority to ensure that Public Health, Highways and Education departments (and others) are working together effectively and consistently to reduce dangerous driving;
d) Request that the Leader (or relevant Cabinet member) explore with other interested partners the possibility of the proceeds of traffic offence fines and vehicle seizures being retained locally solely to fund increased activity aimed at reducing dangerous driving, and
e) Request Cabinet to consider a report on these matters, including the extent and effectiveness of inter-departmental and inter-agency working, before the end of this municipal year.

Additionally, this Council calls on the West Yorkshire Police, and the Crime and Police Commissioner, to ensure the provision in Calderdale of a permanent police unit charged with reducing dangerous driving, and that all Calderdale’s neighbourhood policing teams equipped with, and trained in the use of, mobile ‘speed guns’.

Lib Dems Slam Proposed Parking Charge Increases

Calderdale Council’s Liberal Democrat group has slammed proposals to increase car parking charges throughout Calderdale.

The matter was discussed by the Council’s Economy and Environment Scrutiny Panel at a meeting on Thursday 8th September, and will be discussed again by the Council’s Cabinet on Monday 12th.

Councillor James Baker (Warley), the leader of the Council’s Liberal Democrat Group said: “Yet again the Council seems determined to upset local residents, shop-keepers and business owners by introducing hefty increases in parking charges.”

“Although increases are planned for towns across Calderdale, Hebden Bridge seems – again – to be being singled out for particularly harsh treatment. It is already the only town in Calderdale where charges are in place for seven days a week, but now there is a suggestion that on-street charges could be increased from 40p an hour to £1. It is too much. No wonder people think the Council is treating Hebden Bridge as a cash cow.”

“It is particularly annoying to be told by Labour councillors that increased charges have been known about for some years. When concerns were raised previously, we were told that it wasn’t just about putting up prices. I feel that we have been misled.”

“We have previously suggested that a free half-hour could be introduced to aid shoppers who just want to buy a newspaper or a snack, but nothing seems to have come of this. Calderdale Council needs to sort out its parking issues, but at the moment it doesn’t look as if it will”, said Cllr Baker.

Don’t airbrush LGBT history from Shibden Hall

Calderdale Liberal Democrats are accusing the Council of not doing enough to tell the LGBT history that lies behind Anne Lister and Shibden Hall.

Shibden Hall is a landmark historic building in Calderdale and a wonderful place to visit. The hall was home to Anne Lister whose personal diaries detailing her lesbian relationships are recognised as part of the UNESCO memory of the word programme. The diaries have also been the subject of a BBC film by James Kent entitled the ‘Secret Diaries of Miss Anne Lister’.

A recent visitor to Shibden Hall, Mr Manley-Green, complained that the film wasn’t available to buy and that they had even run out of books on Anne Lister. Mr Manley-Green said “I’m not keen on being told ‘we have to be careful what we say to school groups’. I can’t think how different my life would have been if I’d have been told the story on my school trip some 50 years ago!”

Councillor James Baker (Warley), the leader of Calderdale Liberal Democrats, said “It appears the Council are trying to airbrush out the LGBT history from this site. There is little mention of Anne’s diaries on the Council’s webpage about Shibden Hall, there is a promotional video of the hall that does mention the diaries but it airbrushes out any reference to their importance as a piece of LGBT history.”

“This is a great opportunity for the Council to show Calderdale as a beacon of tolerance and a leader of putting history into a modern context. There are undoubtedly many commercial opportunities available to promote this destination as the home of the ‘first modern lesbian’”, said Cllr Baker.

Orginal picture by Rictor Norton & David Allen (CC BY 2.0) adapted to add rainbow flag. https://flic.kr/p/a4oKRT

Orginal picture by Rictor Norton & David Allen (CC BY 2.0) adapted to add rainbow flag. https://flic.kr/p/a4oKRT

“Sort Out Waste Collection Problems” Say Liberal Democrats

Calderdale Council’s Liberal Democrat Group are calling on the Council to sort out the problems around the new waste and recycling collection service.

A new waste and recycling scheme was introduced in August and was intended to provide a much more reliable, efficient and cost effective service that would allow residents to recycle more.

Cllr Paul Bellenger (Greetland and Stainland) says: “We fully support the aims of the new service, but the way it has been introduced leaves a lot to be desired.”

Uncollected Rubbish in Drury Lane, Stainland

Uncollected Rubbish in Drury Lane, Stainland

“We understand that a new service could have some initial teething issues which we allowed for during the first week. The issue then was missed collections. In the second week this continued, so we began to question why this hadn’t been resolved. By the third week this still continued and became a matter of increasing concern. As we have now passed week four and there are still problems, the situation has now become unacceptable. Throughout Calderdale we have residents who have weeks of waste building up outside their properties, even after calling the missed collections in to customer first they still remain untouched.”

“The majority of residents I have spoken to are ones who are live on side streets where only the smaller collection vehicles could access, so they relied upon the smaller vans and not the large wagons. This raises a number of questions:

  • Why have these properties been overlooked?
  • Why when the teams are the same are places getting missed?
  • Why when we now have technologically-advanced collection vehicles has the service decreased?

“Not only do we have unsightly side streets full of rubbish but soon we will see the increase of vermin to these locations. Things must get much better in September” said Cllr Bellenger.

Leader of the Calderdale Liberal Democrat Group, Cllr James Baker (Warley) added: “weeks go by and still people are still experiencing problems with their recycling collections. If Labour spent their time resolving problems in the Council they run rather than on acrimoniously arguing about who their leader will be then perhaps we wouldn’t be in this mess.”

Speeding Traffic Letter

The Halifax Courier has today published this letter from Cllr Ashley Evans.

Speeding traffic is causing increasing concern to residents of the Warley ward and I am frequently contacted by people expressing anger and frustration at this dangerous and anti-social behaviour. Through the Ward Forum and other community meetings my colleague James Baker and I have begun to address the problem.

Initially, SID (the Speed Indicator Device) was deployed and, despite its high visibility, it recorded speeds of up to 40mph in the new 20mph zones and speeds over 40mph in 30mph zones. The police, with the help of local residents, seized one Quad Bike and reported the driver. This was a step in the right direction but the dangerous driving continued. James and I decided enough was enough.

I e-mailed the local Police Commander and received a very positive response in under an hour. Senior officers were tasked with dealing with the problem and keeping us informed of actions and results. Extra funding was provided for a targeted operation (covering Warley and other parts of Halifax) that quickly issued 16 fixed penalty notices and seized two expensive and powerful cars – a good start, and well done to all those involved. This increased level of enforcement must be continued and James has written to our Police & Crime Commissioner asking him to make tackling speeding traffic a higher priority in his work and that of the police.

We very much welcome this action but it must be combined with more community-based approaches. The police agree and they intend to tackle the ‘culture’ behind anti-social and dangerous driving through both education and ‘enhanced enforcement’.

We will also support and work with the local Ward Forum Team who wish to set up a Warley Action Group involving the Police, the Fire Service, Road Safety officers, local schools’ representatives and the wider community. We will pass on local views on the success of this.

A combined approach may be the way to tackle this problem and it could be extended across Calderdale.

Cllr Ashley Evans

(Liberal Democrat, Warley Ward)

Speeding Traffic Concerns

PB and SIDResidents’ concerns over speeding motorists in parts of the Greetland and Stainland ward have led to the Speed Indicator Device (SID) being used to get a more accurate picture of the problem.

Cllr Paul Bellenger (Liberal Democrat, Greetland and Stainland) says: “I take these concerns very seriously, so I visited the areas myself to get a clearer indication of which roads were more of a hotspot. I passed this information on to Council officers and requested the deployment of SID, which was set up in Greetland and Sowood on a number of dates during July.”

“The results were very interesting. Having watched SID in action monitoring vehicles we noticed that our perceptions were often very different to the SID results. Vehicles that we thought were travelling way above the speed limit were actually often close to it. What looks like speeding to someone on foot often isn’t.”

“However, the speeds of some motorists in some areas were too great and this information has been passed onto West Yorkshire Police. I hope they will be taking action to bring speeds down to a safe level.”

“Speeding traffic is a concern in many communities and we will continue to work with the Council and the police throughout the ward and do what we can to make it safer” said Paul.