Don’t airbrush LGBT history from Shibden Hall

Calderdale Liberal Democrats are accusing the Council of not doing enough to tell the LGBT history that lies behind Anne Lister and Shibden Hall.

Shibden Hall is a landmark historic building in Calderdale and a wonderful place to visit. The hall was home to Anne Lister whose personal diaries detailing her lesbian relationships are recognised as part of the UNESCO memory of the word programme. The diaries have also been the subject of a BBC film by James Kent entitled the ‘Secret Diaries of Miss Anne Lister’.

A recent visitor to Shibden Hall, Mr Manley-Green, complained that the film wasn’t available to buy and that they had even run out of books on Anne Lister. Mr Manley-Green said “I’m not keen on being told ‘we have to be careful what we say to school groups’. I can’t think how different my life would have been if I’d have been told the story on my school trip some 50 years ago!”

Councillor James Baker (Warley), the leader of Calderdale Liberal Democrats, said “It appears the Council are trying to airbrush out the LGBT history from this site. There is little mention of Anne’s diaries on the Council’s webpage about Shibden Hall, there is a promotional video of the hall that does mention the diaries but it airbrushes out any reference to their importance as a piece of LGBT history.”

“This is a great opportunity for the Council to show Calderdale as a beacon of tolerance and a leader of putting history into a modern context. There are undoubtedly many commercial opportunities available to promote this destination as the home of the ‘first modern lesbian’”, said Cllr Baker.

Orginal picture by Rictor Norton & David Allen (CC BY 2.0) adapted to add rainbow flag.

Orginal picture by Rictor Norton & David Allen (CC BY 2.0) adapted to add rainbow flag.

“Sort Out Waste Collection Problems” Say Liberal Democrats

Calderdale Council’s Liberal Democrat Group are calling on the Council to sort out the problems around the new waste and recycling collection service.

A new waste and recycling scheme was introduced in August and was intended to provide a much more reliable, efficient and cost effective service that would allow residents to recycle more.

Cllr Paul Bellenger (Greetland and Stainland) says: “We fully support the aims of the new service, but the way it has been introduced leaves a lot to be desired.”

Uncollected Rubbish in Drury Lane, Stainland

Uncollected Rubbish in Drury Lane, Stainland

“We understand that a new service could have some initial teething issues which we allowed for during the first week. The issue then was missed collections. In the second week this continued, so we began to question why this hadn’t been resolved. By the third week this still continued and became a matter of increasing concern. As we have now passed week four and there are still problems, the situation has now become unacceptable. Throughout Calderdale we have residents who have weeks of waste building up outside their properties, even after calling the missed collections in to customer first they still remain untouched.”

“The majority of residents I have spoken to are ones who are live on side streets where only the smaller collection vehicles could access, so they relied upon the smaller vans and not the large wagons. This raises a number of questions:

  • Why have these properties been overlooked?
  • Why when the teams are the same are places getting missed?
  • Why when we now have technologically-advanced collection vehicles has the service decreased?

“Not only do we have unsightly side streets full of rubbish but soon we will see the increase of vermin to these locations. Things must get much better in September” said Cllr Bellenger.

Leader of the Calderdale Liberal Democrat Group, Cllr James Baker (Warley) added: “weeks go by and still people are still experiencing problems with their recycling collections. If Labour spent their time resolving problems in the Council they run rather than on acrimoniously arguing about who their leader will be then perhaps we wouldn’t be in this mess.”

Calderdale Council has spent £327,000 on empty offices at Dean Clough.


Calderdale Council moved out of the offices it was leasing at Dean Clough two years ago, but is still paying £163,500 per year for the space. That means that the Council has paid out nearly one-third of a million pounds for something that is of no benefit for the people of Calderdale.

As the lease has over six years still to run, a further million pounds could well be wasted in the same way. Clearly the Council needs to take action to reduce this wasteful spending or, hopefully, get rid of it altogether.

This also calls into question the wisdom of the Council in entering into long leases that it can’t easily get out of.

Even if the Council’s coffers were overflowing with cash, this would be an unacceptable waste of public money. In these difficult times it is even more intolerable.

The tax-payers of Calderdale and the Council staff who are at risk of losing their jobs over the coming years would be right to be appalled by this wasteful use of scarce resources.

Calderdale residents to get hit with a ‘flood tax’

The cabinet of Calderdale Council is proposing a 4% Council tax rise in this year’s budget. 2% of this tax rise forms the social care precept – sadly this extra money won’t actually be delivering any more services, but rather covering the increased cost of providing social care that has arisen from paying staff in the sector the living wage. However because the government is reducing the grant it provides to Calderdale Council if we don’t put on this extra 2% for social care costs we would have to cut more vital services that vulnerable people rely on. Therefore I think we are forced to do this to ensure we can continue to protect and look after the most vulnerable in our society.

The other 2% of the Council tax increase is being proposed to create a £3m flood relief fund. We clearly need money to help people recover from the floods. If we lose too many businesses then the Council will also lose the business rate income, so it makes sense to spend money to help support local businesses and people affected by the flooding. There is however a question around whether it is fair that local people are expected to shoulder this burden. Wouldn’t it be fairer if central government provided flood hit areas with additional funding, then the entire country could help shoulder the burden.

If the government was properly funding flood hit Councils then there would be no need for the Council to impose a ‘flood tax’ on local people. Council tax could instead be spent on doing up our dreadful pothole ridden roads, or prosecuting the litter louts who seem intent on turning parts of Calderdale into a rubbish dump.

If you want to have your say on the budget proposals there are a number of drop in sessions that you can attend, you can also find out more information on the Council’s website and reply to the consultation via email.

Wednesday 27th January between 6.30pm – 8.30pm @ Brighouse High School Sixth Form Centre Mulberry Suite, Parsonage Lane, Brighouse HD6 1FB
Thursday 28th January between 7m – 9pm @ Central Library, Halifax
Thursday 4th February between 6.30pm – 8.30pm @ Todmorden Town Hall
Tuesday 9th February between 6.30pm – 8.30pm @ Centre at 3Ways, Nursery Lane, Ovenden, Halifax, HX3 5SX
Consultation on the budget proposals will run for four weeks – ending on Monday the 15th February 2016 with final decisions being made at the Annual Budget Council meeting on Monday the 29th February 2016.

Outrage over Council plans to build on green spaces


Calderdale Council has announced its consultation on the sites its planning to allocate for housing within the Ward. If the sites included in this consultation were to make it into the local plan we would lose almost every green space in the ward.

I’ve been working with Liberal Democrat campaigner Ashley Evans to launch major campaign to save and protect the green spaces within Warley ward. There are plenty of places that you could build in Calderdale that would not result in the loss of playing fields, recreation grounds and children’s play parks or allotments. It is unacceptable for the Labour run Council to list these sites as potential housing sites in the current consultation on the local plan.

To illustrate the sheer scale of what is being proposed here is a quick list of some of the sites identified in Warley ward:

Doctors Hill LP1459

Ling Bob Playing Fields Site reference LP0967 – To build 72 houses on the playing fields behind Harewood Avenue, Ling Royd and Rye Lane.

Fountainhead – LP0983 – Another 40 houses

Mount Tabor – LP1440 – 110 houses and LP0872 87 houses.

Pellon Allotments – LP0156 – To build 31 houses on site that is currently uses as allotments.

Roils Head Moor LP1374, LP1458, LP0093 – 97 Houses behind Vicar Park, another 32 by the Reservoir, and a further ‘urban expansion citing a residential capacity of 2862

Sandbeds Park LP1353 – 16 Houses on the Children’s play park.

Warley Town LP0042, LP1276 & more – Land on recreation ground, cricket pitch and Green Hill. 56 Houses on recreation ground, 30 on the Cricket Ground and 47 at Green Hill.

Windle Royd – LP1457 – Urban expansion with a population size of 1762 cited.

If you are as concerned about these plans please respond to the consultation and also sign the petition we have set-up to help protect Calderdale’s green spaces.

You can also help the campaign by downloading our petition on it and collecting signatures from your friends and family before returning it. ProtectGreenSpacesPetition


Warley Town is surrounded by new housing sites under the plan

Liberal Democrats call for green spaces to be protected


As Calderdale Council launches its consultation on the proposals for allocating land for future house-building in Calderdale, Calderdale Liberal Democrats are launching a campaign to protect greenbelt around towns and villages, and open spaces within towns and villages.

Cllr James Baker said:

“We are really concerned about some areas of land apparently marked for potential house-building sites all across Calderdale”. In my own ward, it looks as though the Council is proposing that houses be built on playing fields, parks and allotments, as well as around villages in the open countryside where road access is poor”.

Leader of the Liberal Democrat group, Cllr Janet Battye added: “

We know that there is a need to build more affordable housing and social housing, but we think that the Council should look first at existing planning permissions – some 3,000 houses with permission have not yet been built – and then brownfield land which has already been built on, as well as pressing harder to bring empty buildings into use.”

“It’s also disappointing that more imaginative approaches don’t seem to be being considered, such as looking at how we might use the Garden Cities approach in Calderdale.

“We’re encouraging local people to look very carefully at these land allocation plans on which the Council is currently consulting and make their views known.”

There is a need for local affordable housing and more social housing, but expensive houses build in desirable greenbelt areas will not help struggling families looking to buy a home or move to a less crowded home. Alternative developments on brownfield sites will not only be cost-efficient, but also energy-efficient as they will minimise the need to travel. We can create local communities without compromising green spaces.

You can sign our petition calling on the Council to protect greenbelt around towns and villages, and open spaces within towns and villages here.

You can view the consultation and make comments on it here

Picture attribution to Pam Wright – (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0). Our use does not suggest or imply the artists endorsement. 

Overgrown vegetation on Churn Lane

Following a few complaints about local residents concerning overgrowing vegetation on Churn Lane I contacted the Highways department. I’m pleased to say they have written to residents with regards to getting some of this vegetation cut back.
Thanks to those of you who live on Churn Lane for helping to cooperate with this, if we keep back any trees and vegetation we might have that overgrows onto paths, lanes and roads then it helps keep things running smoothly.
Further to your e mail regarding overhanging vegetation on Churn Lane 10/09/2015:

We e mailed you in September to let you know that residents had been written too regarding this matter and I can now confirm that we have had contact from two residents who will be beginning the process of clearing vegetation from property which they own, quotes are being obtained and works are being planned.  Second letters have been sent to properties which have not responded.

Our Enforcement Officer continues to monitor the situation.

Syrian Refugees – Britain can do more, say Lib Dems

Child Detention

I’m very pleased to say that the Council backed a Liberal Democrat motion calling on the government to do more to aid people fleeing for their lives from Syria.

We’re not talking here about the wider problem of people trying to get to Europe from North Africa, but specifically about Syrians displaced by the conflict in their own country; those understandably in fear of their lives, caught between the actions of their government on the one hand and a barbaric cult on the other. Britain is a relatively rich nation and we believe that the government could do more, and that the council should play its part in giving people a warm welcome here. Taking people directly from the refugee camps around the Syrian borders will not encourage the people traffickers so much in evidence elsewhere.

The Council debate brought out the best and the worst in people. The Labour group admitted that they had considered tabling a motion on this subject, but shied away from it, fearing the response from the Conservative group. We, however, are proud to be saying that this country needs to be doing more to show compassion for those experiencing such dreadful hardships.

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.”