In a backwards step Calderdale Council has decided to scrap a system put in place to monitor the time Councillors spend on their duties and replace it with a requirement to write a yearly report.
The system of reporting on the hours Councillors have worked was introduced following an increase in Councillors allowances in 2002. Councillors have been required to submit a return every three months that details the time spent on different activities. Members of the public can then view these returns online.
The Liberal Democrat group on Calderdale Council considered this issue at our group meeting and agreed unanimously to oppose this move. The time sheets were not a perfect system, as sadly some Councillors could not be bothered to complete them, for instance there is at least one Labour Councillor who has never submitted a return since being elected. The electorate could at least see for themselves that a return hadn’t been completed and draw some conclusions from this fact.
Councillor James Baker said: “We are not opposed to Councillors being requested to write an annual report, but we would have liked to have seen this introduced in addition to the existing arrangements rather than as a replacement to them.”
“This move will be seen as an attempt by Councillors to avoid accountability and transparency in their dealings, and the public scrutiny these time sheets opened them up to. It is a backwards step for Calderdale Council and risks undermining public trust in our local democracy.”
Liberal Democrats on Calderdale Council’s Economy and Environment Scrutiny Panel have successfully argued that people living in rural properties should still be able to get their rubbish and recycling collected.
The Council is currently in the process of reviewing its waste collection contract, and one of the options on the table for consideration was whether to force people living in rural properties to take their refuse to a road accessible by a larger vehicle.
Commenting Cllr James Baker (Warley) Liberal Democrat spokesperson for Economy and Environment said: “We hope the new contract can build on the recycling success that Calderdale achieves. We were, however, concerned that many people would struggle to take wheelie bins or refuse sacks great distances down country tracks to roads that a bigger vehicle could access. The proposals would also result on piles of rubbish being left scattered about country lanes whilst they waited for collections, this would be a blight on the landscape.”
The scrutiny panel agreed to recommend that these saving plans are dropped from plans for the new waste collection contract.
Calderdale Council is to look at making information easily available to local people so they can see what progress has been made on flood protection issues.
Over one year on from the floods and many people are concerned that Calderdale Council has not done enough to ensure we are resistant to future flooding problems. By publishing the recovery plan online in an easy accessible and simple format members of the public would be able to track some of the good work that has already happened and what is planned for the future.
Cllr Janet Battye (Calder), Leader of Calderdale Council Liberal Democrat Group said: “We suggested a simple traffic light system is published on the Council’s website, this would enable people to see where the Council has hit its targets for planned works and where problems have resulted in delays. By making the recovery process more transparent people will be kept better informed, and be better able to hold their Council to account.
The Economy and Environment scrutiny panel agreed to recommend that the Council investigates implementing such as system.
Cllr Janet Battye has welcomed the Liberal Democrat Million Jobs Campaign, which was launched by Liberal Democrat Leader and Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg.
More than one million private sector jobs have been created since the Coalition Government came to power. Liberal Democrats now want to create a million more.
This will build on what Liberal Democrats in the Coalition Government have already achieved. Business Secretary, Vince Cable has overseen a record rise in apprenticeships, including 5,580 apprentices in Calderdale since 2010. To support jobs in manufacturing, £5.5bn extra has been invested into science, high-tech manufacturing and renewable energy and Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander has introduced £2,000 cash back on National Insurance contributions for employers who take on more staff.
Commenting, Cllr Janet Battye said:
“The Liberal Democrats are building a stronger economy in a fairer society, enabling everyone to get on in life.
“Liberal Democrats in the Coalition Government have helped businesses create more than one million private sector jobs, and now we’re working to help them create a million more.
“I look forward to working with local businesses, community groups and schools and colleges to turn this ambition into reality in Calderdale.”
A new £2m scheme has been launched by the Coalition Government to help boost childcare businesses and help women back into work.
People who want to set up a nursery can apply for grants of up to £500 to help cover things like legal and insurance costs, training, equipment and adaptations to buildings. The scheme is aimed to launch up to 6,000 new childcare businesses across England.
We hope people in Calderdale will take up this offer so that a significant number of new nurseries will spring up here, boosting options for parents.
This funding boost comes on top of other recent good news for parents. Last month it was announced that 524 of the poorest two-year-olds in Calderdale stand to benefit from 15 hours free childcare a week from this September. This was championed by Liberal Democrats in the Coalition Government to ensure those toddlers have a good start in life and education.
Commenting, Cllr Ashley Evans said:
“Liberal Democrats want to create a stronger economy in a fairer society, enabling everyone to get on in life. Childcare plays a vital role in achieving those goals. It helps the early development of children and removes barriers for those parents keen to return to work.
“We have seen time and time again the important difference that good quality childcare can make in giving children the best possible start in life.
“This money will help entrepreneurs set up and run new childcare facilities which along with over £1.4 million extra to help fund child care for two year olds will be a boost to Calderdale’s economy and a massive help to families here.”
Today is pay day for millions of people across Britain, which means they will receive their first pay slip since the Income Tax personal allowance was raised from £8,105 to£9,440. When Liberal Democrats came into power in 2010 this was just £6,475.
Raising the tax-free allowance is the Liberal Democrats’ flagship policy and has so far seen Income Tax bills slashed by £600 a year for millions of low and middle income workers compared to what they were paying under Labour. As a result, more than 2m people on low pay have been lifted out of paying Income Tax altogether.
The tax-free allowance will rise again next year to £10,000, fulfilling a commitment from the front page of the Liberal Democrats’ 2010 General Election manifesto and resulting in a total tax cut of £700.
Commenting, Councillor James Baker said:
“If you get paid today, take a moment to compare your pay slip to last month’s. You’ll see that Liberal Democrats have cut your taxes.
In total over 79,000 people living in Calderdale have received a tax cut, this is the biggest programme of tax cuts for working people for a generation. This tax cut means an extra £40 million has been kept in the pockets of residents to be spent in our local economy.
Since May 2010, Calderdale Council has been run by Liberal Democrats and Labour Councillors working together on a jointly agreed programme. Now the Labour group has decided unilaterally to end this arrangement although the Liberal Democrats were committed to seeing through the current two-year programme that was agreed last year.
Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group on Calderdale Council, Cllr Janet Battye (Calder ward) says: “The Labour Group have told us that they want to end the local agreement on running Calderdale Council so that they can campaign against Welfare Benefit cuts. However, they seem to have missed the fact Calderdale Council has no power to stop the programme of Benefit Reform: that is being pursued by the national government and is designed in part to help reduce the debt that the last Labour government left this country with when it lost the election in 2010.
This reform, though, has to be done alongside developing the local economy, supporting businesses and creating jobs, to ensure that those people who go out and work get fairly rewarded for their efforts. There is more to running the council than welfare reform, so it is clear that Labour here care more about national politics rather than working constructively to improve the lives of local people here in Calderdale.”
“We feel that Liberal Democrat Councillors have worked constructively with the Labour group since May 2010 to help build a stronger economy and a fairer society here in Calderdale. We have worked intelligently to make savings that meant that the services that matter to people, such as libraries and Sure Start Children’s Centres, were kept open. We conducted extensive public consultation and listened to what people told us.
This is all in stark contrast to Labour-run Councils across the north that lack the economic competence or interest to make smart changes to services and instead simply blame the government for cuts.”