Labour’s grand gestures

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CYP Scrutiny ‘called in’ a cabinet report because it had concerns about some of its content and the Lead member for CYP (Cllr Megan Swift) expressed “disappointment” (euphemism for niggled!) at this action.

The report was based on work carried out by the Early Years Commission which, in fact, only referred to Children’s Centres, completely omitting the context in which these centres operate i.e. Early Assessment & & Intervention, Children’s & Maternal Mental health!What we were hoping for was a ‘vision’ for Early Years but we were told that this was “woolly stuff” and not necessary to this decision. One has to ask whether there is concentration on the important, but politically advantageous, issue rather than the overall needs of Early Years in Calderdale. Furthermore, statutory guidance on the roles and responsibilities of the Lead Member for Children’s Services, (LMCS), says “the LMCS has a key role in defining the local vision and setting political priorities for children’s services within the broader context”.You could say that it is part of the job description which is in danger of being ignored to the detriment of our young people. The other concern we had was that the original proposals for changes to Children’s Centres had a built-in fund, controlled by the department, which would be used to fund provision for the most vulnerable, but this essential aspect of the service now seems to be ‘delegated’ to the commercially commissioned Children’s Centres who are also targeted with making the agreed budget savings whilst providing the same standard of service. In ‘calling in’ this report, scrutiny were exercising their democratic right and responsibility to hold cabinet to account in relation to the young people of Calderdale.
In full council last Thursday, amongst a series of ‘choreographed questions’, the Labour Cabinet took the opportunity to support Ed Miliband’s proposal to freeze energy prices and his response to energy companies’ retort that the market forces could make it difficult to guarantee service supply under such a freeze, as being “unacceptable scaremongering”. However, the Labour Cabinet had already put forward a budget plan to increase Council Tax by 2% for the next 3 years, “to protect services from collapse”.
Is there an inconsistency here and a tendency for Labour, both nationally and locally, to make grand gestures in isolation and not think them through / put them in context? Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to see energy prices fixed, particularly for the most vulnerable, but is this the best way to achieve this objective?
In a response to a ‘non-choreographed’ question, the Communities Cabinet Member was asked about a fund being set up to help finance community organisations at the same time as suggesting that their discretionary rate relief is cut which is likely to leave them significantly out of pocket. The cabinet member was unable to clarify the situation and did not offer a response ‘in 7 working days’. Another example of not looking at the context of decisions?And I won’t even start to discuss the very worrying developments in relation to the possible (probable?) sale of The Shay – not in this letter anyway! Confused and concerned of Warley.

Coun Ashley Evans

Warley Lib-Dems