Liberal Democrats not Supporting Labour or Conservative Council Leadership Bids

Calderdale Council’s Liberal Democrat Group has not supported either the Conservative or Labour groups’ nominations for Leader of the Council.

Liberal Democrat Group Leader, Cllr Janet Battye (Calder) told us: “We have not done a deal with either group, and have not even tried to. We will support or oppose any decisions that are made purely on their merits and whether we believe these to be in the best interests of the people of Calderdale.”

“Our priorities in opposition will be to push for the policies democratically determined by our local grass roots members and included in our manifesto for Calderdale. These include sorting out the mess of the Highways Department, reforming the Council so local residents have a real say in decision making and ensuring the Council is  run efficiently to mitigate the impact of increased cuts a majority Conservative government is likely to impose

Read our local election manifesto

Our local election manifesto sets out our ambitions to improve local services. To date we are the only political party in Calderdale to publish a local election manifesto for the local Council elections that take place on May 7th, the same day as the general election.

The manifesto sets out policies and ideas we would implement if we were running the Council. Some of the highlights of their manifesto include:

  • A commitment to resurface local roads.
  • Reforming the Council’s top heavy management structure and sharing “back office” functions with other local organisations and services to make the Council more efficient.
  • Exploring the possibility of the debt on Calderdale Royal Hospital being bought out to get rid of the debt that Labour saddled local people with.
  • Continuing to improve waste collection and recycling to include garden waste and plastics.
  • Involving local people more in how the Council makes decisions through consultations, ward forums, web casting meetings and opening up planning committees.

Our local election manifesto is full of ideas from our grass roots members who are all Calderdale residents.  All of our members were invited to attend our manifesto day where everyone had a chance to discuss and put forward ideas to be included in the manifesto. As a democratic party our members who are all local Calderdale residents have had a real say in shaping this manifesto.

On May 7th there are two elections and people will have two decisions to make. This manifesto demonstrates our serious commitment to improving local services and the difference voting Liberal Democrat locally will make.

Manifesto

Liberal Democrat Environmental Budget Changes Agreed

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Local Liberal Democrat Councillors have succeeded in getting proposals on affordable warmth and reducing the use of energy in council buildings included in Calderdale Council’s budget plans.

“We think that it’s time that Calderdale Council took some serious action on issues that it’s been talking about for a long time” says Cllr James Baker (Liberal Democrat, Warley), Chair of the Council’s Economy and Environment Scrutiny Panel.

Councillor Baker said: “I’m delighted that the affordable warmth scheme I proposed was agreed. Around 93 people a year in Calderdale die prematurely as a result of living in cold homes. These people are all someone’s grandparents, friends and relatives. Now some of the money saved by the Council through the better use of technology will be used to fund a £1.4millon programme of work to insulate some of the coldest houses in the borough. Lives will be saved from this measure, and many more people will have their quality of life improved by being lifted out of fuel poverty. It will also reduce the burden of costs placed upon the NHS as prevention is cheaper for the taxpayer than cure. I would have expected Labour to understand and support this, but they didn’t.”

This scheme simply wouldn’t have happened without the support of Calderdale residents who vote Liberal Democrat in local elections. It is a crying shame that Labour failed to back this measure, simply because we proposed it and they did not want to be seen backing a Liberal Democrat amendment. I can’t understand that kind of party political petty mindedness.

Cllr Janet Battye (Liberal Democrat, Calder), a member of the Calder Energy Futures group added: “We also want the Council to reduce its use of energy and reduce carbon emissions. This needs some investment, but lower energy bills means that the Council should get this money back within 5 years and continue to save money after that. Labour didn’t support that either.”

Why don’t Labour understand the value of consultation?

Local Liberal Democrats are frustrated that Labour councillors don’t seem to value the Council talking to local people through public consultation.

Cllr Janet Battye (Liberal Democrat, Calder Ward) told us: “It was very frustrating to have to listen to Labour councillors saying that consulting the public wasn’t necessary, and that only the election results mattered. Five years ago, when the Council was faced with making substantial changes and savings, we conducted a large public consultation exercise. It wasn’t simply a matter of asking people for “yes” or “no” answers; but working through a number of exercises with them and encouraging them to tell us what they thought. Thousands of people responded in various ways – my own ward forum in Hebden Bridge was packed out. They shared their ideas with us and we listened and thought about it.”

“That work resulted in the Council adopting a set of principles and priorities – protecting local services, working closely with other organisations to deliver services, raising charges. That guided our budget proposals for the following few years.

“Five year on, we believe that it is time to do this again, to have a real conversation with local people and listen to what they say to help shape services over the next few years.”

“Liberal Democracy is about sharing power with people” said Cllr James Baker (Liberal Democrat, Warley ward). “Labour think it is only about winning elections and then doing what they want. The last Labour government tried to encourage councils to engage more with their residents, but that clearly had no effect on the current Labour councillors.”

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.”

Calderdale Liberal Democrat’s Budget Amendments

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CALDERDALE COUNCIL LIBERAL DEMOCRATS

Budget 2015/18

Our principles: As Liberal Democrats, we believe that it’s important that Calderdale has a thriving economy, and cares for its local people. Supporting local businesses has to be an important feature of this, while making sure that Calderdale is a good place to live in and visit.

We also believe that the role of the Council, as the elected representatives of local people, is to lead, co-ordinate and facilitate local services. In our extensive consultation exercise in 2010, local people told us that they wanted us to protect local services but that the Council doesn’t have to directly provide local services.

We also know that local people want efficient and effective services, with an open, responsive and accountable Council. They have told us that they are prepared to pay more for some services in order to protect others.

Our achievements: In taking a leading role in running the Council in recent years, we have ensured that:

  • Youth unemployment has reduced significantly, with more apprenticeships

  • Schools have benefitted from some protection of funding and the Pupil Premium (worth some £25m)

  • Investment in local businesses and transport through the Council’s Economic Task Force, and active partnership in Leeds City Region/Combined Authority

  • Green economy and environmental issues taking a higher priority: highest waste recycling in West Yorkshire and the Community Energy scheme

Our aspirations for this budget period: In these next 3 years, we are looking to:

  • Keep Council tax increases to the lowest possible with no increase next year

  • Continue to improve the efficiency of the Council through reducing “back office” costs and explore sharing services with other Councils, etc

  • Work with local people to protect local Council services alongside developing and supporting local community services

  • Continue to support local businesses and the local economy, reducing unemployment and providing more apprenticeships and training for young people

In particular, we want to see the Council take action on the following two specific issues and commit to one general one:

Real action on energy reduction

As Liberal Democrats we are committed to real action to tackle climate change and reduce our reliance on unsustainable fossil fuels. Some targets have been placed on the Council to reduce its energy bill. We think it’s time for a much bolder and radical approach. We will set a tough target of saving 20% from our energy bills by 2018. This is achievable through a major investment in solar energy and LED lighting in Council buildings. This invest to save scheme would pay for itself through the savings in energy costs. After about five years the cost of the investment will have been paid off and the Council will then benefit financially from these savings.

This measure will be self-financing and will result in reduced energy consumption and the creation of more renewable energy. It’s a bold and forward thinking approach modernising Calderdale Council’s estate of buildings.

Affordable Warmth Scheme

In Calderdale in 2013 there were 93 excess winter deaths attributed to cold homes. Improving the insulation in homes, particularly those of vulnerable people, will help reduce the number of people suffering in cold homes. It will mean fewer people living in fuel poverty, fewer fossil fuels burnt to heat homes, and more money in residents’ pockets to be spent in our local economy.

The National Institute of Environmental Health and the Building Research Establishment have suggested that targeting the borough’s worst housing with a £1.4m investment programme could save an estimated £4.65m in associated health care costs. At a time when health services are under pressure this is a sensible and pragmatic measure the Council could take to help save lives in Calderdale.

Through smarter working and the use of technology we believe that the Council could save even more money than currently suggested. We are therefore proposing to increase the savings target for making better use technology by £100,000 and use the additional savings to fund the repayment of a £1.4m capital investment to combat cold homes in Calderdale.

Involving Local People

The public consultation referred to above was carried out nearly five years ago. It was an extremely useful piece of work, but its relevance and usefulness will necessarily diminish with the passing of time. For a number of reasons, then, including the forthcoming general election, we believe that this summer is the right time for the Council to undertake a similar consultation and engagement exercise that will assist in shaping the Councils policies and budgets for several years to come. That is why we welcomed the Cabinet’s proposal to carry out such an exercise and why we now call upon the Council as a whole to make a commitment to undertake this work.

Cllr Janet Battye

February 2015

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Liberal Democrat Amend Cover

AMENDMENTS MOVED AT MEETINGS OF THE COUNCIL – LIB DEM GROUP

Calderdale Lib Dems call for protection of “discretionary services”

We are dismayed at the Conservative Cabinet’s proposals that “discretionary services” should take the biggest cut if large savings have to be made in three years’ time (2017/18). Cutting “discretionary services” could mean anything from shutting libraries, stopping giving grants to voluntary organisations, to reducing gritting to a bare minimum.

The Cabinet Budget proposes that £2.6m needs to be found from a review of these services, out of a total savings figure of £9.4m.

“We want to see the Council become as lean and efficient as possible and, indeed, joining services up could even produce better services. It’s also important that the Council continues to work even more closely with local people and community groups as well as with other public sector bodies such as Police and Health” says Cllr Janet Battye, Leader of the Liberal Democrat group.

“When we consulted local people in 2010, they asked us to protect local services and that’s what we still want to do. So we welcome the Cabinet’s proposals to involve the public in these important decisions, but we have real concerns that the largest amount of proposed savings are targeted at “discretionary services”

Councillor James Baker said “At the moment, there are no details on what these proposals actually mean. We are worried because many local services that are valued by local people, such as libraries, youth services and swimming pools may be cut because these can all be classed as “discretionary services”.

“We’ll be making some proposals about where we think more money could be found to ensure that these services stay open.”

Revealed – Labour’s secret sell-off plan

LabourPlans

 

Liberal Democrat councillors in Calderdale have today exposed the previous Labour administration’s plans for a wholesale sell-off of council-owned properties – plans that were to remain under wraps until after next year’s elections.

Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group, Cllr James Baker said “we only got to find out about these plans by using the Freedom of Information Act but we now know that Labour councillors have discussed selling off at least seven community centres and 15 public toilets, but were not planning to make any of this public until after next year’s local and general elections.”

“When we voted to remove Labour from the leadership of the council in July, we said that one reason was the secretive manner in which they operated. This just shows how right we were.”

“Not only is it appalling that councillors have only found out about these plans by resorting to the Freedom of Information Act, but even worse is the fact that local people would have had no say in the matter. These buildings are provided for their benefit, not the council’s” said Cllr Baker.

“No one wants the council to waste money on unnecessary buildings, but it can only decide what is necessary through holding open discussions within the council and, before that, with the public we are here to serve. I don’t believe Labour were even thinking about such discussions.”

Calderdale Liberal Democrats have urged the council to save money by creating community hubs so people could access public services in the communities they serve. Instead of drawing up a secret list we would have launched an open public consultation on the future of council-owned buildings. This shows a major difference in approach between Labour and the Liberal Democrats, and that Labour cannot be trusted.

Liberal Democrat Group Leader, Cllr Janet Battye said: “This flies in the face of Cllr Tim Swift’s assertion made in May 2013 that the Labour Cabinet would be ‘open and transparent’. When the Council has had to work on other large and difficult issues – such as the improvement of Children’s Social Care, or the work on the Piece Hall – it has been done together, across the political groups, and been more successful because of this. Why didn’t Labour do that this time?”

All the documents detailing the plans can be downloaded from What Do They Know . The Appendix in the following document lists a whole host of buildings that were planned for disposal. The plans also include transferring the Shay Stadium and Victoria theater into community ownership. 

Derelict sites to be sorted out

Following discussion at Calderdale Council’s Economy and Environment Scrutiny Panel, the Council’s Cabinet has now agreed to put together a process for taking action on derelict sites around the Borough.

“At last, we’re getting somewhere with this, using section 215 of the Town and Country Planning Act” says Liberal Democrat Cllr James Baker, the Chair of the Scrutiny Panel. “We heard from a number of local people from across Calderdale who told us how frustrated they are with the Council’s inaction on these eyesore sites. It’s important that the Council learns from the Practice Guide produced by the last government, which contains good examples of what can be done. We’re now waiting for the procedure to be written to make it possible for action to be taken to get site owners to sort these derelict sites out.”

“There is concern about the cost of this – but it should be recoverable from the site owners if the Council has to go as far as actually getting the work done and then recharging them.”

“I’m delighted that we’ve been able to action taken on this” says Cllr Janet Battye Liberal Democrat leader. “There are sites like this all over Calderdale, such as the Halifax Road site in Todmorden. Every time we think that something’s going to happen, we find that nothing does. The situation has gone on for far too long. At last we should get a proper process so local people understand what needs to be done to get action taken. I will be pressing the Council to see this through!”

Council blunder triggers mass refund of parking tickets

A Council blunder in drafting a parking order in 2008 when the Conservatives were running Calderdale will result in hundreads of people issued parking tickets being offered refunds. The mistake was discocered when a resident legally challenged a ticket they were issued. It appears the officers at the Council incorrectly drafted one of these orders, and as such all on street parking in Halifax and in Skircoat is unenforcable.

Whilst the Council seeks to get a new parking order in place all the existing charges in the area affected have been suspended. Commenting Cllr Janet Battye leader of the Liberal Democrats on Calderdale Council said:

This should not have happened: I’m asking the Leader of the Council and the Chief Executive to investigate to see whether there is any fault in this. First of all the Council must find out how it happened so that it can then make sure that it doesn’t happen again.

It’s absolutely right that the Council has come clean on this and makes recompense to people who have paid a parking charge or a fine when the Council wasn’t legally entitled to charge them.

And then it’s got to be put right in terms of making sure that the correct Traffic Orders are in place.”

Commenting in a Press Release release this afternoon Calderdale Council’s Director of Economy and Environment, Ian Gray said:
“Traffic regulation orders are highly technical documents and this issue only came to light after one of our orders was challenged. When we checked the details it became clear that there were errors within the orders, which date back to 2008.

“When we realised there was a problem we immediately stopped issuing Penalty Charge Notices (PCNs) in the affected areas. We are also switching off the parking meters in those streets so that they can no longer accept payments – we expect that this work will be completed by 8 October 2014.

“The charges for on-street pay and display parking, and for some residents’ parking in these areas have now been temporarily suspended. As the old order was unenforceable, drivers who have received a PCN after parking in the affected streets will be able to request a refund. We will write directly to all affected residents in Skircoat.

“We are now checking that the TROs which cover other areas of Calderdale are correct. We have started to review these but as they are very detailed, complex documents it will take several months for us to complete this assessment. As soon as we have more information we will make this public.”

The Council will still issue PCNs where cars are parked on yellow lines, in loading bays, in disabled bays and in car parks.

If you have received a PCN after parking in Halifax town centre or Skircoat since 2008 and believe that you are entitled to a refund visit www.calderdale.gov.uk where you will find a Frequently Asked Questions section and our online refund form to complete. Your claim will be assessed and a refund will be issued if you are eligible.