So how many of the public care about the £65million cuts that we're facing? Just one

THE first open meeting to discuss Calderdale Council's £65million spending cuts failed to attract the public.

Just one lay person – retired council worker Margaret Barnes – turned up.

She joined four councillors, three council officials and three environmental activists at the gathering in St Paul's Church, Sowerby Bridge.

The meeting had been publicised on the council's website and in Courier reports.

Council leader Janet Battye said: "I didn't know how many to expect.

"But it is important to make ourselves available to answer questions on such an important topic."

She said the 90-minute meeting had been worthwhile because of the quality, rather than the quantity, of people present. A second meeting to talk about the Calderdale budget was held last night. And pressure from councillors in Brighouse has resulted in a third being arranged for 6pm tomorrow at Rastrick High School.

The council has to save 65 million over the next three years and is proposing to increase fees and charges and spending cuts that could lead to 200 redundancies.

The 51 councillors are expecting a 5 per cent pay cut but there will be no increase in council tax if the plan is approved as expected on February 28.

Mrs Barnes urged councillors to be cautious about making permanent a 250,000 cut to the fund for buying new library books and getting rid of "back office support workers" who she said were vital to support front-line staff.

Anthony Rae, of Calderdale friends of the Earth, questioned the financial impact of the council's aim of "moving towards a more sustainable environment" and backed plans to raise parking charges by at least 10p an hour.

Charles Gate of the Green Party urged the council to send a letter to Lloyds Bank asking it to make up for the axing of Government grants, which had forced the council tighten its belt.

The council's health and social care spokesman Coun Bob Metcalfe (Lab, Town) explained how increasing demands for services and the abolition of the Primary Care Trusts made reorganisation inevitable.

Deputy leader of the council Tim Swift (Lab, Town) said it was unclear exactly how many jobs might have to go.

He said it would depend on the numbers taking voluntary early retirement, as well as the merging, outsourcing and privatisation of services.

* How should the council consult YOU about the cuts? Email us: yoursay@

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