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.”

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.

Calderdale Lib Dems warned Labour not to sign up to disastrous hospital PFI deal

Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust are looking to make savings, and possibly close the A&E department in Calderdale – this is a move we are strongly opposed to. A major factor contributing to the financial pressure the trust is facing result from crippling repayments of the PFI debt.  A Guardian source cites the total repayment of the scheme as £773.2m on a hospital that only cost £64.6m. In addition PFI ties the hospital into mad service charges such as being charged £85 to change a lightbulb etc.

“The capital cost of rebuilding Calderdale Royal Hospital in Yorkshire is £64.6m, the scheme will end up costing Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust a total of £773.2m.”

Calderdale Liberal Democrats warned the last Labour government against signing up to this PFI scheme. Bob Heys and the late Stephen Pearson ran a major campaign against the PFI hospital contract in 2002 –  Stephen called it ‘Calderdale’s biggest ever scandal’. PFI was simply a way for Labour to increase off balance book borrowing, hiding the true extent of the debt that was being run up. Below is a copy of press stories at the time, where we warned Labour not to enter into this PFI scandal.

Scan 11

We hate to say “we told you so” but….

The campaign setup by Calderdale Liberal Democrats was called Calderdale Concerned Citizens Group and there was a 1,000 name petition sent to Blair, including signatures from Councillors, Ex Councillors and Ex Mayors. However not a single Tory or Labour Councilor signed it despite efforts to encourage them to do so.

Calderdale Liberal Democrat’s warnings against this PFI scheme were ignored and we are now left with the consequences – a situation where Labour handed millions to bankers and financial companies and saddled us with debt. Just as the nation as a whole was crippled by Labour’s economic mismanagement, so to was our local NHS.

Calderdale Labour have run a systematic campaign of trying to blame the current problems faced by the Trust on ‘the cuts’ and the government. This is despite the 2012/13 annual financial report of the Trust stating “The Trust closed the year with a health cash balance of £33m and an operating surplus of £3.8, £0.8m ahead of plan”.  It is hard to argue cuts are solely to blame when the Trust is operating at a budget surplus. Labour need to stop trying to play the blame game, criticizing us in the press for not denouncing ‘the cuts’, and start seriously working on a cross-party basis to save our A&E

 

Labour secrecy over controversial demolition plans for Elland Swimming Baths

Labour run Calderdale council have revealed plans to demolish Elland Baths and replace it with a bus station, despite a local community association bidding to take over the baths in a community asset transfer. The revelation was made at full Council when the leader Councillor Tim Swift when questioned confirmed the Council had been in talks with Metro over plans for a bus station at the site. The intention to place a bus station on the site is also revealed in planning documents hosted on the Council’s website.

The Economy and Environment scrutiny panel having considered this topic came to a unanimous decision that the group be given a further six months to develop this bid. Only after that panel had met did the Labour cabinet decide to release confidential material that claims to show the true state of the building. This raises questions about why these documents were kept secret from the scrutiny panel, and why have now been released.

Elland Liberal Democrat Councillor David Hardy says that “the estimate of how much renovation will cost has been inflated by the council to try and block local groups from taking the baths over”.

This secretive approach coupled with the revelation that the Council is in talks with Metro about creating a bus station on the site raises the question as to whether the community group seeking to take on the building are being given a fair opportunity to do so

Councillor Hardy said “It’s only fair Elland Baths be given their 6 months to finalise plans to take it over, with none of this secret planning by Labour getting in their way, and a proper independent survey into how much it will cost”.

Calderdale Council Tax: frozen again

Calderdale Council Tax: frozen again

Under the last Labour government Council Tax rose regularly in Cadlerdale. Year after year Council Tax bills went up and up adding a huge £478.33 to the typical Band D Council Tax bill here in Calderdale from 1997-2010. Compare this to the four years of the Coalition government, the same Council Tax bill rose just £12

Under a Labour government Council Tax rose by an average of 4.8% (£36.79) each year, while under the Coalition government, the equivalent figures are 0.245% and £3.03. That means average Council Tax rises in Calderdale were 10 times higher than Council Tax rises under the coalition.

Labour_Tax2

Council tax has been kept low because the Coalition government has provided grant funding for Councils that wish to freeze Council Tax. This funding from the government has helped reduce the cost of living for many Calderdale residents.  This is another example once again of why you can’t trust Labour with the economy. Only the Liberal Democrats can build both a stronger economy and a fairer society.

Summary Table of Council Tax levels in Calderdale

Date

CT level

% Change

£ Change

Expenditure

1998/99

£760.96

£164,014,530

2010/11

£1,239.29

62.86%

£478.33

£179,501,560

2014/15

£1,251.43

0.98%

£12.14

£168,188,000

LabourTax

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

Calderdale Conservatives complain about Labour, forgetting they put them there

I am intrigued to read Cllr Pillai’s comments about the Labour group running Calderdale Council.

As we know, Labour does not have a majority of Councillor in Calderdale. The only reason that they can be said to be running the council is that, when it came to the relevant vote at the Annual Council meeting, Cllr Pillai and his Conservative colleagues ‘sat on their hands’ and allowed Labour to form an administration. The Conservatives, then, brought about the very thing that they now complain about.

 

Cllr Janet Battye

Leader of the Calderdale Council Liberal Democrat Group

Labour pull out of coalition with Lib Dems to protest against benefit cuts.

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.”