Tory plan to axe Calderdale councillors

Conservatives want to save £160,000 a year by reducing the number of Calderdale councillors from 51 to 36.

They have included the idea in a spending plan which they will put to Calderdale Council’s budget meeting on Monday.

It will mean completely re-drawing electoral boundaries to reduce the number of wards from 17 to 12 by 2015.

The number of voters in each ward would rise from about 9,000 to 12,500.

The Conservatives say another £2.5 million a year could be saved by merging the council’s management and administrative services with two new councils which they would like to see formed in neighbouring Kirklees.

Conservative group leader Coun Stephen Baines (Northowram and Shelf) said cutting the number of councillors was something the public wanted

“People tell us that there are too many councillors and all 21 Conservatives have agreed the proposed reduction,” he said.

“Each ward would still have three councillors which will be enough to serve the extra constituents.”

Calderdale Council is expected to spend about £180 million in 2012/13.

Other proposals in the Conservative budget include putting a stop to regular pay rises for some council workers as their careers progress, which could save £600,000 and scrapping the £40,000 which it costs the authority to employ a full time Unison official.

The Conservatives want to reintroduce free Christmas trees in towns and villages and to scrap Lib-Lab plans to save £89,000 on Christmas lights.

They have also suggested introducing a voucher scheme that would give motorists free parking for an hour if they spend a minimum amount in local shops.

The council’s Liberal Democrat leader Janet Battye said she was surprised and to some degree distressed by some of the proposals.

“They have been tabled only days before the budget meeting giving little or no time for detailed analysis or public consideration.”

She said the number of councillors should be based on what they needed to do to adequately represent people and the work needed to fulfil council responsibilities, not simply on how many a neighbouring authority might have.

“And I am distressed to think that the Conservatives want to prevent hard working council staff progressing up their pay scale - the budget proposal contains more questions than answers,” said Coun Battye (Calder).

*Monday’s budget meeting at Halifax Town Hall is due to begin at 6pm.