Column: Talking Politics with Coun Steven Leigh - Calderdale Council needs to make things better for residents
Readers probably know that the North Bridge Leisure Centre development is back on track after nine months of stagnation, but with a dramatic reduction in the number of facilities on offer.Somehow Labour have the audacity to call the project “top class”. They should be reminded that in additional to these new cuts, the facility will be without a deep-water pool for diving and other specialist activities that were on offer at Halifax Swimming Baths. This project is nothing but a downgrade and ultimately leaves residents in Calderdale worse off.
Another serious issue regards the recent Government Hearing concerning the proposed incinerator in Sowerby Bridge. Local residents won the appeal, meaning the incinerator would not be built. Coun Issott asked Labour to apologise for proposing a project that the Inspector deemed to have an “unacceptable adverse effect on human health”. She also asked if there would be any future Appeals. Unsurprisingly, Labour didn’t apologise and swiftly moved on to the next item. Later in the meeting, we put forward a Motion about inequality of information. In the case of the incinerator, the council delayed their notification of the Appeal to residents. Labour refuted the Motion, but since when is the lack of information about an adverse human health risk not a priority for residents?
This week, Conservatives quizzed the Labour Cabinet over the figures for Q1 council expenditure, which reports a deficit of £5m. This is worrying because the council has only minimal reserves and the advice from the interim financial officer in the last budget, stated the council should not use any large amounts “of balances or reserves to support the revenue budget over the next three years”. But at the first opportunity, in Q1, the council will use reserves to fund this gap. With that in mind, one can only conclude this Labour Council is not making the proper efforts to work within budgets and not overspend. Financial mismanagement can have profound effects on peoples’ lives. Labour-run Calderdale Council needs to accept financial reality and make things better for residents, not more difficult.