The local press are now reporting on the amendments both the Liberal Democrats and Conservatives will be putting forward at Calderdale Council’s budget meeting. The details of these amendments will be published shortly. There is quite a lot of political spin around such things, so I thought it would be helpful to cut to the chase a bit.
Firstly all three parties agree on most of what Calderdale’s budget should be. All three parties agree there should be a Council tax free for instance, and the variation in budgets that departments have had in previous years are not radically different.
Secondly all the parties on Calderdale have some ideas I would support. Labour want to include the living wage, the Conservatives are very keen to reduce parking charges, and we Lib Dems want to do more to boost business exports, tackle dog fouling and give ward forums their own budgets.
Thirdly there isn’t a ‘coalition’ between the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives. Labour made the choice to formulate their proposals on a unilateral basis. This differs from last year when cross-party groups in each of the directorates drew up proposals together. When presented with Labour’s proposals (and not having been invited to help formulate them) both parties had weeks in which to asses the plans and draw up their own proposals.
What followed was a series of meetings, debate and discussion about what proposals each party wanted to bring and what we couldn’t support. There were some Conservatives ideas we couldn’t support, and visa-versa. The changes don’t remove all of Labour’s budget, they are an amendment that changes some things like the unpopular parking charges but keeps in others such as the living wage.
So what we have now is a series of a amendments that if passed will contain the best of what Labour, the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats have to offer. It doesn’t make for an exciting story but it’s a reasonable representation of resident’s views on decision making on a Council where no one party has overall control.
It’s surprising given Labour don’t have a majority to pass their budget that they didn’t adopt a more open and consensual approach from the outset. It was clear then they terminated the Lib Dem/Labour coalition that they wanted more control for themselves, but if they had negotiated bit more then they probably could have got more of their proposals into the final budget. It also would have meant that a cross-party budget could have gone out for public consultation through the Council’s official communication channels. That would have been fitting for a Council with no overall control, in which the people have Calderdale have stated they want all parties to work together.