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.

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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.”

 

 

Full details of our budget proposals

Local people tell us that they look to their councillors to work together for the good of the local community. This is what we have been trying hard to do. Public consultation in 2010 guided the work that the Council had to do to makes its books balance while maintaining local services – and that’s what people told us that they wanted.

It was disappointing that after Labour took control of the Council in May 2013, without winning any more Council seats, they chose to devise the proposals for the Council’s budget for the next 3 years, without seeking any involvement from any councillors other than their own. They said that they would be “open and transparent”, but this is not our experience within the Council.

Therefore the Conservative and Liberal Democrat groups of councillors have separately examined the Cabinet budget proposals carefully. We have taken account of the results of the consultation and what local people and businesses have been saying to us, and have decided together to make the following proposals along three themes:

  1. Supporting a fairer society

  2. Building a stronger economy

  3. Better Value for your money

As you will see from the detailed proposals all of our plans are fully costed and have been checked by the Council’s finance officers.

 Additional Proposals to Cabinet Budget Proposals 2014

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

Job loss figures are a stark reminder of life outside the EU

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Leaving the European Union could spark the loss of tens of thousands of jobs in Yorkshire & Humber. Analysis of figures from a YouGov poll revealed around 4,641  businesses in the region could face closure if Britain withdrew from the EU.

It could mean job losses of up to 124,000 as companies battle with life outside the world’s biggest single market.

Cllr James Baker said:

“Calderdale as a host of companies for whom membership of the EU is essential for their trade. These companies and the business they generate with Europe create the jobs that help pay the bills and feed people’s families . Put simply: it’s in Europe, in work.”

“UKIP and many Tories who say we should withdraw from the EU. This would be a reckless gamble with our economy, they have some difficult questions to answer about how these businesses who say they would close if we pulled out of the EU would be replaced.”

“As Liberal Democrats we believe in working closely with our neighbors. Cooperation between nations is essential for building a stronger economy and creating more jobs in the region. ”

“That means reforming the EU to make it easier for local businesses to expand their exports, both to Europe and the rest of the world.”

 

Business strategy demonstrates Labour can’t be trusted with the economy

Sadly we are not very impressed by the Council’s draft business and economy strategy, as it fails to set out an ambitious vision of sustainable, fair and equitable growth.

Our criticism follows the publication of a draft business and economic strategy by the Labour Cabinet, which will determine how the Council supports local businesses over the coming years. The document demonstrates that Labour can’t be trusted with the future of Calderdale’s economy.

Cllr James Baker, Economy and Environment spokesperson said:

The report is comparable to someone who has planned a trip by throwing a load of useful items in the back of their car, but hasn’t thought where they are heading to.”

The report lacks ambition and focuses too much on the recession we are now emerging from, rather than planning for a future in which Calderdale prospers in a global economy. We believe that the strategy needs to do more to spell out how we will create more jobs and growth through building our exports and links to the global economy, sharing wealth through development of mutual and co-operatives and generating our own sustainable energy in a manner that reduces energy bills for local residents.”

In comparison, our vision is to build a stronger economy in a fairer society, enabling everyone to get on in life. An economy in which businesses in Calderdale benefit from increasing exports with Europe and the wider world, an economy where we produce our own sustainable energy, an economy in which people share in the wealth we create together.”

We will be submitting a full response to the consultation that is currently open, and we hope in due course that the Labour-run Cabinet will take on board our suggestions on how to build a stronger economy within Calderdale.

UK manufacturing is driving economic recovery

Commenting on figures showing UK manufacturing growth at a two and half year high, Co-Chair of the Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Party Committee on Business, Innovation and

Skills, Gordon Birtwistle said:

“The Liberal Democrats have helped to create more than a million jobs in the private sector – now we want to help create a million more. Manufacturing is absolutely crucial to that and UK manufacturing growth hitting a two and a half year high is fantastic news. “These figures are welcome but there is a long way to go. For years Labour and Conservative governments let British manufacturing ollapse, the Liberal Democrats are determined to rebuild it in order to drive our economic recovery.

“That’s why we are putting billions of pounds into high-tech manufacturing, science and renewable energy. And it’s why we are massively increasing the number of apprenticeships to make sure employers get the skilled workers they need.”

£91 Million to turn empty houses into homes.

The Liberal Democrat communities Minister Don Foster has announced that towns across England will benefit from £91 million to refurbish and bring back into use over 6,000 empty and derelict homes and commercial premises, particularly in the Midlands and North where the problem is most acute.

The funding will be spent on refurbishment in areas where empty properties have commonly led to problems such as squatting, rat infestation and collapsing house prices, driving remaining residents away. There funding can be accessed through the empty homes funding programme by registered social landlords, and community and voluntary groups.

The government has already invested £130 million to refurbish up to 11,500 empty homes since 2010. This includes £100 million to bring empty property back as affordable housing, and the first ‘clusters of empty homes’ programme investment of £30 million.

In addition New Homes Bonus, under which government matches council tax income on new build or empty homes brought back into use, has supported over 50,000 empty homes being refurbished for people and families to live in and rewarded councils with £59 million. Councils now also have the power to charge owners 150% council tax rate for properties left empty for more than six months, using the money to keep down council tax for ordinary families.

Councillor James Baker deputy leader of the Liberal Democrat group on Calderdale Council said “It’s good news for families on the housing waiting list that our region of the North East, Yorkshire and the Humber has already received  £11,522,648 from the empty homes programme. This extra money from the government will help bring empty houses back into use and provide much needed homes for people. It makes sense to redevelop existing empty homes, as building space for new homes is limited across Calderdale.”

Creating jobs here in Calderdale

We are passionate about crating jobs here in Calderdale. When we were running the Council we made certain that it was helping to support and grow businesses through Business Networks, especially for Creative, Manufacturing, Green and Tourism. We worked more closely with Calderdale College and local universities to develop skills and we set up Business breakfasts so that the Council can talk directly to businesses.

In government Liberal Democrats have

 

  • Helped 1.2 million people start an apprenticeship since 2010, including 5,140 in Calderdale.
  • Giving up to 2,930 businesses and charities in Calderdale a £2,000 jobs tax cut. This could be worth up to £10,400,000 in tax cuts and could enable every local business to employ one extra person on a £22,400 salary or four extra people on the minimum wage, without having to pay any extra tax.
  • Secured a £473,000 grant for local business Holts Brothers Ltd, creating 268 jobs across nine sites. The grant will help deliver a £28.5m project to develop the UK supply chain for gearboxes used in the manufacturing of wind turbines.
  •  Given a £175,000 grant to a project to improve local cycling and green travel at Calder Valley Greenway – Colne bridge/Bradley to Brighouse. The project involves constructing Calder Valley Greenway up to district boundary with Calderdale including links on upper quarry road and on to Park Lea, Beadley.
  • Given £4,856,893 to support West Yorkshire Council to create 833 new homes in Calderdale, either new ones or by bringing back empty homes, helping create jobs and giving the local construction industry a much-needed boost.

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A Million Jobs Campaign

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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.”