Council Asked to Think Again About Cragg Vale School Closure

Members of Calderdale Council’s Liberal Democrat Group are asking the Council to think again about the closure and relocation of Cragg Vale Junior and Infant School.

The Council’s Cabinet agreed earlier this month that the school should close and be amalgamated with Calder High School on part of the high school’s site. That decision has now been ‘called-in’ for further discussion by the Children and Young People Scrutiny Panel on Monday 27 March.

Liberal Democrat Education Spokesperson, Cllr Ashley Evans said: “In spite of concerns raised by parents during the consultation period, the authority still intends to go ahead with the closure and relocation of Cragg Vale School. I believe that parents succumbed to pressure from the authority – they gave up, feeling that their concerns were not going to be taken into account.”

“I share their concerns about the impact on the children and their community and locating a junior school within a senior school environment. There is also a feeling that the local authority is overstating the number of additional primary places needed and I am worried about the impact this will have on other local primary schools such as Burnley Rd and Scout Rd, potentially affecting their viability.”

“My overriding concern is that this move could be the thin end of the wedge in relation to closing down small rural schools with the inevitable effect on communities and the provision of a small school education from which many young children benefit” said Cllr Evans.

New Parish Council a Step Nearer

A new parish council – the first in Calderdale since local government reorganisation in 1974 – has moved a step nearer to being created.

Members of Calderdale Council’s Governance and Business Committee this week (23rd January) agreed to the creation of the Stainland and District Parish Council, though a final vote will be taken at a meeting of Calderdale Council in February.

Cllr Paul Bellenger (Liberal Democrat, Greetland and Stainland) told us: “I hope the proposal to create a new parish council covering Stainland, Sowood and Holywell Green is accepted so that elections can be held and the council gets up and running as soon as possible.”

“Parish Councils up and down the country have proved their worth over many years. They can provide local services and be the voice of local communities at very little cost to the residents. That’s why I, along with a number of other local people, started this process some time ago. It has been quite a long process and has included consultation with local people, and I hope that the final hurdle is crossed in February.”

The leader of the Liberal Democrat Group, Cllr James Baker, who attended the meeting of the Governance and Business Committee told us: “I was very pleased to support the creation of a new parish council. Liberal Democrats are very keen to see councils operating as close as they can to the people who elect them. I would urge people in Stainland and District to think seriously about standing for the council so that they can make a difference to their communities.”

Liberal Democrats Slam Slump in Recycling Rates

Local Liberal Democrat councillors have reacted angrily to the news that Calderdale has seen the biggest decrease in household recycling in any council in England.

Calderdale Council’s household recycling rate dropped from 60.4% in 2014-15 to 46.3% in 2015-16.

Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group, Cllr James Baker (Warley) told us: “Calderdale had been one of the best performers in the country when it comes to recycling. The Labour administration was keen to publicise this, but don’t appear to be quite as keen to publicise this unacceptable drop in performance. It is just a few months since the Council decided that it wanted to be the ‘Best Borough in the North’ but it seems that in some areas the Council is moving in the wrong direction.”

“A Liberal Democrat Council would be striving to make Calderdale greener with increased recycling, solar energy generation and refitting all Council buildings to become energy efficient”, said Cllr Baker.

Liberal Democrats Welcome Changes to Parking Charge Plans

Liberal Democrat councillors have welcomed proposed changes to Calderdale Council’s plans to increase car parking charges.

Liberal Democrat group leader, Cllr James Baker (Warley) told us: “The original plans for parking charges caused uproar when they were first announced in September. Liberal Democrat councillors pressed the Labour Cabinet to think again and it now looks as if they have come up with a scheme that will have more widespread support”.

“If a paper to be discussed by the Council’s Cabinet is approved next week, some increases in charges will be smaller than previously proposed and a free parking period will be allowed where new parking charges are introduced.”

“I’m also pleased that the Council is to agree to review these charges every two years, rather than waiting much longer and then proposing a large increase that upsets everyone”, said Cllr Baker.

The Cabinet will be discussing the issue of parking charges at its meeting on Monday 12th December.

Threat to Small Schools?

Below is the text of a letter from Ashley Evans, sent to local newspapers and published in the Hebden Bridge Times/Todmorden News on 27 October 2016.

I am mindful of the proposal to close and transfer Cragg Vale School on the basis that its current building is too expensive to repair and maintain. This is despite over £1m being allocated for this purpose some time ago! Views on a number of options have already been gathered, but not on spending the targeted funds on the existing school in its existing location. Clearly there would be benefits to pupils and parents if this option were adopted.

However, I have a broader concern.

There is a danger that this is the ‘thin end of a wedge’ to progressively wipe out Calderdale’s small, rural, village primary schools, implying that they are no longer economically viable and are unable to deliver a ‘good education’ to youngsters. The need to ‘bus’ children or for their parents to transport them is often excluded from economic calculations.

As to quality of education, there is much evidence to show that children in small schools perform better – irrespective of social group – with good behaviour and positive attitudes to life and learning. They avoid the heavy costs of later educational disaffection and failure while their more enduring school performance enhances their career prospects and boosts future tax revenues.

So, instead of looking at pupil unit costs in isolation, councils should evaluate the benefits of smaller schools in wider economic and social terms. Furthermore, what is often forgotten is that the single most important ingredient in the success of the school is the effectiveness of the Head.

Thinking more creatively, there are also effective economies which can be made without throwing out the baby with the bathwater. Small schools can work together in varying degrees and ways, from informal joint working and sharing of expertise, through employing specialist staff, to more formal federations with a shared governing body and Executive Head.

We urgently need a more sophisticated analysis of the economics of school size. Small schools bring significant benefits including sustaining rural communities. The Cabinet and the Authority should see small schools as assets, not liabilities. They offer a family-friendly, community-based model for education that is too precious to lose.

Cllr Ashley Evans
Liberal Democrat, Warley Ward

Liberal Democrats Frustrated by Further Local Plan Delays

Local Liberal Democrat councillors have expressed their frustration at further delays in producing a local plan for Calderdale that will form the basis for deciding planning applications for years to come.

Cllr Ashley Evans (Liberal Democrat, Warley), a member of the Council’s Local Plan Working Party says: “This work seems to be taking forever. Deadlines come and go, new deadlines are set but then these pass without a plan being produced. Now we are told it will be next March – at the earliest – before a plan will be agreed and members of the public asked for their views.”

“I accept that this will be an important document and that it needs to be right, but progress is painfully slow. The publication date always seems to be some months in the future and we never get there. The last timetable involved publishing a plan in September, but clearly it’s going to be at least another five months before it sees the light of day.”

“It seems to me that the scale of this project has been underestimated – and therefore under-resourced – right from the beginning. I am also not convinced that enough time has been built in for public consultation.”

“The Council’s Cabinet needs to get a grip on this process and provide the resources and the political will needed to ensure that a high-quality plan is produced on time. This must not be allowed to be delayed again” said Cllr Evans.

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.

“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)