Budget plan has ‘missed opportunities’ says Conservative leader

Councillors Howard Blagbrough and Scott Benton at greenbelt land off Thornhills Lane, Clifton.
Councillors Howard Blagbrough and Scott Benton at greenbelt land off Thornhills Lane, Clifton.

The leader of the Conservative group in Calderdale has labelled budget proposals put forward by the Labour group as ‘a budget of missed opportunities.

The draft proposals, which were presented at a Cabinet meeting at Halifax Town Hall, cover the next three financial years to 2019/20.

The budget proposals include a 1.95 per cent rise in council tax rates in the three years to 2019/20. To help the council meet the increasing demand for high quality care for our older residents the Cabinet is also proposing to use the Social Care Precept to raise council tax bills by a further three per cent in both 2017-18 and 2018-19.

However, Councillor Scott Benton (Conservative, Brighouse) said: “This Budget further reduces the funding available to frontline services such as road maintenance, waste collections and maintaining our streets and parks – areas where complaints from members of the public are already soaring at present.

“This Budget also includes huge reductions to our libraries, large rises in parking charges, and a raft of additional fees and charges elsewhere, as well as a large increase of nearly fiver per cent in Council Tax’.

“This really is a budget of missed opportunities. Frontline services are hit and Council Tax is hiked and all because this failing Labour administration has not successfully remodelled the Council to address its present challenges. “Where are the proposals to share services with other organisations; to deliver services in a different way; and to drive efficiencies in back office working?

“This administration has had six years to bring in initiatives that will make the Council fit for purpose and under Labour it continues to lack the leadership to make this transition.”

The Cabinet is proposing to invest £2m in Adults and Children’s Services next year to meet growing cost pressures.

Support will also continue for the Calder Valley following the unprecedented flooding in 2015, with extra resources being allocated to flood maintenance and planning. The Highways service, particularly drainage, will receive an extra £600k of funding, to provide the improvements needed to deliver a well maintained network. In total this will be an investment of £3.3m by 2019/20.

The Cabinet proposals also include plans to continue working with health partners to guarantee further funding for the Staying Well programme, which helps tackle loneliness and encourages people to stay active and independent.

To save money there will be some changes to council services including:

-Reducing the number of managers and other staff by merging teams and moving more services on-line

-Reducing the opening hours of some services including museums, libraries and waste centres

-Reducing some programmes from public health

-Changing the timing of some services - for example, the grass may be cut less frequently in some parks

-Reducing the funding of some of the services provided by voluntary sector

-Reducing some of the money the Council pays to Metro for bus and transport services

-Reducing spending on IT, staff training and other internal services