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 

New bus Routes Serving Calder High School

We were contacted a few months ago by resident’s living within Warley Ward who were complaining about the time it was taking their children to get to Calder High. We are very pleased to say that we have been successful in lobbying for two new school busses that will serve people living in Mount Tabor, Norton Tower, Pellon, Moor End Road and Highroad Well.

We are pleased to begin the operation of two new services from Wainstalls, Mixenden, Mount Tabor, Norton Tower and Pellon areas of Halifax to Calder High School. These routes will commence from Monday 27th February, 2017. The routes and times are:C82: Wainstalls Turning Circle (07:50) – Mount Tabor Road – Heath Hill Road – Roils Head Road (08:00) – Gibbet Street – Warley Road – Burnley Road (08:10) – Calder High (08:20)

C83: Mixenden Road near Crag Lane (07:50) – Clough Lane – Mount Tabor Road – Moor End Road – Highroad Well Lane – Roils Head Road (08:00) – Gibbet Street – Warley Road – Burnley Road (08:10) – Calder High (08:20)

You can view a map of the route here

Both routes operate AM to school and PM from school (departing school at 15:10 and arriving Wainstalls/Mixenden at 15:40 following the above routes in reverse).

To ride on these services you must register for a place. Please complete this application form.

All bus stops on each route will be observed. The fare is £1.10 with an Under 16 Photo-Card or 16-18 Photo-Card (else full adult fare applies).

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.

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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.

 

 

Christmas Tree Recycling in Calderdale

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Unfortunately Calderdale Council isn’t providing lots of extra recycling points for Christmas trees. However they will be accepted in the green waste skips at any of the 5 Household Waste Recycling Centres. Remember to remove all decorations are removed before depositing in the skip!

There is also a temporary collection point at Ogden Water Visitor Centre, Ogden Lane, Causeway Foot, Halifax, HX2 8XZ. This is for trees with roots that can then be replanted around Ogden Water.

Artificial trees should either be given to charity shops or deposited in the general waste skips at the Council’s recycling centres.

Calderdale Council has spent £327,000 on empty offices at Dean Clough.

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Calderdale Council moved out of the offices it was leasing at Dean Clough two years ago, but is still paying £163,500 per year for the space. That means that the Council has paid out nearly one-third of a million pounds for something that is of no benefit for the people of Calderdale.

As the lease has over six years still to run, a further million pounds could well be wasted in the same way. Clearly the Council needs to take action to reduce this wasteful spending or, hopefully, get rid of it altogether.

This also calls into question the wisdom of the Council in entering into long leases that it can’t easily get out of.

Even if the Council’s coffers were overflowing with cash, this would be an unacceptable waste of public money. In these difficult times it is even more intolerable.

The tax-payers of Calderdale and the Council staff who are at risk of losing their jobs over the coming years would be right to be appalled by this wasteful use of scarce resources.

Report on how a regulated cannabis market would work

The most comprehensive framework for how a regulated cannabis market could work in the UK has been published today by an independent panel of experts set up by the Liberal Democrats.

This groundbreaking report sets out how the legal production and supply of cannabis could work in the UK. It was established in the autumn by Liberal Democrat Health spokesperson Norman Lamb MP. The expert panel was chaired by Steve Rolles, Senior Policy Analyst from Transform Drug Policy Foundation.

The report proposes:

  • Allowing the sale of cannabis to over 18s from specialist, licensed retail stores. It also proposes allowing home-cultivation for personal use and small scale licensed cannabis social clubs.

  • A new regulator to oversee the market

  • Regulation around the price, potency and packaging of cannabis available from retailers, with policy informed by evidence and best practice in tobacco and alcohol regulation.

  • Single purpose outlets to sell cannabis modelled on pharmacies.

  • Cannabis would be sold over the counter by trained and licensed vendors, in plain packaging with clear health and risk reduction information.

The report states there is potential for significant government revenue from taxation – credible estimates suggest up to £1 billion per year could be raised. The panel recommends cannabis should be taxed in line with its potency.

The report argues that the health risks associated with the use of cannabis are more effectively managed and minimised through a responsibly regulated market and public health interventions rather than an unregulated criminal market and punitive criminal justice response.

The full report can be read here.

What will Labour’s Council budget mean for you?

Tonight was Calderdale Council’s budget setting meeting, and I thought you might like to have a run down of what the budget will mean to you as a resident living in Warley ward. I’m trying to keep this article factual, you can read our political statement that we made here. The Liberal Democrats group did not support Labour’s budget, or the Conservative group’s amendment. Labour’s budget passed on the night as Labour are the biggest party on the Council, and we did not want to support the Conservative’s amendments.

Changes in Council tax 

There will be a social care precept levied of 2% a year. This increase is largely to pay for the cost of introducing the living wage for our contractors who provide social care services for the Council. Additionally there will be a 1.95% Council tax increase, this will be used to create a flood recovery fund. The new Council tax bills, which include the Police, Environment Agency and Fire Authority precepts will be as follows (in areas such as Warley ward without parish Councils).

New Council tax bands

Band A –  £1,004.35

Band B – £ 1,171.74

Band C –  £1,339.12

Band D – £1,506.51

Band E – £1,841.28

Band F – £2,176.07

Band G – £2,510.86

Band H – £3,013.02

Growth proposals and savings proposals

The full list is below, you will notice the only growth in revenue spending is on social services. This is largely to take into account changing demographics and the cost of paying staff the living wage. In terms of cuts/savings of note is the extra £1 million a year to be raised from charging people more for Council services, and the million pounds that will be taken out of children’s services. In addition to this revenue spending a one of fund of £3 million will be created for flood recovery work.

 

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