The initial response from local Liberal Democrats questions both the process and the contents of the budget proposals.
“When Labour took control of the Council in May 2013, with the passive support of the Conservatives, they said that they would run an ‘open and transparent’ Council. However, their method of preparing these budget proposals has been anything but. They have been closed and secretive” says Liberal Democrat Group Leader, Cllr Janet Battye (Calder). “While I’m not surprised at some of the proposals, Labour chose not to continue the open process of cross-party Budget Review groups which we set up when we began to run the Council with them and continued throughout the 3 years that we were part of the Cabinet”.
“Secondly, although Labour talk about “ambition”, and we have challenged them to explain their vision, they still will not say what role they see for the Council and what type of services local people can expect to get. There are a lot of words in the preamble to the figures, but little meaning.”
“Thirdly, the devil’s in the detail: from the information provided in the budget papers, it is difficult to understand what they intend to do. How are they going to “realign other services with Public Health outcomes”? There are four proposals about the waste collection service with an initial reduction of over £0.5m – what impact will that have? Let alone a “Future Workforce Programme” which we’ve never heard of”.
“There are 27 proposals in total, 11 of which involve Reviews. These are substantial pieces of work with little clear explanation of how and why they fit into any vision or strategy for local services. Given the slow pace of development and implementation of many of their recent strategies – such as Child Poverty on which work appears not to have started – we must seriously question their competence to run the Council without close involvement of all Councillors”.
“It is deeply disappointing that, despite Labour’s fine words, there seems to be nothing in these proposals to support and invest in the local Green Economy, carbon reduction and affordable warmth. We particularly want to see more work done on Community Energy. It is likely that our budget proposals will include something on this.
“I’m not sure that Labour, on their own, have the economic competence to make savings without affecting services. Only Liberal Democrats can deliver both a stronger economy and a fairer society”
Councillor Janet Battye – Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group on Calderdale Council