Lib Dems’ positive influence shown in Budget
For the first time in a dozen years, Lib Dem councillors have had a real influence in setting Calderdale Council’s budget, and it shows.
We’ve been forced to find savings of £15m in the coming year, with a further £7m the following year, and another £6m the year after that.
This is not something we would have wished to do, but we have just got stuck in and produced a budget that protects local services as much as possible.
As the budget debate showed, no one on Calderdale Council has come up with any better ideas and there was little disagreement with what we put forward.
While other councils have been closing libraries, Sure Start centres, and getting rid of thousands of employees, we’ve done much better, not because we had less savings to find, but because of how we’ve gone about it. Our hard work has paid off.
We are pleased that our budget plans mean:
• No library closures
• No Sure Start Centre closures
• A Council Tax Freeze
• Extra money for services for children and older people
• No cuts in the winter roads maintenance budget
• All household waste recycling sites to remain open seven days a week
• Far fewer redundancies than in many other councils.
For the first time ever, and because of us, the Council has consulted much more widely than ever before. The participation of hundreds of local people has been vital in putting together this budget. It is one that reflects the views of local people and shows we are listening to them. The Tories have tried to undermine this dialogue with the public at every stage and then said it wasn’t good enough.
There is still much to do to ensure that Calderdale becomes a truly listening council, but what we’ve achieved so far is well in excess anything the Conservatives ever did, or ever wanted to do. Together with Labour as our junior partners, we’ve achieved more in ten months of running Calderdale than the Tories ever dd in ten years, and helped to mitigate the worst of the cuts from central government.
On the night, Conservative speakers in the budget debate admitted that they were “99% in agreement” with the budget put forward by the Lib Dem and Labour groups. Sadly this wasn’t enough to persuade them to actually vote for our proposals.
Their three last-minute amendments totalled changing how less than £1m would be spent out of a total budget of nigh on £180m, so the Tories were 99.46% in agreement. No doubt they will correct this small error in their election leaflets.
Councillor Nader Fekri
(Chair of Lib Dem Group, Calderdale MBC)