Talking politics: Coun James Baker (leader of Calderdale Liberal Democrats)

Road works on the A58, at Stump Cross, causing 30-40 minute delays for traffic
Road works on the A58, at Stump Cross, causing 30-40 minute delays for traffic

This week, Coun James Baker argues the case for funding more public transport and discusses the campaign to save Calderdale’s stroke unit.

The average driver spends 32 hours a year in traffic jams - and in Calderdale this number must surely be even higher.

Whether it’s temporary lights along the A646, queuing along the Huddersfield Road or at the notorious Hipperholme cross roads - traffic jams mean it takes longer to get to and from work; they contribute to air pollution that damages our health and they cost businesses time and money. So it’s hard to understand why the local Conservatives have attacked the council’s latest transport strategy.

Councillor Peel from Brighouse labelled it ‘utopian’ to encourage people to make transport choices other than cars. Does that mean we should just give up then? Surely if we open more train stations and improve public transport that can only be a good thing?

When it comes to traffic congestion the Conservatives don’t appear to have any answers, just criticism of those on the council who are trying to do something to tackle traffic congestion.

To make matters worse the Government is saying we have to build 17,000 new homes in the borough. Just imagine what the traffic will be like with all those extra homes if we don’t do something to upgrade our transport infrastructure.

Campaign

This week we have started a campaign to keep our local stroke unit in Calderdale. The West Yorkshire and Harrogate Sustainability and Transformation Plan (STP) for the NHS states that officials “need to reduce the number of hyper-acute stroke units across West Yorkshire and Harrogate” to plug a £1bn funding shortfall by 2020/21. It is believed the unit in Calderdale is at particular risk. Whilst we would welcome building specialised centres of excellence for the most acute cases, we also need to improve and upgrade services in Calderdale.

Improving health service among other things requires more resources and funding. That’s why the Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron MP is proposing a £4bn cash injection to help the immediate financial crisis in our NHS.

We would pay for this and future increased funding by putting an extra penny on income tax. This is a straight forward and honest policy that would provide for the health and social care service that we and our loved ones deserve.

Brass neck

Now before I finish, I should note that readers will have recently received their council tax bills. On it you will note there is something called a ‘social care precept’.

This makes up a total of 3 per cent of the 5 per cent rise we had this year. This precept is the Conservative Government’s way of shifting the cost of social care onto council tax payers. It is interesting they seek to do this at the same time as they are cutting corporation tax for large businesses. What brass neck the local Conservatives have to claim they will keep council tax low when their own published financial plans for Calderdale included a 10.1 per cent rise in council tax over the next three years!