In the country we’re still not out of the financial woods: as we get good news, it seems to be followed by bad. Is unemployment increasing or reducing ? What impact is inflation having on us ? What is next year’s council budget going to be like ? How much more are we going to have to find in savings?
As a way forward to protect local services in Calderdale (eg. libraries), we’re doing some adventurous work on reshaping them by putting services together in local communities, drawing in other public services (eg. police) and integrating services (especially for older people) with health services.
This is the beginning of our local attempt not simply to make “cuts” in order to balance the books, but to start to think more radically about the role of the council and public services in years to come. It can’t be just about hanging on and waiting for good times to come again. This is a golden opportunity to re-examine what we want our local communities to be for future generations.
The economy has to be at the heart of this – we really do want and need Calderdale to thrive and have vibrant local communities. But while on the one hand this is exciting, it’s also frightening. Our instinctive reaction to change tends to be to resist it.
So it’s understandable but disappointing when local people (and even more so, local councillors) object to plans to develop and invest in businesses, whether that’s an extension to a local factory, or a new hotel. Or the proposals to develop Halifax town centre (by moving the library to the Square Spire site) which will have been debated in the council meeting this week.
The council is currently consulting on its draft Local Plan: the first question many people ask is “how many more houses are you going to build here ?” But if there are more houses, there are also more people who add to the life of the town or village – and they may even be affordable houses for our own children !
I think that if we face change head-on and “go with the flow”, we can start to get used to it and even enjoy it. I’ve started using Broad St restaurants – and even went to see the new James Bond film there (although we still love the Picture House !). It really is important for all of us that we try to take change and developments in our stride – and see the opportunities in them.