Calderdale Liberal Democrats have put forward a motion to Calderdale Council to strengthen the power of petitions. They are proposing that any petition signed by 1,000 or more local residents is automatically placed on the agenda of the next full Council meeting to be debated by Councillors
Councillor James Baker, Deputy leader of Calderdale Liberal Democrats, said: “On the doorstep I hear many people say that the Council does not listen to local people. We think that democracy in Calderdale is broken, and have come up with a series of proposals to fix it. Alongside returning to the traditional Committee system, and webcasting all meetings we are trying to give more power to the people.
“This proposal would give local people a direct influence over the agenda of topics debated by the Council, and make it harder for whoever is running the Council to ignore petitions. It can only help to improve our local democracy.”
Liberal Democrat PPC for Calder Valley Alisdair Calder McGregor said: “This idea was thought up by one of our members at our local policy day and mirrors what has been done in parliament. As a democratic party our policy ideas are generated by our grass roots membership. As a party we are unique in offering local people the chance to see their ideas and polices being put into action.”
The motion will be debated at the next full Council meeting on 2nd October. The meeting takes place at 6pm in Halifax Town Hall and is open for members of the public to attend.
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.
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.”