Just in case it slipped your attention, the political conference season is now over.
The leaders’ speeches might dominate the headlines, but it’s what takes place away from the main hall that is often more interesting. One such fringe meeting in Manchester was the Hannah Mitchell Foundation (campaign for regional government). A room for 40 had been booked. As it turned out, nearly 70 squashed in to lend their support for a strong and powerful voice for the north. There was a genuine feeling of an idea whose time had arrived. I think elected Regional Government will happen, and will bring many benefits to Halifax and other northern towns and cities. If the support we had in Manchester was anything to go by, then people really are beginning to get behind this idea.
Floods: Not enough support
The floods that so badly hit parts of our area may have subsidised, but much of the damage they caused remains. At the time political promises were made that they would help the clean-up process, and support local businesses and residents that suffered when the banks burst. Remember the visit from David Cameron offering help and support? Well not a lot has happened since then, with Calderdale Council left to foot most of the bill. The indications are that the cost to Calderdale will now be about £2.5m, with the Government providing £100k. This is not good enough. The wider point is this; why do local authorities get so financially stifled by central government, yet often forced to foot the bill on such big issues? It’s time the Government fully embraced localism or ditched it. For example, Town Halls should decide Council tax levels not Whitehall. This halfway house approach doesn’t help anyone, and leaves councils picking up the pieces and the financial bill. The Government’s approach to funding the flood damage is yet another example of their mixed message about the future direction of local government.