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Oxford Street

Hebden Bridge

I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry when I saw our well paid council leader Janet Battye trying to spin four people turning up for a public meeting as a triumph for local democracy.

By any standards four people makes a mockery of any consultation process no matter how well informed that hardy bunch were. When all those who took part could turn up in the same taxi you know your consultation meeting is a monumental failure.

The simple reality is if you hold a meeting at 2pm in the afternoon you are pretty much guaranteeing a low turnout as it means that anyone who is lucky enough to still have a job would have to take the afternoon off work to attend.

In the current climate caused by the Conservative led ConDem government most of the commuters who travel out of Calderdale every day would be reluctant to ask for time off when they don’t have to.

It is worth noting the other two consultation meetings held by our inept council kicked off at 6pm which again would have meant workers and commuters taking precious time off to get there for the start of a meeting which took the form of a presentation by councillors and then a Q and A.

You might have thought a council leader paid more than forty grand a year might have worked out that having evening meetings starting at 7.30pm in the four ward forum areas would have been a more sensible solution.

A cynic might think that our well paid councillors don’t actually want to face well attended meeting packed full of informed voters angry at the worst cuts in services since the 1920s.

For those of us living in the Upper Valley this lack of consultation is even worse.

If you look at point 1.16 of the council’s own Budget Consultation Report - available on their website - it clearly states that ‘respondents from the Upper Valley are also over-represented.’

Yet there was no meeting scheduled at any time, anywhere in the Upper Valley forum area for those people like me who took the time to respond to the original farcical consultation.

I should point out to your readers that ‘our’ council leader is an Upper Valley councillor and yet at no time has she seen fit to face her own voters even at a time inconvenient to the electorate like 2pm.

Contrast this to councillors in Brighouse who did their job by lobbying the council to get an extra meeting in their ward. There has been a deafening silence from the Calder councillors who are paid more than fifty grand between them to be accountable to their voters.

In short it is disingenuous for ‘our’ council leader to suggest this consultation has in any way reflected the views of the broader community as it has been made very difficult for working people to attend any of the meetings without having to take time off.

I will leave it your readers to determine whether that is result of the usual ineptitude we have come to expect from Calderdale Council or simply local councillors running scared of the genuine anger of an electorate opposed to draconian cuts in vital frontline services.

Paul Clarke