Those members of Calderdale Liberal Democrats who enjoyed our guest speaker at our AGM…

… may be interested to know that she is writing a book based partially on the speech and Q&A she gave us. If you would like a copy you can back the kickstarter here.

The amount being asked for the Kickstarter is symbolic — £1,008 is the fee for UK citizenship *after* you’ve already passed the so-called citizenship test and paid thousands in visas, which Holly has. I’ve gone for the signed copy, myself.

Those of you who couldn’t make the AGM, I can promise you a good read if you buy the book. Holly is a great, engaging writer, and certainly has interesting things to say (as those who did make the AGM can attest).

Calderdale Liberal Democrat’s Budget Amendments

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CALDERDALE COUNCIL LIBERAL DEMOCRATS

Budget 2015/18

Our principles: As Liberal Democrats, we believe that it’s important that Calderdale has a thriving economy, and cares for its local people. Supporting local businesses has to be an important feature of this, while making sure that Calderdale is a good place to live in and visit.

We also believe that the role of the Council, as the elected representatives of local people, is to lead, co-ordinate and facilitate local services. In our extensive consultation exercise in 2010, local people told us that they wanted us to protect local services but that the Council doesn’t have to directly provide local services.

We also know that local people want efficient and effective services, with an open, responsive and accountable Council. They have told us that they are prepared to pay more for some services in order to protect others.

Our achievements: In taking a leading role in running the Council in recent years, we have ensured that:

  • Youth unemployment has reduced significantly, with more apprenticeships

  • Schools have benefitted from some protection of funding and the Pupil Premium (worth some £25m)

  • Investment in local businesses and transport through the Council’s Economic Task Force, and active partnership in Leeds City Region/Combined Authority

  • Green economy and environmental issues taking a higher priority: highest waste recycling in West Yorkshire and the Community Energy scheme

Our aspirations for this budget period: In these next 3 years, we are looking to:

  • Keep Council tax increases to the lowest possible with no increase next year

  • Continue to improve the efficiency of the Council through reducing “back office” costs and explore sharing services with other Councils, etc

  • Work with local people to protect local Council services alongside developing and supporting local community services

  • Continue to support local businesses and the local economy, reducing unemployment and providing more apprenticeships and training for young people

In particular, we want to see the Council take action on the following two specific issues and commit to one general one:

Real action on energy reduction

As Liberal Democrats we are committed to real action to tackle climate change and reduce our reliance on unsustainable fossil fuels. Some targets have been placed on the Council to reduce its energy bill. We think it’s time for a much bolder and radical approach. We will set a tough target of saving 20% from our energy bills by 2018. This is achievable through a major investment in solar energy and LED lighting in Council buildings. This invest to save scheme would pay for itself through the savings in energy costs. After about five years the cost of the investment will have been paid off and the Council will then benefit financially from these savings.

This measure will be self-financing and will result in reduced energy consumption and the creation of more renewable energy. It’s a bold and forward thinking approach modernising Calderdale Council’s estate of buildings.

Affordable Warmth Scheme

In Calderdale in 2013 there were 93 excess winter deaths attributed to cold homes. Improving the insulation in homes, particularly those of vulnerable people, will help reduce the number of people suffering in cold homes. It will mean fewer people living in fuel poverty, fewer fossil fuels burnt to heat homes, and more money in residents’ pockets to be spent in our local economy.

The National Institute of Environmental Health and the Building Research Establishment have suggested that targeting the borough’s worst housing with a £1.4m investment programme could save an estimated £4.65m in associated health care costs. At a time when health services are under pressure this is a sensible and pragmatic measure the Council could take to help save lives in Calderdale.

Through smarter working and the use of technology we believe that the Council could save even more money than currently suggested. We are therefore proposing to increase the savings target for making better use technology by £100,000 and use the additional savings to fund the repayment of a £1.4m capital investment to combat cold homes in Calderdale.

Involving Local People

The public consultation referred to above was carried out nearly five years ago. It was an extremely useful piece of work, but its relevance and usefulness will necessarily diminish with the passing of time. For a number of reasons, then, including the forthcoming general election, we believe that this summer is the right time for the Council to undertake a similar consultation and engagement exercise that will assist in shaping the Councils policies and budgets for several years to come. That is why we welcomed the Cabinet’s proposal to carry out such an exercise and why we now call upon the Council as a whole to make a commitment to undertake this work.

Cllr Janet Battye

February 2015

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Liberal Democrat Amend Cover

AMENDMENTS MOVED AT MEETINGS OF THE COUNCIL – LIB DEM GROUP

Number of children in prison cut by half, new figures reveal

The number of children in prison has been cut by a half since the Liberal Democrats came into Government, statistics uncovered by Julian Huppert MP reveal.

Between April 2010 and November 2014 the number of under 18s in custody fell from 2,149 to 1,055 – a drop of 51 per cent.

Cambridge MP Julian Huppert uncovered the figures in an Oral Question to Justice Minister Andrew Selous in the House of Commons this week.

The dramatic drop comes after Liberal Democrats in Government pushed for the Youth Justice Board to have more powers to help rehabilitate offenders in the community, rather than locking them up.

Now Dr Huppert is calling for a Women’s Justice Board to be set up in the next Parliament to take similar action to cut down the number of women in custody. This follows calls by Simon Hughes – the Lib Dem Justice Minister – to do the same.

Liberal Democrat Julian Huppert MP said in the chamber:

“That is a substantial decrease and it is very welcome, particularly at a time when crime is falling.

“Much of it has been due to the excellent work of the Youth Justice Board, which should be congratulated.”

He added later:

“We have been working hard in government to cut re-offending rates and keeping young people out of prison goes a long way to preventing them from picking up bad habits.

“Working to rehabilitate them in their communities, where they can be productive and learn new skills, helps to get their lives back on track. Not only is this important for the individual concerned, but it makes good economic sense for the taxpayer as well.

“The Youth Justice Board has done some excellent work with young people and I am confident similar work could be put into practice to help women stay out of prison. Women are often the backbone of a family and giving them custodial sentences can have a huge effect on the children.

“It is absolutely clear from the results we have seen with youth offending in a relatively short time that the measures we have put in place are working. We know that prison doesn’t work. People get into a revolving door situation where they go to prison, come out and reoffend and go back in again. We have to cut our prison population and I am very encouraged by the results we are seeing.”

£245,696 boost for children in Calderdale

Little girl with mom read book in bed

Nurseries, childminders and other early years providers in Calderdale are set for a £245,696 cash injection to help three and four-year-olds from disadvantaged families.

Children from low income families have often fallen behind more well off classmates before they even start school.​

But from April 2015, the Early Years Pupil Premium – which has been backed by groups like Barnados, 4Children and the Child Poverty Action Group – ​will mean extra money to make sure every child gets a fair start.

Alisdair Calder McGregor prospective parliamentary candidate for Calder Valley said: “By investing nearly 1/4 Million in Calderdale to help the most disadvantaged three and four-year-olds, Liberal Democrats are ensuring that children are getting the best possible start in life.

“All the evidence shows that helping children as early as possible is key to making sure they do not fall behind. That is why this announcement is fantastic news for children.

“This is all part of creating a fairer society and opportunity for everyone.”

Nurseries and schools will be free to choose how to spend the money, which is part of a £50m Government pot.

It comes on top of Lib Dem-led changes in Government to help families, which include shared parental leave, tax free childcare, Free School Meals, and a pupil premium for school age children.

Liberal Democrat Schools Minister David Laws added: “Every child deserves the opportunity to reach their full potential, whatever their background.

“Liberal Democrats in government have already extended free early years education for all children in Calderdale.

“Now this cash boost will mean extra support for those children who need it most.”

32,472 Calderdale pensioners get a rise thanks to Liberal Democrats

The basic state pensions will rise by at least £2.85 a week thanks to the Liberal Democrats triple lock. It means 32,472 pensioners in Calderdale will benefit from an increase in their pension.

This rise will bring the level of the state pension to at least £115.95 and will benefit millions of pensioners across the UK. This is £18.30 more, each week, than in 2010 when the Liberal Democrats entered coalition. This means pensioners on the full basic state pension are £950 a year better off than they were under Labour.

The triple lock delivers a pension rise of whichever is the greater of average earnings, inflation or 2.5%, meaning pensioners across Calderdale will see more money in their pockets.

The Liberal Democrats campaigned for it in opposition, have delivered it in Government and have pledged to write it into law in the next Parliament.

Commenting, Liberal Democrat Pensions Minister Steve Webb said:

“This is fantastic news and proof that the Liberal Democrats are delivering in government.

“Thanks to the triple lock commitment in our manifesto pensioners across the country have benefited from a substantial income boost this parliament.

“I am proud of this record of delivery and that we are the only party with a 2015 manifesto promise to write the triple lock into law.”

Commenting further, Alisdair Calder McGregor said:

“Liberal Democrats are building a stronger economy and a fairer society, and that means treating pensioners with the respect that they deserve.

“The triple lock ensures that pensioners are guaranteed the security of a steady rise in their pensions, allowing them to plan for their future and giving them dignity in their retirement.

“We have ensured that pensioners in Calderdale are never again subjected to the indignity of the 75p rise they saw under Labour.”

Agreement Reached on Budget Changes

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The Liberal Democrat and Conservative groups on Calderdale Council have reached agreement on amendments to Labour’s budget proposals and will be putting these to the Budget Council meeting to be held on Monday (24February).

Together, the two groups have 28 members to Labour’s 21, with two independents.

Liberal Democrat group leader, Cllr Janet Battye (Calder) told us: “While Labour say they run an open and transparent administration, that has not been our experience. Labour have drawn up their budget plans with no involvement from any other group and apparently no plan as to how they were going to get the Council to approve it. Although they run the Cabinet, they do not have a majority on the Council.”

“Our overarching aims have been to make better use of the Council’s resources to support a fairer society and build a stronger economy. Our plans do this by:

  • Freezing the Council’s element of the Council Tax bill for the coming year and the following year. We also aim to freeze Council Tax in 2016;
  • Increasing the Council’s Business & Economy Service to provide expert help and advice that will enable local business to increase their exports;
  • Reversing some of the recent changes to car parking charges and increase a shoppers’ parking scheme. Both will aid the local economy;
  • Increasing the size of the Safer, Cleaner, Greener teams, enabling them to place more emphasis on tackling dog fouling;
  • Providing each Ward Forum with a sum of £5,000 so that issues of local importance can be addressed;
  • Establishing a fund that local schools can access to tackle issues with their buildings that are too big for their own budgets, but which never make it to the top of the Council’s priority list.

“These budget proposals give a clear signal of the way we wish the Council to operate over the coming years. I hope that the Council approves them” said Cllr Battye.

Halifax Liberal Democrats select parliamentary candidate.

Halifax Liberal Democrats have selected Mohammed Ilyas as their parliamentary candidate for the 2015 general election.

Mr Ilays has been a resident of Halifax since 1973.He represented the Liberal Democrats as a Calderdale council as a councillor from 2008 to 2012. He works self employed as a driving instructor.

Commenting Mr Ilays said “ The Liberal Democrats stand for an open and a fairer society in which everyone can play a role without any prejudice of colour religion race or backgrounds. We want to enable everyone to get on in life and achieve things based on their ability not privilege. “

“We will let people know that Labour can’t be trusted with the economy, and the Conservatives can’t be trusted to build a fairer society. It is only the Liberal Democrats who can both build a stronger economy and a fairer society.”

“In 2010 we took the bold decision to join the coalition to bring back Country on its feet. The economy is growing again, and more people are in work now in Calderdale than in 2010 when Labour left office.  We have held back the worse excess of the Conservatives, and tried to make things fairer by giving ordinary people a tax cut of £700.”

“In Halifax we will do more to do to involve young people into training sessions,apprenticeships and creating more job opportunities for everyone.”

 

Liberal Democrats debate Devolution for Yorkshire

A motion at the Liberal Democrat’s spring conference proposes a radical devolution of power away from Westminster. Under the plans English regions would get similar powers to those of the Scottish and Welsh assemblies, including powers over Education, Health and Agriculture.

Yorkshire, which has roughly the same population as Scotland, would be offered the chance to take control of such powers instead of having them controlled from London. The proposal will be debated at the Liberal Democrat spring conference, which will take place in York on the 7th-9th of March.

LibDem PPC for Calder Valley, Alisdair Calder McGregor said “These proposals offer English regions real power to shape their own destiny without Westminster interference. This is good for the regions, as people will have more direct say in how their local area is run, and good for the UK as a whole, as it means Westminster can concentrate on national issues like Defence and Foreign Affairs”.

As well as increased autonomy for regions like Yorkshire, the Liberal Democrats are proposing powers being handed back to local authorities, including financial freedom, removal of the powers of central government ministers to overrule, and powers over council tax and business rates.

The Liberal Democrat proposals also include the abolition of the House of Lords, a move to fairer “STV” voting for local authorities (the system currently used in Scotland), and changes to the way European elections are run so that people vote for candidates rather than political parties.

 

Business strategy demonstrates Labour can’t be trusted with the economy

Sadly we are not very impressed by the Council’s draft business and economy strategy, as it fails to set out an ambitious vision of sustainable, fair and equitable growth.

Our criticism follows the publication of a draft business and economic strategy by the Labour Cabinet, which will determine how the Council supports local businesses over the coming years. The document demonstrates that Labour can’t be trusted with the future of Calderdale’s economy.

Cllr James Baker, Economy and Environment spokesperson said:

The report is comparable to someone who has planned a trip by throwing a load of useful items in the back of their car, but hasn’t thought where they are heading to.”

The report lacks ambition and focuses too much on the recession we are now emerging from, rather than planning for a future in which Calderdale prospers in a global economy. We believe that the strategy needs to do more to spell out how we will create more jobs and growth through building our exports and links to the global economy, sharing wealth through development of mutual and co-operatives and generating our own sustainable energy in a manner that reduces energy bills for local residents.”

In comparison, our vision is to build a stronger economy in a fairer society, enabling everyone to get on in life. An economy in which businesses in Calderdale benefit from increasing exports with Europe and the wider world, an economy where we produce our own sustainable energy, an economy in which people share in the wealth we create together.”

We will be submitting a full response to the consultation that is currently open, and we hope in due course that the Labour-run Cabinet will take on board our suggestions on how to build a stronger economy within Calderdale.

Extra funding for free early years education

The Government has announced additional funding to provide free early years education to two-year olds across England, bringing the number of families eligible in Calderdale up to a total of 1,400 for 2014 up from from 524 in 2013.

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Across the UK that’s 130,000 two-year olds from the poorest homes will be eligible for 15 hours of free childcare a week with a nursery or childminder.

The Government is investing more than £500 million into childcare this year and £100 million through local authorities to create new places to ensure those children eligible right now can benefit from these places.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said:

“From today, if you’re a parent on a low income with a two year old in the family your child will qualify for 15 hours a week of free early years’ education.

“These funded places are focused on helping the families that need them most.”

Next year the Government will be investing £760m to help an additional 130,000 two-year-olds in families on less than £16,190 a year who receive working tax credits.

Commenting Cllr Pauline Nash said:

“This is a welcome announcement for families in Calderdale as early education helps promote a child’s physical, emotional and social development. This extra funding is one example of how we are trying to build a fairer society in which everyone has a chance to get on in life.