What next for Early Years and Children’s centers in Calderdale ?

Calderdale Council’s Labour Cabinet has agreed to commission Children’s Centres on the basis of a report from the “Early Years Commission” but local Liberal Democrats involved in this are expressing a number of serious concerns about this and are likely to ask for a more detailed examination of the proposals and the thinking behind them by the Scrutiny Panel.

 In the Cabinet meeting, Cllr Janet Battye (Leader of the Liberal Democrat group) raised two concerns:

First, the lack of vision, and secondly the lack of clear information about costs and funding.

“These proposals should be based on a Vision to guide the shape of these important services. We had just heard the Cabinet agree a Vision for Adult Social Care services, Early Years service also need a vision but the Lead Member saw this coming next and referred to a future meeting of the working group. We expected this to be the other way round, vision first and then the practical application following on.

“We are very supportive of Children’s Centres. Professionally I was involved in opening three of them (not in Calderdale) and Liberal Democrat-run Councils have not closed any and we didn’t when we ran Calderdale. They are important in provide universal support services to all families with young children in the area they cover. But their daycare services are only available to a relatively few children and we wanted to see this as a more inclusive service to more children, so we support the targeted fund but there is little information about how this will work.

“But then, equally worrying, there is very little financial information about the funding available for Children’s Centres. The Lead Member referred to the need for commercial confidentiality about this. We do need to satisfy ourselves that we understand how these proposals are being funded and how sustainable this is. We have repeatedly said this in meetings of the Commission but not received enough information about this.

“There needs to be more thought given to these proposals, in our view, before they are put into place.”

£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.”