Pressure on Government to bridge inequality gap in post-covid recovery

Going back to “normal” in the post-COVID era is not an option if the inequality gap the pandemic has laid bare is to be bridged, councillors agreed.

Sunday, 18th April 2021, 11:00 am
Updated Tuesday, 20th April 2021, 9:12 am
Halifax town centre

Agreement between Labour and Liberal Democrat councillors meant a majority of councillors agreed Calderdale Council should invest in a fair recovery with health, business and voluntary sector partners, invest in jobs, skills and education for those whose employment may have been displaced in the pandemic and take action on the climate emergency.

Liberal Democrat proposals for the latter part of Labour’s motion to include the Green New Deal pledge being put to candidates in May’s elections, urging them “to ensure our council works with local communities to rapidly implement a Climate Action Plan which drastically cuts emissions over the next 10 years, and that the climate and ecological emergency is the top priority in all council actions”, was among several accepted by Labour into that group’s original proposal.

The motion also asks the council’s Chief Executive, Robin Tuddenham, to write to the Government asking it to make the £20 increase in Universal Credit made during the pandemic to be made permanent, to invest in jobs and skills, to give more tapered support to businesses to avoid some “falling of a cliff edge”, to tackle health inequalities and invest in mental health support.

Proposing the revised agreed motion, Coun Jane Scullion said the pandemic affected people differently depending on their circumstances.

“We want to make sure the recovery from the pandemic does not take us back to the old normal but makes us hopeful about the future,” said Coun Scullion (Lab, Luddenden Foot).

But angry Conservatives challenged the legitimacy of the motion, because it was involving the Chief Executive in purdah, the pre-election period when officers are not to be involved in the politics, said group leader, Coun Steven Leigh (Con, Ryburn).

“We think it is an ill-judged attempt to make cheap political points about COVID at a time when we should be coming together as political parties to fight the pandemic,” he said.

Leader of the Council, Coun Tim Swift (Lab, Town) said the motion was in order and Coun Sue Holdsworth (Lib Dem, Greetland and Stainland) said a Place Scrutiny Board report showing people most affected by the pandemic included young people, women, disabled people, people from minority communities, and people on low incomes or in insecure employment, was produced cross-party.

Coun James Baker (Lib Dem, Warley), supporting the motion, said the green new deal pledge required clear actions and timescales, the council needed to build more homes as it was in the bottom 15 in the country for housebuilding, and recovery should show fairness to all council wards.