Liberal Democrats slam Calderdale’s Council decision to move Customer First back into Hebden Bridge library

Local Liberal Democrat Councillor Janet Battye has criticised the decision by Calderdale Council to move Customer First from Hebden Bridge Town Hall back into the town’s library.

“In my opinion, this is wrong for a number of reasons, including that the service will be less confidential there because it will be delivered from the library desk.”

“I’ve met with the Cabinet Member responsible, Labour Todmorden Cllr Steve Sweeney, and the Labour Councillors for Calder Ward, but it’s clear that minds have been made up and local concerns are not going to be listened to.”

“This is the second time that Cllr Sweeney has taken a decision off his own bat without consulting either local people or local Councillors, including his party colleagues. The first example was in changing the day that Todmorden library closes from Thursday to Tuesday. Now he’s decided to move Customer First out of the Town Hall in Hebden Bridge back into the library.”

“He now accepts that he should have consulted but this seems to becoming a habit and makes me question how autocratic he is and whether he has any interest in consulting either ward Councillors or local people. His Directorate will be shortly be running the budget consultation exercise and I wonder how interested he’ll be in that!”

“I’ve also asked a number of times whether Calderdale Council is still actively supportive of the Town Hall as Hebden Bridge’s ‘community hub’, but have only now received verbal confirmation. That is at least as worrying because bringing together services, such as the Police, the Council’s Neighbourhood Services, the Town and Parish Councils, with local community services, the community cafe and all the support work, including Staying Well and Dementia Care that are based in the Town Hall is an important cornerstone of the way forward for services. It makes me wonder what understanding and interest the Labour-run Council has in this whole approach.”

“We’ll be watching carefully to see what happens next. The most important issue is that local people should get a good service when they need it” said Cllr Battye.

Liberal Democrats call for open process to select new reps for Todmorden Development Board

Welcoming the decision by Calderdale Council’s Cabinet to recruit two business and two community representatives onto the Todmorden Development Board, local Liberal Democrat Councillor Janet Battye called for the selection process to be open and fair.

“When the Development Board was set up, taking over from the previous Regeneration Board, I asked for its membership to continue to include local people” she said. “But Calderdale Council’s Labour Cabinet Member – then, as now Cllr Barry Collins – was insistent that it should only include elected Councillors from Calderdale and Todmorden Town Councils.

“I’m pleased that, at last, they are prepared to include wider representation and participation in this Board. This is important if it’s to have any credibility and status in the town. As I said in the Cabinet meeting, and have been saying for a long time, there is a lot of skill, experience and interest in the future of the town.

“But it’s essential that the new Board members should be recruited through an open and fair process, not just who the existing members of the Board know. If there’s not be a direct election, I’d like to see a process similar to how vacancies can be filled on the Town Council – by co-option by the Board after advertising the vacancies openly and specifically notifying business and community groups.

“There’s a real danger that too much of the work of this Board is done in private and behind closed doors. This is a good opportunity for Calderdale Council to show its commitment to being fair and open.”

 

 

Lib Dem proposals win cross-party support at budget meeting

Key Liberal Democrat policies won cross-party support at Calderdale’s budget meeting last night.  Both Conservative and Labour groups accepted a range of our proposals  which were driven by our determination to build both a stronger economy, but also a fairer society in which everyone can get on in life.

Our proposals to build a stronger economy included:

  • Increasing the Council’s Business & Economy Service to provide expert help and advice that will enable local business to increase their exports.
  • Providing each Ward Forum with a sum of £5,000 so that issues of local importance can be addressed.

Our proposals to build a fairer society included:

  • Increasing the size of the Safer, Cleaner, Greener teams, enabling them to place more emphasis on tackling dog fouling.
  • 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.

In addition we supported a range of measures to help with the cost of living include a reversal of recent changes in parking charges that have seen residents charged up to 8pm to park in Halifax Town Centre.

Over the past couple of days it became clear there were concerns over proposals to both reduce sick pay, and give staff who take no sick pay and extra day’s holiday. We listened to staff concerns about the proposed reduction in sick pay, and did not support proposals to make this reduction in this years budget. We will be keen now for the Labour administration to demonstrated they can reduce high levels of sick pay on Calderdale Council without having to make these cuts in sick pay.

Further savings were found in a reduction in the Council’s transport budget, reducing the taxpayer subsidy to trade unions and increasing the charges of wheelie bins to reflect their actual cost to replace. We also managed to reverse Labour’s planned half million cut in the communities budget that would have seen a review of community libraries and 15 fte redundancies within the directorate.

Commenting on the proposals Liberal Democrat leader Cllr Janet Battye said ““Our overarching aims have been to make better use of the Council’s resources to support a fairer society and build a stronger economy.”

 

 

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.

Bringing Todmorden Town Hall back to life

Cllr Janet Battye, Chair of Todmorden Town Hall working group, has welcomed the funding for two elements of the Action Plan developed to bring the building back into life.

“The Council have known for some time that the lift taking people up the ballroom has not been working properly. Members of the Working Group were distraught to hear that a disabled person was recently trapped in it throughout a concert which he’d come to hear, so we were determined to get this fixed”.

“Calderdale Council obtained expert advice on the lift and we weren’t surprised to hear that it’s not fit to be used. We’ve pressed for it to be replaced and that’s what the Cabinet have now decided to do. Even though it will take time to get it done properly, it is important that this now happens”.

“The ballroom in Todmorden Town Hall is an important public venue for all sorts of events, and we’ want anybody and everybody to be able to attend, so this is good news for local people.”

“We also want to start to develop the Town Hall as a Heritage Centre. We need to make application to the Heritage Lottery Fund to get started with this, for which we need some expert help. This is the second part of the funding agreed at the Cabinet meeting.”

“These are two more important steps on the road to opening up the Town Hall and bringing it back to life” said Cllr Battye.

Pensioners and carers to benefit from Liberal Democrat policies

Thousands of pensioners as well as those who need care and their carers stand to benefit from measures announced in the Queen’s Speech, with a fair flat-rate pension for all and a reform of social care announced.

The Care Bill will put fairness back into social care funding, ensuring people do not have to sell their home in their lifetime to pay for care by capping costs as recommended by the independent Dilnot Commission. It will also extend the means-test threshold for financial assistance.

To support carers, councils will have to assess what support they need to manage their own lives and provide services to those who need them.

The Queen also announced a reform of the pensions system, ending the confusion state pension provision by introducing a single, flat-rate pension. This is in addition to the triple lock, championed by the Liberal Democrats, which has ensured record rise in the state pension of £12.50 a week since 2010. The triple lock will continue to safeguard an increase in the state pension in line with earnings, inflation or 2.5% – whichever is higher.

Cares will also benefit from the new flat-rate state pension, even if they take time out of work to support relatives.

Commenting, Cllr Janet Battye  said:

“The Queen’s Speech shows the influence Liberal Democrats have in the Coalition Government. Our priority to build a stronger economy in a fairer society is clear in these reforms.

“For too long, pensioners and those who need care have received a raw deal and the previous Labour government refused to act and take responsibility. Instead, Gordon Brown gave pensioners an insulting 75p rise in their state pension.

“These reforms will ensure thousands in Calderdale will have dignity in old age with a fair, single-tier pension and peace of mind by protecting them from catastrophic costs for their care.

“That’s the fairness the Liberal Democrats are ensuring is at the heart of this Coalition Government.”