Councils in the North of England continue to face the brunt of Government cuts, these cuts come at a time of increasing social care demands from an ageing population.
The consequences are that even if we put up Council tax then the amount of money the Council has to spend will still be reduced.
Even with a 3 per cent Council tax rise and a 3 per cent Social Care precept we still need to find £1.8m cuts in the first year going up to £6m worth of cuts in the second year of our budget.
The cuts are unfair, but complaining about them and waving placards and protesting will only get us so far. We also need to engage local residents and our wit and intelligence to come up with better ways to deliver public services.
We need our Council to be innovative but sadly our Council like much of local Government is stuck in its ways. This frustrates staff that have to work in outdated and inefficient ways just as much as it frustrates local residents. As Liberal Democrats we are interested in radically changing our local democracy. We are not interested in just maintaining the status quo or returning to the 1970s style socialism that Labour under Corbyn offer.
There are many ways that the Council could modernise, for starters we live in an age where you can bank on your phone, order train tickets, or buy your shopping on a phone app. We must look at doing the same thing for Council services. It would not be too difficult to come up with an app that allowed you to order a replacement recycling bin, to report a pothole or some fly-tipping.
At the moment there are only very limited online Council services, and you can only access these through a somewhat clunky webpage.The Council need to catch up with mobile technology.
Then we need to look at how we fund community projects. Many companies look to websites such as Kickstarter to crowdfund their commercial ideas. The Council could also look to crowdfunding as a way of enabling local people to fund projects such as developing a nature reserve or a local playground. Let’s unlock the power of crowdfunding to help improve shared spaces and make our environment a more pleasant place to live.
We also need to be more innovative in how we use our financial resources. Investing in local commercial enterprises would boost local economic growth whilst providing a good return for our money.
There are other commercial opportunities that exist for the Council from setting up a company to build the houses that people need to offering HR services and training services for smaller local enterprises. We need to embrace enterprise and grasp these opportunities.
When it comes to energy production we need to innovate and start producing our own renewable community energy here in Calderdale. In addition to all these ideas, we have to be considering what other opportunities might lie in the future with solar-powered roof tiles, self-driving cars and using AI to help deliver services.
The motto of Calderdale’s coat of arms is ‘Industria Arte Prudential’ (Industry, Skill and Foresight). The Liberal Democrats are a forward-looking party, we are open-minded and welcome innovation. We believe with industry, skill and foresight we can ensure our best days lie in the future and not in the past.