Talking Politics: In opposition, making trouble or just getting things done?

Halifax Town Hall
Halifax Town Hall

So the Labour group of councillors on Calderdale Council decided to run the council on their own (without a majority) since May this year although it looks as though they have at least the tacit support of the Conservatives. This puts us, the Liberal Democrat group, into opposition.

What does this mean? Most local people (and we’ve been doing a survey and talking to a lot of them in my ward over the last few weeks) seem to just want things to get done and, quite understandably, things that affect them where they live, making sure the drains are cleared, trees cut back, dog mess prevented or cleared up, traffic speed controlled, local buses running on time. Many people tell us that they would like councillors to run the council together in a joint administration. In fact, this is how many decisions are taken within the council. There is general agreement about what’s in everybody’s best interest – we want a thriving economy, children to be healthy, well educated and kept safe, older people to have a good quality of life. Locally this means that most councillors do support the restoration of Piece Hall, investment in and support for the local economy through the Economic Task Force, improvement of children’s social care services.

Whether we’re running the council or not, as Liberal Democrats, first and foremost, we’re promoting a set of values about a fair and open society, balancing individual freedoms with community needs.

This means that we want as much open communication and sharing of information as possible, encouraging people to participate in shaping decisions that affect their lives.

We believe that it’s fundamentally important that the council is open and transparent about what it does, involves and responds to local people. That’s why, over the years, we’ve introduced mechanisms like ensuring that anybody can ask questions and raise issues in council meetings.

We ensured that ward forums got set up around Calderdale.

We’ve supported the creation of Customer First, Neighbourhood Policing Teams and so on. When we ran the council (with Labour) for the last three years, we set out to get things done, listen to and be accountable to local people.

We’ll carry on doing that as long as we continue to be elected to represent local people. Being in opposition may mean that we don’t have a vote on the cabinet but we will continue to be there in cabinet, committee and council meetings standing up for our values and for local people.

Some people might think that’s “making trouble”, but we think it’s trying to be an effective opposition and getting things done!