Using the Freedom of Information Act I have today exposed that the previous Labour administration on Calderdale Council had plans for a wholesale sell-off of council-owned properties – plans marked as ‘restricted’ that were to remain under wraps until after next year’s elections.
I only got to find out about these plans by using the Freedom of Information Act but I can now reveal that that Labour councillors have discussed selling off over 95 properties including at least seven community centres and 15 public toilets. They were not planning to make any of this public until after next year’s local and general elections.
When we voted to remove Labour from the leadership of the council in July, we said that one reason was the secretive manner in which they operated. This just shows how right we were.
Not only is it appalling that councillors have only found out about these plans by resorting to the Freedom of Information Act, but even worse is the fact that local people would have had no say in the matter. These buildings are provided for their benefit, not the council’s.
No one wants the council to waste money on unnecessary buildings, but it can only decide what is necessary through holding open discussions within the council and, before that, with the public we are here to serve. I don’t believe Labour were even thinking about such discussions.
Calderdale Liberal Democrats think the council to save money by creating community hubs so people could access public services in the communities they serve. This would mean we could spend less money on Council offices. Instead of drawing up a secret list we would have launched an open public consultation on the future of council-owned buildings. This shows a major difference in approach between Labour and the Liberal Democrats, and that Labour cannot be trusted.
Liberal Democrat Group Leader, Cllr Janet Battye said: “This flies in the face of Cllr Tim Swift’s assertion made in May 2013 that the Labour Cabinet would be ‘open and transparent’. When the Council has had to work on other large and difficult issues – such as the improvement of Children’s Social Care, or the work on the Piece Hall – it has been done together, across the political groups, and been more successful because of this. Why didn’t Labour do that this time?”
All the documents detailing the plans can be downloaded from What Do They Know . The Appendix in the following document lists a whole host of buildings that were planned for disposal. The plans also include transferring the Shay Stadium and Victoria theater into community ownership.