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Calderdale Conservative’s nasty budget

Calderdale Conservatives have released their alternative budget for the Council. Under their proposals you will pay more and get less. It is a budget that seeks to balance the books on the poorest and most vulnerable in Calderdale.

Council tax increases are occurring up and down the country. You might have heard on the news about the real crisis that exists in social care funding. A large amount of the Council tax increase you will face are the result of something called the ‘Social Care Precept’. This is money that will be spent on social care, however the extra raised from Council tax is simply making up for money that is being cut by central government. Someone still has to pay for social care, under Conservative Government’s plans it will be funded by Council tax payers, rather than taxation revenues collected by the treasury.

Council tax levels

Under the Council’s Cabinet proposals, Council Tax will rise from the current £1,300.85 to £1,459.48 in 2019/20 (all figures for Band D properties). This is a rise of 12.2% over three years. Under the Conservative proposals, the final figure will be £1,432.82 – a rise of 10.1%, and a difference of £26.66. The difference between the budgets is, then, around 51p per week – less for most people as they are not in Band D properties. Despite Council tax levels rising the overall amount the Council has to spend will decrease. So you will be paying more but getting less under this Conservative Government.

Council Tax Reduction Scheme for people on benefits.

Basically this asks those on benefits to pay more Council Tax.

Currently, a claimant in a Band D property will be paying 19% of £1,300, so £247; under the Conservative proposals, they would be paying (in 2018/19) 30% of £1,405, so £422. This is a rise of around 70%. Most claimants, though, will not be in Band D properties, so the actual amounts are likely to be lower, though the proportions will remain the same. This will push more people into debt and poverty.

Discretionary rate relief. 

The Conservatives are proposing to cut the discretionary business rate relied for charities and sports clubs pay. This means that they will have to pay more business rates, and will have less money to spend on charitable causes.

Cuts to children services

The Conservatives are planning on cutting over £1m a year from the money Children’s Centres get to provide day care services. This will make those services more expensive for working families who rely on the Centres for day care services.

Attacks on Council staff

The Conservatives want to cut sick pay for the first two days off work, make Council staff take two days off work unpaid every year (a cut of apx £200 in staff’s salaries), they also want to move to spot salaries. All of this will involve major changes in terms and conditions, and it might not even be possible to achieve. Ask yourself this if the Council doesn’t pay sick pay for its staff, will your own employer follow suite? The Conservatives are facilitating a race to the bottom in terms of how employers treat their employees.

You can read our proposals for Calderdale Council’s budget here 

Our plan to stop Labour’s cut to funding for disabled children

One of the proposed cuts the Labour cabinet on Calderdale Council is planning to make will affect disabled children and their families here in Calderdale. This is what mum of two Katherine had to say about the cut:

“As a mum of two children with neurological disabilities and mobility issues. George my son is four he has neuro fibromotis and ataxia plus dystonia and diagnosed with cognitive delay of 2 years. So George is 4 but in most areas he functions cognitively around 2 2 half yrs old. Samantha my 8 yr old daughter as ataxia and mild learning difficulties. Because of her tremors in her body she is unable to write also struggles carrying things and her balance and Co ordination is impaired.

These things make my life hard as it is that’s why I was shocked to find out that the council would consider cutting services that are a huge help to me and other families.After looking at the plans it makes no sense to me to cut schemes and services that have a positive impact on the children and families of disabled children and children with learning difficulties.

To cut these services now when local schools are facing cuts of around 400k leads me to wonder were the councils priorities are by the looks of this not with the families of disabled children in Calderdale.

Councillors of all parties need to look again at viable solutions. They must be other ways to address the lack of funding the council recieves from central government without taking it from the most vulnerable people in our Town.”

The proposed cut was to D Catch funding. This funding provides money to disabled children in early years education to ensure they get the support they need in nurseries across Calderdale.

Calderdale Liberal Democrats are putting forward a budget amendment that will save enough money to prevent this cut.

Councillor James Baker leader of Calderdale Liberal Democrats said:

“Our amendment includes a saving that arises from adopting a ‘nurse-led sickness policy’. A policy like this was adopted by Watford Council and it has saved them a great deal of money. Essentially staff in certain areas with high sickness will have to phone a nurse first when reporting in sick for work at the Council. The health advice they receive helps staff to get back to work sooner. This cuts down on cover costs and agency costs and saves the tax payer money. Officers on Calderdale Council are confident this would save money, and we are proposing it is used to stop this cut. We hope this idea will win cross-party support.”

The full Liberal Democrat budget amendment can be read here

Liberal Democrat Budget Proposals – A Safer, Cleaner and Fairer Calderdale.

As a group we are proposing to amend the Labour cabinet on Calderdale Council’s budget proposals.

The intention of our amendment is to:

  1. Make Calderdale a safer place to live by supporting the Police to enforce the laws on speeding and dangerous driving around our Borough. Speeding and dangerous driving is a major concern of residents living in Calderdale. In recent months the Police have run ‘Operation Hawmill’. This successful operation has seen a traffic cop back on the streets of Calderdale. We would like to find some finances to support the continuation of an operation such as Hawmill to help tackle speeding and dangerous driving on our streets.
  2. Make Calderdale a cleaner greener place to live by establishing a task force to tackle Environmental crimes including: Littering, dog fouling, fly-tipping, and anti-social behaviour. Parts of Calderdale are sadly looking like a rubbish dump at the moment. Meanwhile anti-social behaviour is in many places making people’s lives a misery. The Council isn’t using powers at its disposal such as Community Protection Notices. We would like to setup a new Environmental Crime Task force to help tackle and address these issues.
  3. Make Calderdale a fairer place by stopping a proposed cut to the support disabled children get in early years education. D Catch funding enables disabled children in Early Years education to get the support they need. We believe that proposals to cut this would have a devastating impact on young disabled children here in Calderdale. We believe disabled children need all the support they can get at the Early Years level in order that they can go to achieve their fullest potential in life.

Council finances are of course very tough at the moment, there is no easy or quick way to find the resources required to implement any of these proposals. We would find the resources required to do all of these things by:

  1. Seeking to transfer some Council buildings to community use. We believe in localism and by transferring Todmorden Town Hall to the management of the Town Council and Brighouse Town Hall to a community group we see them put to better use.
  2. Re-introducing a previously agreed saving on fees. In previous budget consultations members of the public have said they would prefer to see fees and charges for Council services rise rather than more cuts to services. Labour sought to remove that previously agreed saving, we are seeking to re-introduce it.
  3. Reducing the cost of staff sickness through a Nurse Led Sickness policy. FirstCare is part of a sickness management framework that public section organisations, charities, and housing associations can sign up to. Under the scheme, Council employees are required to phone FirstCare to register any sick leave that they need to take.  They are then assessed by a nurse on the phone and advised as to what they need to do next. It is estimated by Council officers that if introduced on Calderdale Council for key areas this would save us £50K per annum.

This is a fully balanced amendment to the cabinet budget, it would not require any additional taxation upon what is already proposed, and neither would it require any additional use of balances.

The financial details of this amendment can be viewed below

 

If you have any comments on our suggestions for budget please feel free to post them. We have put this amendment in the public domain before Budget Council in order that residents are able to join in the democratic process and the debate.

Councillors kept in the dark

Calderdale Council has has a poor communications culture. It is often the case that Councillors find out about what officers and the cabinet members of the Council are up to via the local media and press releases. The same is true with matters that affect the wards that Councillors represent. Whereas you might expect a Councillor is consulted with and informed what is going on, the truth is that cabinet members and officers of the Council do all they can to by-pass the elected representatives in an area.

untitled-design-3

This is bad for democracy, already too many decisions on the Council are made by un-elected officers. People vote for Councillors thinking they will be able to make decisions, and would expect that Councillors are briefed on issues, and have an opportunity to get involved in decision making.

A perfect example of this is the recent opening of Elland Bridge. Where one of our local Councillors Marilyn Greenwood only found out about it by chance. Marilyn likes to keep residents up to date with the latest news and information, but how can she do this is the leadership of the Council’s priority is to tell the press before telling members of the Council?

A Liberal Democrat run Council would aim to put decision making back in the hands of Councillors, and members of the public.

 

 

My news from Todmorden Town Council: 4 March 2016

I’ve missed a couple of meetings because they’ve been at the same time as Calderdale Council’s Flood Commission of which I’m a member and that’s important to us in the valley. But this week I made certain that I attended the Town Council Development Committee. Some important issues:

Highways: a Calderdale Council Officer was present to talk about Highways issues (I’d hoped that I could ask about current status of bus and train services but that’s for another time, apparently). First, some residents asked about what sounds like inconsiderate parking by train users on roads round the corner from the station when the station carpark is full. Understandably, they were upset by this but it sounds as though Calderdale can help immediately with some “H” marks for entrances to drives etc while they start the process of getting yellow lines. Then a number of Councillors asked questions about parking, state of the roads, speeding and 20mph limit,  etc.

Planning applications: Several from people wanting to build small extensions for new kitchens onto the back of houses that have been flooded. I’ll encourage planners to make certain that they expedite them (but doing the process properly, of course).

Petition to give Local Councils the right to appeal planning decisions: Letter from the Yorkshire Local Councils Association seeking support for this. It’s always seemed to me to be unfair that applicants (for planning permission) can appeal but nobody else can. I shall be supporting this !

Neighbourhood Plan: Initial public drop-in  workshops have been arranged for this on Saturdays, each runs from 10am to 3.30pm:12th March: Fielden Centre; 19th March: St Peter’s Primary School, Walsden; 2nd April: The Old Library, Cornholme, 9th April: Town Hall

 

 

Busy week for a local LibDem Councillor

It started with two photocalls on Sunday – of Lees Yard in Hebden Bridge where we’ve now got funding to move the market, and Calder Valley in Bloom in the Memorial Gardens in Mytholmroyd, to promote the idea of the Valley particicpating in the new RHS Britain in Bloom category for areas that have been flooded.

Then a Reg44 visit to a Children’s Home in Halifax, one of my duties as a Councillor which uses my professional experience in child care social work, followed by an Employment Committee to appoint a new Head of Highways.

I went to 2 Business meetings: in Hebden Bridge, where I reminded local business people to apply for grants if they’ve been flooded and the main item was about using websites; then a Calderdale Council meeting with business representatives where topics included talking about preparing youngsters for work and apprenticeships, and a report back on Exporting from UKTI. A Sustainable Transport meeting in Hebden Bridge continues to promote more use of public transport, implementation of 20mph schemes, making getting about safer for pedestrians etc.

Flood Commission meeting was in Sowerby Bridge where we heard from some local people about how they’d been affected: most telling was the cricket club that had been overwhelmed by water coming over a wall erected to keep water out. Then we had a discussion about how flooding has affected the local economy. Later on in the week, I went to a Treesponsibility meeting talking about upscaling their work to extend the amount of treeplanting they can do to “slow the flow”.

Health and Welbeing: planning the next meeting of the Health and Wellbeing Board which I chair. The Clinical Commissioning Group is getting ready to start consulting on their plans for changing the hospital service, and provide more services “closer to home”. I’m particular interested in the development of Vanguard in the Upper Valley, and the development of Todmorden Healtjh Centre. Queries have been raised with me about mental health services (especially the future of art therapy) which I’ve asked them about and they seem to be taking seriously..

The week ended with attending a public meeting of the local Community Land Trust who are developing plans to build affordable housing (to rent, hopefully) on Bridge Lanes in Hebden Bridge which used to have “up and over” houses, demolished 50 years ago but potentially a usable site.

Flood recovery: week 6

Mytholmroyd and Hebden Bridge still look a mess with large sandbags protecting walls, debris and unlit shops and houses. Progress is being made and shops are reopening: I went in Ryburne’s estate agents who have a new slate floors, electrics raised up the walls and higher desk tops installed. Sakers have had a pop-up shop in the Town Hall all week. But most of the shops down Bridge Gate and Market St are still closed with optimistic notices in the windows about reopening. Todmorden Town Council are doing work on their Emergency Response.

I did a Radio Leeds interviews with Jason (Elliott) about our developing plans for Christmas Day on June 25th when my task is to organise Christmas dinner. So far, I’ve got positive responses from Riverside School and the Community Association/Town Hall.

Plans have been developing all week for the Flood Commission which starts on Monday with a first, preliminary meeting with the Chair and a tour around the area.

News from Todmorden Town Council: Feb 2016

This week’s General Purposes Committee started with the Chair welcoming the newly elected Councillors for Walsden ward and announcing that this was good for Labour because it gives them a majority of 8 on the Council. I asked whether it’s good for the people of Todmorden because that’s what the Town Council should be about !

(I didn’t mention the poor attendance at the recent full Town Council meeting when I think that there were something like 5 of their 13 Councillors mssing).

I’m pleased that the Cttee proposed to recommend that the Council continues to fund 2 PCSOs and accepted the Police’s request to provide half the funding (instead of 30%). The Police probably gave as much of a promise as we can get that they won’t abstract (take them away) from Todmorden unless they really have to.

There followed an examination of the Deputy Mayor’s chain and a discussion about the loss of a link chain on the Mayor’s chain.

But then there should have been a discussion of some broad proposals about flooding that I had put on the agenda at the last meeting but this was overtaken by a detailed discussion about the emergency response and a decision to set a Working gorup up consisting entirely of Labour Councillors. This is in direct contradiction to their actions indismantling all the previous working groups at the beginning of the year. Is this a case of “we can if we want to” ?

 

Flood recovery: week 5

First email of the week was a request from a local community group for the loan of an industrial dehumidifier because they’re struggling to get their building dry enough.I must also doublecheck whether there are any people not able to live in their own homes who are struggling (eg to feed themselves) wherever they’re staying.

Then I was part of a meeting with a Government Business Minister in Mytholmroyd. Just going there reminds me of how devastating the floods were – 4 weeks on, looking at the back of the Tourist Agency’s old building that’s falling into the river. I’d asked local people what they wanted me to say so I made certain that I said it – starting with insurance for small businesses, helping with funding the repair (and restocking) their businesses, and doing the work on the infrastructure (eg the drains in Market St). She did specifically ask about the shops etc in Hebden Bridge and we also talked about getting back on our feet and plans for the Christmas party in June !

Helpfully, she talked about the flexibility in the use of the current government funding and ideas about longer-term help. Let’s see what happens but we must keep pressing our case !

Tomorrow is the first (preparatory) meeting of the Flood Commission of which I shall be a member.

And there’s a Business breakfast in Hebden Bridge Town Hall, and then I’m hoping to talk with some local business people about the developing plans for re-launch events (like the Christmas party in June !)

Thursday evening, there’s a public meeting about Floods in Todmorden Town Hall (6.30 for 7pm) organised by the local flood group.

 

 

Decision on judicial review of refusal of planning permission on Valley Road in Hebden Bridge

This was published last week: the High Court Judge dismissed the application by the site owners to set aside the Planning Inspector’s decision to refuse the appeal against refusal of planning permission to build a Sainsbury’s supermarket and flats on this site.

So I hope that, at last, it may be possible to start to plan positively for the future use of this important empty site in the middle of the town, between the Council’s car park (which currently has the market on it two days/week), the Health Centre and the Post Office Telephone Exchange.

This decision should confirm that it really isn’t possible to use this site for purpose that generates a lot of heavy traffic. I was sitting in a nearby house recently watching a large lorry trying to manoeuvre around the corner of the road. It just isn’t right to put any more lorries onto that road.

The local Town and Parish Councils are working on the Neighbourhood Plan and Calderdale Council is finalising its site allocations for the Local Plan. I’m hoping that a worthwhile use that will benefit the community will be found for this site