This letter is a response to recent comments in the Press by the leader of the Calderdale Liberal Democrats, Councillor Janet Battye. Labour worked with the Liberal Democrats on Calderdale Council for three years, from 2010. After the last local elections, we decided to end this arrangement. Cllr Battye has complained on a number of occasions about this. I want to make very clear why it happened. The simple reason why Labour councillors could no longer work with Cllr Battye was that she began to seem more intent on supporting her colleagues in the coalition government than in defending the people of Calderdale from its more damaging policies. Frankly, her latest Courier article was a perfect example of the games the local Liberal Democrats now choose to play. Cllr Battye says that Labour would not work with her party on 2014/17 budget. Here is what actually occurred. The Labour Budget was published on 13th January, six weeks before Budget Council. During that time, there were various public meetings and our proposals were available for anyone to comment upon. By contrast, the Lib/Dems and Conservatives cobbled together a set of secret amendments, which were released to other councillors only one weekend before the crucial budget meeting on February 24th. How dare Cllr Battye now accuse the Labour group of not being “transparent”? Frankly, I’ll leave it to readers themselves to decide just who has been open and transparent with their budget plans. Now let’s turn to the National Health Service. In my view, this is a political fight. It is about national policies and spending priorities and how they affect our district. Labour will work with anyone who genuinely wants to keep our A&E (and maternity and stroke units) in Calderdale. But it would be hypocritical to make common cause with the very parties whose national policies are putting them under threat.Following this month’s NHS vote in Parliament, on the law which will make it easier for the Health Secretary to close local services, I challenged other Calderdale politicians to denounce what their government colleagues have done. Only one councillor responded – Cllr Battye, who said on Twitter that she was “proud” of her party’s health representatives in London. If you believe that we need to defend our A&E and other services in Calderdale, then yes, of course, we should try to persuade local health managers to think again. But we also need to work to change the national policies that forced them to make their current closure proposals in the first place. Anything less would be a grievous dishonesty.
Cllr Megan Swift
Labour, Town Ward
Lead Member, Children and Young Peoples Services