All change at the top: Lib-Lab pact to run the council

CALDERDALE Council will next week be under the joint control of the Lib-Dems and Labour.

Lib Dem Janet Battye will become leader and Labour's Tim Swift will be deputy following the annual council meeting on Monday.

The two parties now have 27 seats after this month's elections and are forming a coalition to take control from the largest group, the Conservatives, who have 20 seats.

The deal contrasts with the route taken at national level by Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg who said it was right to join forces with David Cameron's Conservatives as it was the largest party.

Coun Battye (Calder) said she had spoken with all groups.

"It became clear the Conservatives were not willing to change the way the council is run," she said.

"We felt it was up to us to take a lead. It was sensible for us to talk to Labour to see if we had enough in common.

"We and the Labour group are agreed significant changes need to be made if the council is to provide the leadership that Calderdale needs."

Coun Battye said the new administration would work closely with communities.

"The council is there to serve them," she said.

Priorities include having more open and inclusive decision making; making sure basic services are of high quality, working to secure jobs and training, avoiding high increases in council tax.

Coun Battye said next month's emergency national budget would give a clear picture of what lay ahead. "We will have to set out quickly what that means for Calderdale," she said. Coun Swift (Town) said the local election result was a clear message that people wanted to see a change in how the council operated. "If the council is to regain people's trust, we need to demonstrate it is run in a way that is open, treats people fairly and delivers the services they need," he said.

Outgoing leader Coun Stephen Baines (Con, Northowram and Shelf) said the new regime was taking over an excellent position with a balanced budget and reserves of nearly 9 million.

New rules mean the council leader can be elected for up to four years but Coun Battye – who is due for re-election in two years – expects to be appointed for just one year. That is subject to confirmation at Monday's meeting as is the new cabinet of: Coun Peter Wardhaugh (Lib Dem, Greetland and Stainland), Performance and Resources; Coun Barry Collins (Lab, Illingworth and Mixenden), Economy and Environment; Coun Olwen Jennings (Lib Dem, Tod), Children and Young People; Coun Bob Metcalfe (Lab, Town), Adults, Health and Social Care; Coun David O'Neill (Lib Dem, Calder), Safer and Stronger Communities.