Councillor James Baker: Public services are failing and need radical reform

Councillor James Baker
Councillor James Baker

Over the past month I have been out with my colleagues surveying every household that I represent as a councillor.

The results returned to us paint an unhappy picture. Litter on our streets, fly-tipping, blocked drains, broken street lights and overgrown vegetation and weeds.

The Labour administration running our council is failing to get these basics rights, and our Conservative Government is failing to properly fund our council.

The same sorry picture is true when we look at planning enforcement on the Council. Over the past four years the council has received over 1800 complaints, but only taken enforcement action in 36 cases.

This appears to be well below the average for all councils in England. No wonder when you drive around parts of the borough you see so many over-the-top extensions springing up all over the place.

When we turn to health services things are not much better. Calderdale has one of the highest waiting lists in the country for Child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS). Young people and families are suffering from the poor state of local of mental health services.

Meanwhile you must wait weeks just to get a GP appointment, and waiting lists for surgery and referrals to specialists increase all the time. Then how are the police doing? People tell me they no longer even report crimes because the Police don’t want to know. Crime is rising across Calderdale. The 101-telephone number has been plagued with problems. Drugs gangs openly flaunt the law.

The proceeds of their crime spent on high speeds cars that terrorise residential streets at night. Then when they are caught our creaking criminal justice system can’t afford to imprison or reform criminals.

We need radical reform of our public services. Reform of unfair Council tax and business rates and reform of democracy in local Government. This is why Liberal Democrats back the establishment of a Yorkshire Parliament.

Once that is established we can benefit from the same kind of devolved decision making, and control over our taxation and spending that Wales and Scotland enjoy.

We also want to scrap the failed leader and cabinet system for Calderdale Council. This would end the situation where a handful of our Councillors who are cabinet members get decision making powers. A return of the committee system for local Government would ensure the best talent on the Council is in power.

Ordinary residents who stand for election, rather than clique whose additional cabinet allowances turn them into professional politicians.

Yes, cuts to public spending from our Conservative Government are in part to blame, yet so are the failings of our local Labour administration.

Our Conservative Government and our Labour Council are both at fault. Both parties are in power nationally and locally, and yet neither party has the answers to the political problems we face.

As Liberals we want to take back control and give power back to local people and local communities. Our party conference has just backed plans to empower local Government. We want a radical devolution of power.

Yorkshire is a great historic county, and with our radical proposals for devolution it would also have great public services too.