Regular coffee mornings at ‘The Addy’ (Pellon Network Centre)

At the last meeting of The Addy Community group we agreed we would start to run a regular drop-in coffee morning for the local community. We want to encourage more community use of the building as we put together our bid to take over the running of the building from the Council.

So come along on Friday 14th November and drop by our coffee morning in ‘The Addy’ on Rye lane to say hello. It will be running from about 10am for an hour or so. I’ll be there so I can hold an impromptu surgery if you have any local issues or concerns that you need my help with.

Christ Church thief caught

Congratulations are due to West Yorkshire Police who have successfully caught a man who stole a TV and projector equipment from Christ Church, Mount Pellon.

Stealing from a Church that works hard for its local community is a particularly immoral crime. The courier is reporting that the man responsible was caught as a result of covert surveillance put in place by the Police following an earlier burglary and forensic evidence. A sentence has yet to be handed down, but I hope it suitably reflects the crime committed.

 

 

Restoring Dark Ln in Warley Town

A few years ago Calderdale Council made a ‘temporary’ repair to Dark Ln in Warley Town. This repair involved removing the traditional cobbles and replacing them with Tarmac. For those of you who don’t know Warley Town is a very picturesque conservation area within Warley Ward. Former Liberal Democrat Councillor Jennifer Pearson had secured a promise from the Council that this tarmac would in due course be replaced back to the original cobbles. This has never happened.

So when one member of the Warley Community association read my recent story on the tarmacking of Burnley Rd (which was justified on the basis that stone need to be conserved for use in conservation areas) they rightly pointed out that even in Conservation areas the Council is prone to tarmac over things.

Anyway there appears to be some good news as since contacting the Highways department and pointing this out I have been thanked by them for pointing this out and informed that they will consider restoring Dark Ln to its former glory when planning the work schedule for 2015/15.

So thank you to the resident who raised the tarmacking of Burnley Rd, and for the member of the community association who drew my attention to Dark Ln. Hopefully it seems some good might come out of this all!

Exploring the bureaucracy of the combined authority Part 1

Following my last post on the West Yorkshire Combined authority I was questioned on how the Combined Authority fits into the Leeds City Region. To understand this relatively simple question we must delve deeply into the new layers of bureaucracy our political masters have schemed up for us.  I thought perhaps I would try and explain this in the same manner it was explained to the members of the combined authorities scrutiny panel.

So behold the following slide, which contains a neat diagram to explain the relationship of the Combined authority and the LEP (otherwise known as Leeds City Region). What this diagram actually means in the real world is probably only understood by a handful of officials, but don’t worry as this organisation is about to be handed loads of tax payers money to make decisions that will affect your life..   LeedsRegionCombinedAuthority

 

A quango Combined authority? I’d rather an elected Yorkshire Parliament!

It appears many combined authorities are in talks with George Osborne about getting more powers devolved down to them from  Whitehall. There is talk the autumn statement might well contain a major transfer of spending power down to these combined authorities and city regions. Whilst I am all in favor of decentralizing power I have real issues with this form of devolution for the following reasons:

  • The people have not been consulted on what they want.
  • A handful of Council leaders who make up the membership of each combined authority are carving up powers with Whitehall with little public debate, or debate among local Councillors.
  • There seems very little involvement with the scrutiny panels of these authorities. I say this as a member of a scrutiny panel on a combined authority. The West Yorkshire Combined authorities scrutiny panel has not even had a chance to discuss these proposals or been invited to participate in them.
  • Most people have no idea what a combined authority even is, yet they are going to have massive powers to spend their taxes.
  • Combined authorities are not directly elected, they are constituted from appointments of the local Council that make them up. For instance my local Council Calderdale voted to appoint me into the scrutiny panel. Shouldn’t it have been local people who had that say?
  • They will likely start sucking up powers from local Councils.
  • The combined authorities seem almost entirely driven by officers and officials rather than elected representatives of the people.

So we could be faced with a situation these new combined local authorities that local people have no direct say over are handed a huge amounts of money to start making decisions that will impact on people’s lives. I would much rather see there being some public debate about what form we would like devolution to take, and for a democratic system to be put in place where people get to directly vote as to who they would like representing them on these bodies. Personally I favor a Yorkshire parliament, directly elected under a proportional voting system!

 

Triple lock delivers welcome Pensions Rise

Liberal Democrats in government have introduced a triple lock for state pensions. This means every year the basic state pension will rise by either the rate of average earnings, 2.5%, or inflation (depending on which one is highest). This has led to the biggest ever cash increase in the basic state pension. Pensioners on the basic state pension are now £950 a year better off then they were under the last Labour government.

The economic recovery hasn’t been easy, but i’m proud to belong to a party that where possible has balanced using resources with measures that have helped boost the economy such as the largest ever increase in apprenticeships, and measures that seek to create a fairer society such as the Pupil Premium, raising the tax threshold for people on lower incomes and introducing this triple lock for pensioners.

Resurfacing of pavements on Burnley road

I was contacted by a resident concerned about paving slabs being removed and replaced with tarmac along Burnley road opposite Collin’s tyres. I’ve got in touch with the Highways Department that have provided the following explanation of the work:

I refer to your recent enquiry regarding the above and can confirm that these are essential works. The Authority is fully committed to heritage materials and endeavour to maintain them wherever possible. Unfortunately stone materials are now at a premium and becoming increasingly difficult to source.

This footway was defective and the Council have a legal duty to ensure that stone materials are used in conservation areas so it was necessary to take up these flags and utilise elsewhere, resulting in a new safer footway at Trimmingham Lane and the Council fulfilling it’s duty in conservation areas.

This site is prone to vehicle over-riding resulting in damage to the stone flagged footway. The replacement tarmac material (sand asphalt) is more suitable for such locations, is a premium product ensuring maximum longevity for the footway and resultant safety for the public.

Labour’s secret plan to sell off Council buildings exposed.

 

Secret Plan

The Council leader claims Labour had drawn up a secret plan of buildings they were going to sell off.

The leader of Calderdale Council has made the astonishing announcement that Labour had in secret drawn up a major plan to review and dispose of Council owned property. For a long time on Calderdale Council there has been an understanding that significant savings would have to be found from the management of our facilities and assets. However like many Councillors assumed this would be done in an open fashion in Consultation with the public.

Instead it is claimed that the Labour party had been working in secret from the public or other Councillors on a detailed list of buildings they were considering to dispose. The list  is meant to include libraries, community centres, public toilets and bowling greens.  Details are only now beginning to emerge since a Conservative and Independent minority administration supported by the Liberal Democrats have gone public with the plan.

In a press release sent to me on the 8th October the Council leader makes the following claim:

“Since removing Labour from control of Calderdale Council a few short weeks ago, we have become aware of a major review and disposal of Council owned property undertaken by the previous Labour administration. We were horrified by the sheer scale of the proposals, considered behind closed doors, by Labour back in March and hidden from the rest of Council. These buildings include such things as libraries, community centres, toilets and bowling clubs.”

The Council leader goes onto say he will go public as soon as possible with the list and start an open and transparent six month consultation on the buildings Labour were planning to sell off in secret.

In the meantime the public deserve to know what Labour had been planning, to try and uncover the secret plan I have put in a Freedom of Information Act request to the Council. If it emerges they had drawn up such an extensive list of buildings to sell it makes a mockery of their claims to have been protecting services.

 

Labour oppose sixth form college plan

Labour have opposed plans to create a new sixth form college for Calderdale. The plan for the college has been put together by Trinity Academy, who were bidding for governmental money to create the college as a free school. It seems sadly a combination of ideological opposition to free schools, and a successful lobbying campaign by some Head Teachers (perhaps worried their students might leave their sixth forms for a new college) encouraged Labour to pass a wrecking amendment to a Council motion seeking to back the college scheme.

Labour tried to claim we needed more work to build consensus around the future post 16 provision, but last year they stopped the work of the Post 16 working party setup to do just this. In administration on Calderdale they failed to come up with their own plan to tackle this problem, and now they refusing to back plans for this sixth form college.

I went to a sixth form college myself, and it totally opened my eyes to education after having never really got on well in the type of environment offered at a school. Sixth form college’s may not be right for all students, but I do believe that they offer more choice of subjects, and enable teachers to specialize just on teaching at a higher level.

The Council’s failure to back plans for a new sixth form will weaken Trinity Academies bid. Hopefully it will still succeed, but without Council support it runs a greater risk of being turned down. If that does happen I wonder how long students and parents will have to wait until they finally get the choice on whether their child attends a sixth form attached to a school, or a specialized sixth form college.