Calderdale Conservative’s nasty budget

Calderdale Conservatives have released their alternative budget for the Council. Under their proposals you will pay more and get less. It is a budget that seeks to balance the books on the poorest and most vulnerable in Calderdale.

Council tax increases are occurring up and down the country. You might have heard on the news about the real crisis that exists in social care funding. A large amount of the Council tax increase you will face are the result of something called the ‘Social Care Precept’. This is money that will be spent on social care, however the extra raised from Council tax is simply making up for money that is being cut by central government. Someone still has to pay for social care, under Conservative Government’s plans it will be funded by Council tax payers, rather than taxation revenues collected by the treasury.

Council tax levels

Under the Council’s Cabinet proposals, Council Tax will rise from the current £1,300.85 to £1,459.48 in 2019/20 (all figures for Band D properties). This is a rise of 12.2% over three years. Under the Conservative proposals, the final figure will be £1,432.82 – a rise of 10.1%, and a difference of £26.66. The difference between the budgets is, then, around 51p per week – less for most people as they are not in Band D properties. Despite Council tax levels rising the overall amount the Council has to spend will decrease. So you will be paying more but getting less under this Conservative Government.

Council Tax Reduction Scheme for people on benefits.

Basically this asks those on benefits to pay more Council Tax.

Currently, a claimant in a Band D property will be paying 19% of £1,300, so £247; under the Conservative proposals, they would be paying (in 2018/19) 30% of £1,405, so £422. This is a rise of around 70%. Most claimants, though, will not be in Band D properties, so the actual amounts are likely to be lower, though the proportions will remain the same. This will push more people into debt and poverty.

Discretionary rate relief. 

The Conservatives are proposing to cut the discretionary business rate relied for charities and sports clubs pay. This means that they will have to pay more business rates, and will have less money to spend on charitable causes.

Cuts to children services

The Conservatives are planning on cutting over £1m a year from the money Children’s Centres get to provide day care services. This will make those services more expensive for working families who rely on the Centres for day care services.

Attacks on Council staff

The Conservatives want to cut sick pay for the first two days off work, make Council staff take two days off work unpaid every year (a cut of apx £200 in staff’s salaries), they also want to move to spot salaries. All of this will involve major changes in terms and conditions, and it might not even be possible to achieve. Ask yourself this if the Council doesn’t pay sick pay for its staff, will your own employer follow suite? The Conservatives are facilitating a race to the bottom in terms of how employers treat their employees.

You can read our proposals for Calderdale Council’s budget here 

Liberal Democrat Budget Proposals – A Safer, Cleaner and Fairer Calderdale.

As a group we are proposing to amend the Labour cabinet on Calderdale Council’s budget proposals.

The intention of our amendment is to:

  1. Make Calderdale a safer place to live by supporting the Police to enforce the laws on speeding and dangerous driving around our Borough. Speeding and dangerous driving is a major concern of residents living in Calderdale. In recent months the Police have run ‘Operation Hawmill’. This successful operation has seen a traffic cop back on the streets of Calderdale. We would like to find some finances to support the continuation of an operation such as Hawmill to help tackle speeding and dangerous driving on our streets.
  2. Make Calderdale a cleaner greener place to live by establishing a task force to tackle Environmental crimes including: Littering, dog fouling, fly-tipping, and anti-social behaviour. Parts of Calderdale are sadly looking like a rubbish dump at the moment. Meanwhile anti-social behaviour is in many places making people’s lives a misery. The Council isn’t using powers at its disposal such as Community Protection Notices. We would like to setup a new Environmental Crime Task force to help tackle and address these issues.
  3. Make Calderdale a fairer place by stopping a proposed cut to the support disabled children get in early years education. D Catch funding enables disabled children in Early Years education to get the support they need. We believe that proposals to cut this would have a devastating impact on young disabled children here in Calderdale. We believe disabled children need all the support they can get at the Early Years level in order that they can go to achieve their fullest potential in life.

Council finances are of course very tough at the moment, there is no easy or quick way to find the resources required to implement any of these proposals. We would find the resources required to do all of these things by:

  1. Seeking to transfer some Council buildings to community use. We believe in localism and by transferring Todmorden Town Hall to the management of the Town Council and Brighouse Town Hall to a community group we see them put to better use.
  2. Re-introducing a previously agreed saving on fees. In previous budget consultations members of the public have said they would prefer to see fees and charges for Council services rise rather than more cuts to services. Labour sought to remove that previously agreed saving, we are seeking to re-introduce it.
  3. Reducing the cost of staff sickness through a Nurse Led Sickness policy. FirstCare is part of a sickness management framework that public section organisations, charities, and housing associations can sign up to. Under the scheme, Council employees are required to phone FirstCare to register any sick leave that they need to take.  They are then assessed by a nurse on the phone and advised as to what they need to do next. It is estimated by Council officers that if introduced on Calderdale Council for key areas this would save us £50K per annum.

This is a fully balanced amendment to the cabinet budget, it would not require any additional taxation upon what is already proposed, and neither would it require any additional use of balances.

The financial details of this amendment can be viewed below

 

If you have any comments on our suggestions for budget please feel free to post them. We have put this amendment in the public domain before Budget Council in order that residents are able to join in the democratic process and the debate.

Council Budget Agreed – Labour Plans Rejected

Liberal Democrat councillors have supported a budget for Calderdale Council that will deliver:

  • A Council tax freeze
  • A 20% saving in the Council’s energy bills to be achieved through an investment in LED lighting in Council buildings and solar panels
  • A £1.4m investment in an affordable warmth insulation scheme that it’s estimated will save the NHS £4.65m in associated health costs.
  • All future savings the Council has to make in 2017/18 to be shaped by a major public consultation this summer.

In Contrast Labour’s plans would have meant:

  • Council tax rises in two out of the next three years
  • Money taken out of the road maintenance budget
  • An £800,000 cut in Children Services in 2017/18
  • No public Consultation

Liberal Democrat group leader Councillor Janet Battye (Calder) said “We would have preferred to see all the parties represented on the council work towards an agreed budget, but that clearly didn’t happen. That being the case, we had to choose between proposals put forward by the Cabinet and those put forward by the Labour group. Both have their good points and their bad, but in the end we thought the Labour proposals had more bad than good points. We couldn’t support Labour as they have made it clear they will put up taxes and won’t consult with residents across Calderdale about the future of the Council.”

Deputy leader of the Liberal Democrat group Councillor James Baker (Warley) said “There was a clear choice on the table. The amended budget we supported will consult with local people whereas Labour would have cut funds from road maintenance, cut from children services, and put up taxes to spend on the schemes they have decided they want to pursue.”

Agreement Reached on Budget Changes

LibDems_StyleGuidlines2010.indd

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.

Calderdale’s Labour Cabinet budget: The devil’s in the detail

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