Talking Politics: Tim Swift, Leader of Calderdale Council

Prime Minister Theresa May
Prime Minister Theresa May

It is remarkable that a change of Prime Minister from one to another from the same party can cause so much confusion and uncertainty. Yet that is the position we face as we wait for the Government to get up and running after the summer break.

Partly, this is simply a result of changing personnel. Not one of the ministers who visited Calderdale in the aftermath of the Boxing Day floods is now in the same job, or indeed serving in the same department. (This is one reason why Mr Whittaker’s sudden decision to break the cross party consensus on standing up for our communities with his poorly informed attack on the Council’s actions recently is so ill-judged).

But it seems that many of the changes are more fundamental, representing a complete rejection of David Cameron and George Osborne’s approach to Conservativism.

So perhaps this is a good time to set out the changes we would like to see, with three wishes from local government that could make a real difference for our area:

No back tracking on flood recovery

The first wish is for reassurance that there will be no back-tracking on the promised investment in flood resilience and recovery. That means firstly securing guarantees about the investment that has already been promised. But we also need to know that the national review of flood resilience will go ahead - identifying what has to be done to better protect communities against the likelihood of further severe weather events, and putting in the money needed to deliver.

Ending the uncertainty on devolution

Secondly, we need a clear statement from the Government about their intentions over devolution. There are two critical questions - will they continue to invest the resources needed to start to plug the gap in investment that presently exists between north and south, and from which we have suffered for too long; and do they understand that these decisions are best taken as close as possible to the regions that need the investment, rather than being dictated by ministers and civil servants in Whitehall? Arguments about elected mayors and the exact geography are entirely secondary.

End the squeeze on local services

Finally, we need the government to reverse the unfair and unequal cuts to local spending imposed by the Conservative - Liberal Democrat coalition and continued by George Osborne. Locally, we have found tens of millions of pounds in savings and cuts since 2010, and identified the need for millions more going forward. Yet the latest estimates are that Calderdale will need to cut another £13 million of spending by 2019, on top of everything done to date. At the same time, with more children nationally being admitted to care, and rising demographic pressures on social care services, we are rapidly reaching the point of no return for many of the services local people value the most.

These are not unrealistic wishes. The next few weeks will tell us which, if any, will be met.