Nearly 8,000 pupils in Calderdale will now get free school meals

We have made sure that from this week every child in infant school in England will get free school meals, saving families over £400 a year per child. Here in Calderdale 7,968 pupils aged 5-7 will benefit from this.

This is one of the most important changes in our education system for a generation. A healthy meal at lunchtime for all children in Reception, Year 1 and Year 2 will raise school standards and help families save money. It would never have happened without the Liberal Democrats in Government, fighting to cut the cost of living.

School lunches for all infants will save parents money, improve children’s education, and make sure more children eat a healthy and nutritious meal at least once a day. Universal free school meals have been shown to work in the pilot schemes run by the Department for Education and Department of Health in 2009.  Schools have had longer to prepare for the introduction of universal free school meals this September than schools in those pilot areas had in 2009.

Schools are receiving a huge amount of support to provide free school meals. We are providing £150m to improve kitchens and dining facilities, as well as an additional £22.5m specifically to help smaller schools.

The Scottish government will receive funding under the Barnett formula and have indicated they will also provide free school meals for infants from January 2015.

Schools Minister, David Laws said:

“The evidence is clear. Providing children with nutritious and delicious meals gives them the fuel they need to excel both inside and outside the classroom, while making them more likely to opt for fruit and vegetables at lunchtime rather than junk food such as crisps.”

Marking the launch, Matthew Reed, Chief Executive of The Children’s Society, said:

“The extension of free school meals to all infants in the country is a positive step in the fight against child poverty. Our analysis shows that about 160,000 more children in poverty will be getting this vital support as a result of this historic move. It shows that the Government recognises the hardship that thousands of families are facing.”

 

Tackling tax avoidance
Actionaid are running a ‘towns against tax dodging’ campaign which is encouraging Council’s to pass motions against tax dodging. The only real tax the Council has powers to stop people dodging is Council tax, as it’s the government and HMRC which are really able to take meaningful action in this area. There maybe some lobbying benefit though if lots of Councils were to pass motions about tax dodging.
We think it’s also worth highlighting that since 2010 Liberal Democrats have made significant efforts to tackle tax avoidance, here are some of the things the we have achieved in government.

Tackling tax avoidance at home

  • As the coalition sorts out Labour’s economic mess, Lib Dems in government are increasing revenues by clamping down on aggressive tax avoidance and evasion. It’s not fair that when most are making a contribution to balancing the nation’s books, a minority are escaping their duty.
  • A model of the Lib Dems’ targeted General Anti-Avoidance Rule (GAAR) is now in operation. It is targeted at abusive and artificial avoidance schemes, preventing cat and mouse games which occur when new schemes are created every time the Government blocks an existing loophole.
  • Lib Dems are investing more than £1 billion in HMRC to tackle tax avoidance and evasion and expect it to deliver £22 billion in 2014/15, £10 billion more than Labour managed in their last year.
  • Lib Dems are increasing the number of HMRC staff working on tax evasion and tax avoidance by 2,500. Labour let the number of staff drop by 9,000 between 2005 and 2010.
  • Danny Alexander has introduced procurement guidelines to ensure that the companies who take on Government contracts above £5 million self-certify compliance with their tax obligations. If they get involved with avoidance, they risk losing access to government business.
  • In April this year, Liberal Democrat Business Secretary Vince Cable announced plans for a list of true company owners because for a company to be trusted, Lib Dems need to know who is really in charge. UK companies will no longer be able to use complex structures and trails of paper to hide information behind bogus owners and directors.




Tackling tax avoidance abroad

  • Lib Dems think it is important that the UK takes a leading role in helping other countries to legislate against tax dodging.
  • Lib Dems are supporting tax capacity projects to help developing countries increase their tax revenues. We’re working with international organisations such as the African Tax Administration Forum, the World Bank and the OECD to provide technical assistance.
  • Last year, Lib Dems announced almost £10 million of new funding to support projects to tackle tax avoidance in developing countries.
  • At last year’s G8 summit, the UK reached an agreement with other major countries to establish the automatic exchange of information between tax authorities. The UK Crown Dependencies and Overseas Territories have also joined up to this initiative, which will boost our ability to tackle cross-border tax evasion.
  • In January this year, the Treasury announced that it had received £340 million from the Swiss Government following an agreement Lib Dems made with them to tackle tax avoidance.
Ousting Labour

Calderdale Labour Councillors’ reaction to losing the leadership of Calderdale Council shows that they have not grasped the fact that they do not have a majority and so cannot always have their own way. They have to work with others or, as was shown last night, the Council will remove them from positions of leadership, says the Leader of the Calderdale Council Liberal Democrat Group, Cllr Janet Battye.

We don’t prefer the Tories to Labour, and we are not part of the Conservative and Independent Cabinet. We’re simply trying to ensure that the Council listens to local people and the Cabinet listens to the Council so that local people get the services they need.

The outgoing Labour Leader said that he would run an open and transparent Council but has shown himself incapable of doing that. Instead he and his colleagues have adopted a high-handed, autocratic approach.

We always have concerns about the way Labour operates but over the past few weeks they have displayed an arrogant determination to push ahead with controversial parking and road schemes against the will of the people of Calderdale. We felt their minority administration was no longer representing the will of the Council.

Labour should note that, despite winning more seats in May, their vote, and their share of the votes cast, dropped markedly. Local people tell us – as do election results – that they want Councillors and political parties to work together to run the Council for the benefit of local people. As Liberal Democrats, that’s our preferred way of working, but it just doesn’t seem possible for Labour to collaborate.

Lib Dems win key pledges from new administration on Calderdale
It has become clear that the Labour Group has no intention of honouring the assurances it gave in May 2014 that it would consult and work with the other parties represented on Calderdale Council.

This has come to a head over the past week, when there have been two instances (Hipperholme crossroads and the imposition of parking charges) where the Labour Cabinet have made clear their intention to push ahead with their own agenda. They are ignoring the views of the public of Calderdale and the wishes of the Council that were clearly set out at its budget-setting meeting in February.

All the current opposition groups on the Council believe that the attitude and actions of the Labour Cabinet are totally unacceptable, and that the public of Calderdale deserve better. We therefore had no option but to call for a vote of no confidence in the current administration.

The Liberal Democrat group will not be entering into a Coalition with the Conservatives. We are our own party with our own agenda. We will support a Conservative and Independent coalition on a supply and demand basis. In return for our support of their administration as a group we have won a guarantee of the following.

·         The new administration implements the budget decisions from this year’s Annual Council Budget. Including the scrapping of evening parking charges in Halifax, and at car parks such as King Cross, Greetland & Stainland, Mytholmroyd and Todmorden.

·         There is a review of Neighbourhoods to include the possibility of setting up community hubs across Calderdale.

·         A Commitment that the Council will keep the Pellon Network Centre open and running.

·         Ensuring that the Council uses its powers under s215 of the Town and Country Planning Act to get owners/developers to tidy up derelict sites (eg the Hope St/Halifax Rd site in Todmorden).

We have also ensured the new administration will consider

·         Setting up a process where a petition of 1,000 local people can trigger a debate in Council (similar to that introduced by the Coalition Government at a national level).

·         Reviewing the Cabinet system to examiner whether the Committee system of governance would be a more effective way of representing residents views and running Calderdale Council.

To achieve these aims, the only option open to the Council was to remove the Leader of the Council and replace him with someone who will honour these commitments in stark contrast to the way Labour deliberately have not.

Welcome to Neighbourhood Plans

Local Town and Parish Councils in the upper Calder Valley have now agreed to start drawing up Neighbourhood Plans. Todmorden Town Council is setting up a steering group drawing in local expertise, and Hebden Royd Town Council is working in partnership with the surrounding Parish Councils. This will give local people real power in planning the future of their area.

Although it will take time to do, there will be the opportunity for local people to participate and a requirement to involve them, not least through a referendum.

Neighbourhood plans will be linked to Calderdale Council’s Local Plan, which will ensure that what local people want has to be considered in future planning applications.

Central Halifax and Park Ward are also taking steps to devise their Neighbourhood Plan. Perhaps the rest of Calderdale should follow.

 

- Councillor Janet Battye

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?

 

 

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