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 

Our plan to stop Labour’s cut to funding for disabled children

One of the proposed cuts the Labour cabinet on Calderdale Council is planning to make will affect disabled children and their families here in Calderdale. This is what mum of two Katherine had to say about the cut:

“As a mum of two children with neurological disabilities and mobility issues. George my son is four he has neuro fibromotis and ataxia plus dystonia and diagnosed with cognitive delay of 2 years. So George is 4 but in most areas he functions cognitively around 2 2 half yrs old. Samantha my 8 yr old daughter as ataxia and mild learning difficulties. Because of her tremors in her body she is unable to write also struggles carrying things and her balance and Co ordination is impaired.

These things make my life hard as it is that’s why I was shocked to find out that the council would consider cutting services that are a huge help to me and other families.After looking at the plans it makes no sense to me to cut schemes and services that have a positive impact on the children and families of disabled children and children with learning difficulties.

To cut these services now when local schools are facing cuts of around 400k leads me to wonder were the councils priorities are by the looks of this not with the families of disabled children in Calderdale.

Councillors of all parties need to look again at viable solutions. They must be other ways to address the lack of funding the council recieves from central government without taking it from the most vulnerable people in our Town.”

The proposed cut was to D Catch funding. This funding provides money to disabled children in early years education to ensure they get the support they need in nurseries across Calderdale.

Calderdale Liberal Democrats are putting forward a budget amendment that will save enough money to prevent this cut.

Councillor James Baker leader of Calderdale Liberal Democrats said:

“Our amendment includes a saving that arises from adopting a ‘nurse-led sickness policy’. A policy like this was adopted by Watford Council and it has saved them a great deal of money. Essentially staff in certain areas with high sickness will have to phone a nurse first when reporting in sick for work at the Council. The health advice they receive helps staff to get back to work sooner. This cuts down on cover costs and agency costs and saves the tax payer money. Officers on Calderdale Council are confident this would save money, and we are proposing it is used to stop this cut. We hope this idea will win cross-party support.”

The full Liberal Democrat budget amendment can be read 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.

Liberal Democrats call for green spaces to be protected

GreenSpaces

As Calderdale Council launches its consultation on the proposals for allocating land for future house-building in Calderdale, Calderdale Liberal Democrats are launching a campaign to protect greenbelt around towns and villages, and open spaces within towns and villages.

Cllr James Baker said:

“We are really concerned about some areas of land apparently marked for potential house-building sites all across Calderdale”. In my own ward, it looks as though the Council is proposing that houses be built on playing fields, parks and allotments, as well as around villages in the open countryside where road access is poor”.

Leader of the Liberal Democrat group, Cllr Janet Battye added: “

We know that there is a need to build more affordable housing and social housing, but we think that the Council should look first at existing planning permissions – some 3,000 houses with permission have not yet been built – and then brownfield land which has already been built on, as well as pressing harder to bring empty buildings into use.”

“It’s also disappointing that more imaginative approaches don’t seem to be being considered, such as looking at how we might use the Garden Cities approach in Calderdale.

“We’re encouraging local people to look very carefully at these land allocation plans on which the Council is currently consulting and make their views known.”

There is a need for local affordable housing and more social housing, but expensive houses build in desirable greenbelt areas will not help struggling families looking to buy a home or move to a less crowded home. Alternative developments on brownfield sites will not only be cost-efficient, but also energy-efficient as they will minimise the need to travel. We can create local communities without compromising green spaces.

You can sign our petition calling on the Council to protect greenbelt around towns and villages, and open spaces within towns and villages here.

You can view the consultation and make comments on it here

Picture attribution to Pam Wright – https://www.flickr.com/photos/pamwright99/ (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0). Our use does not suggest or imply the artists endorsement. 

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.”

Revealed – Labour’s secret sell-off plan

LabourPlans

 

Liberal Democrat councillors in Calderdale have today exposed the previous Labour administration’s plans for a wholesale sell-off of council-owned properties – plans that were to remain under wraps until after next year’s elections.

Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group, Cllr James Baker said “we only got to find out about these plans by using the Freedom of Information Act but we now know that Labour councillors have discussed selling off at least seven community centres and 15 public toilets, but were not planning to make any of this public until after next year’s local and general elections.”

“When we voted to remove Labour from the leadership of the council in July, we said that one reason was the secretive manner in which they operated. This just shows how right we were.”

“Not only is it appalling that councillors have only found out about these plans by resorting to the Freedom of Information Act, but even worse is the fact that local people would have had no say in the matter. These buildings are provided for their benefit, not the council’s” said Cllr Baker.

“No one wants the council to waste money on unnecessary buildings, but it can only decide what is necessary through holding open discussions within the council and, before that, with the public we are here to serve. I don’t believe Labour were even thinking about such discussions.”

Calderdale Liberal Democrats have urged the council to save money by creating community hubs so people could access public services in the communities they serve. Instead of drawing up a secret list we would have launched an open public consultation on the future of council-owned buildings. This shows a major difference in approach between Labour and the Liberal Democrats, and that Labour cannot be trusted.

Liberal Democrat Group Leader, Cllr Janet Battye said: “This flies in the face of Cllr Tim Swift’s assertion made in May 2013 that the Labour Cabinet would be ‘open and transparent’. When the Council has had to work on other large and difficult issues – such as the improvement of Children’s Social Care, or the work on the Piece Hall – it has been done together, across the political groups, and been more successful because of this. Why didn’t Labour do that this time?”

All the documents detailing the plans can be downloaded from What Do They Know . The Appendix in the following document lists a whole host of buildings that were planned for disposal. The plans also include transferring the Shay Stadium and Victoria theater into community ownership. 

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.

Falling unemployment helping to provide opportunity for all

Calderdale Liberal Democrats have welcomed falling unemployment levels across the borough. Latest figures on those claiming Job Seekers Allowance show that there are now more than a thousand less people unemployed in Calderdale than when Labour left office in 2010.

Liberal Democrat parlimentary candidate for Calder Valley: Alisdair Calder McGregor said:

It’s fantastic news that unemployment has fallen across Calderdale, as the vibrant local small business scene here benefits from Liberal Democrat policies for SMEs.”

Our Apprenticeship policy is also helping to get young people into a trade & learning business skills early, enabling them to get on in life on their own hard work.”

Economy & Environment spokesperson Cllr James Baker said:

Liberal Democrats in Government are not only helping to build a stronger economy, but also a fairer recovery. Our tax breaks for people on lower incomes are helping to ensure that everyone is given an opportunity to get on in life.”

As of May 2014 there were 4,613 people claiming JSA which accounts for 3.5% of the working population. This is a fall of over 1,000 from the figure of 5,978 which was 4.6% of the population when Labour left office in 2010.

JobsCampaign

 

Tories back Labour’s bigger, more expensive Cabinet

Despite Labour not having a majority on Calderdale Council, Labour will continue to hold the most important roles on the Cabinet after their nomination for Leader of the Council received backing from Conservative Councillors.

The first action of the Labour Leader was to increase the size of his Cabinet, increasing the cost to local taxpayers.

Liberal Democrat Group Leader, Councillor Janet Battye told us: “We shouldn’t really be surprised at either of these actions. The Conservatives have a history of backing Labour in this – this time they went as far as actively voting for it. Voting Conservative in the recent local elections seems to have the same effect as voting Labour.”

The Liberal Democrats also attacked Labour for increasing the size of the Council’s Cabinet. “This means that yet another member of the Labour Group is entitled to an additional £12,000. If there ever is a time to increase payments to councillors, this is not it” said Cllr Battye.

“I don’t think this is a good start to the new council year. The Council needs someone to challenge what Labour do over the coming year, and this is a role that the Liberal Democrat group will happily take on” said Cllr Battye.