Talking Politics: New challenge ahead for our court building

Calderdale Magistrates Court.
Calderdale Magistrates Court.

It was very disappointing to hear two weeks ago that the government are going ahead with plans to close both of Calderdale’s courts.

Particularly as they chose to ignore a compromise which would have combined them into one building, hence preserving the use of the historic Magistrate’s Court building on Harrison Road.

This impressive listed property was built as Halifax’s new police station in the late 19th century; now the battle will be to make sure a fitting alternative use is found to preserve and protect this.

Coming on top of the threat to the future of the fine Post Office on Commercial Street, this presents a new set of challenges for our main town.

By contrast, opposite the Town Hall, work is nearing completion on transforming the listed Princess Buildings – demonstrating how you can create a modern working environment within an important listed building.

Proud we’ve not axed any libraries

Well, that’s another difficult set of budget decisions put inplace.

I’m pleased that despite the challenges, Calderdale we’ve been able to continue to protect many of our vital front line services.

And after six years of massive cuts, proud that Calderdale has still not closed a single library or children’s centre.

But local government continues to be savaged by Chancellor George Osborne. This year, Calderdale received over £33 million in government revenue support grant. Next year, that drops to just over £25 million. Two years later, it will be down to around £12 million.

That’s an awful lot of street lights that can’t be replaced, pot holes that can’t be fixed, parks and open spaces that can’t be looked after, unless

we are able to find the money in other ways.

A couple of weeks ago, the government did find extra money for some councils. But not for areas like Calderdale, struggling with the impact of floods on top of years of spending cuts. Curiously, almost all the councils benefitting from this last minute windfall are in areas where Conservative MPs threatened to rebel.

Sometimes it’s very easy to become cynical about central government.

One Mayor to rule them all?

For the last three years, councils and businesses across West Yorkshire and the Leeds City region have worked together to secure investment in transport and the economy.

And it’s making a difference – taking some decisions more locally has meant better targeted support for businesses, creating more jobs and more apprenticeships.

Even Prime Minister David Cameron has said: “The partnership has achieved phenomenal success.” But our plans to do more are being blocked, firstly by the

government’s insistence that more devolution will only be agreed if we accept an elected Mayor, and secondly by blinkered Conservatives who want

a single Mayor for a huge area covering West, North and East Yorkshire.

Do we really want decisions about bus services in Halifax taken by one individual elected to represent a huge area stretching from Todmorden to Whitby? Sounds daft to me.