Talking Politics: Craig Whittaker MP (Con, Calder Valley)

Work continues on the upgrade to the famous Piece Hall in Halifax.
Work continues on the upgrade to the famous Piece Hall in Halifax.
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At a recent flood recovery group meeting I was publically challenged by Coun Barry Collins on my assertions that Calderdale Council are not treating flooding as a priority in their capital spend.

He didn’t challenge that basic principle, but challenged the fact that I had said that they had £189m to spend on capital projects over the last four years. Incredibly, he totally missed the point and said I had it wrong because it is for the next four years. Thereby in total denial that flooding infrastructure spend from the Council is only £1.5m from a total of £189m - showing exactly how the Labour administration have lost the plot!

Coun Collins also pointed out that they have other priorities like the Princess Buildings, the new library and Piece Hall. Well let’s just take a look at each of those projects all of which are the responsibility of the very same Councillor Collins and his Labour administration.

The Piece Hall and library project will be at least 12 months behind schedule and significantly over spent.

The Princess Buildings project is also 12 months over schedule with a huge overspend.

Meanwhile a senior officer who is responsible to Coun Collins for roads and highways in the borough recently admitted that the current contractor is providing a poor level of service. However they can’t unpick the contract so have to run with the poor level of service until Autumn 2017. This is so bad,

Calderdale has £2m sat in the budget waiting to be spent and meanwhile residents continue to have to put up with pot holes and poor road surfaces all over Calderdale.

The incompetence doesn’t stop there however.

Bin collection and recycling also comes under the responsibility of Councillor Collins. What an absolute disaster the new contract is so far. Two months in and hundreds of people in Calderdale still haven’t had their bins or recycling collected. My office still receives dozens of calls a week to see if we can help as they are getting no response from the help line or reporting it online.

It is the same company (with another name), using the same people but, incredibly, apparently working from an outdated route schedule for the first two weeks causing utter chaos. You can understand teething problems to a point, however two months later with no end in sight of any sense of normal service resumption is simply unacceptable.

The Labour administration needs to get a grip of what is happening around them and put someone in charge of these projects who is capable of challenging those responsible. Currently there appears to be a lack of governance, lack of internal capacity, lack of senior officer oversight, lack of oversight on tendering processes and a lack of one single person who appears to take ultimate responsibility for this breathtaking waste of tax payer’s money.

Is it any wonder Calderdale can’t treat capital infrastructure spend on flooding defences as a priority?

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Whilst the Calderdale Labour leadership sits back and watches all things around them fail, the national Labour leadership is in a far worse situation.

How on earth can a party so divided between the membership and its Parliamentary party play a meaningful role on the national and world stage?

The wonderful thing about our country is our democracy. Democracy however is reliant on an effective opposition who are able and capable of challenging government. In my previous role under David Cameron I was the Parliamentary Private Secretary (PPS) to the Immigration Minister and just before summer recess whenever we had a debate where my Minister was representing the Government, we never knew who the shadow person was going to be as they were resigning from

Jeremy Corbyn’s shadow cabinet almost by the hour. Even now with my new role as PPS to the Secretary of State for Culture Media and Sport we have the same situation. A situation that hasn’t remedied itself over the summer recess. Is it any wonder we see a rise in radical alternative political groups when the Labour Party is in such a mess. We wait and see what happens with the outcome of Labour’s internal fighting but one thing is certain. This is a disaster. Not just for the Labour Party but for the country as a whole.