Summer's over and council's attention turns to next year's budget

Halifax Town Hall
Halifax Town Hall

As the nights start to draw in, and the air begins to chill, the thoughts of us souls charged with leading local councils turn inevitably to next year's budget.

Here in Calderdale we have just set out the overall picture for the next three years. And for us, as for every council, the picture is very worrying.

Rising costs and demand for vital social care services, on the one hand. The cumulative effect of eight years of cuts in government funding on the other. And no certainty about central Government funding plans after 2020.

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Over the summer we've seen a string of stories in the national press about councils in trouble - nearly all of them Conservative run. Northamptonshire and other big councils making emergency cuts to balance the books, and talking about stripping back local services to the bare bones and beyond.

Local council services, often taken for granted, actually impact almost every thing we do each day. We assume our council tax goes to pay for these things - emptying bins, cleaning our streets, keeping our parks and libraries - and yet in reality more and more of it is spent on social care which we onky think about when it suddenly impacts on our lives or the lives of those we care for.

The way our local councils are funded is broken and something had to change. But can a national government still divided and distracted by Brexit find the time and the vision to address the problem? For the sake of local communities, we all must hope they do, and quickly.

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Improving how we tackle problems

Locally, we are not letting fears for the future stop us from getting on with dealing with local problems.

For example, we have started a review of how the Council uses its enforcement powers. This covers how we can tackle issues such as fly-tipping, derelict buildings, anti social behaviour, abandoned vehicles – in fact, the whole range of problems local people raise with ward councillors.

We’ve already made some important improvements, such as investing in an enhanced community warden service. But the council has a lot of different teams with a range of legal powers – and of course we need to work closely with the police and fire service, as sometimes we need powers that they have to get things sorted out.

As a ward councillor, I know how frustrating it is when residents report problems and they seem to get stuck between different departments, or between the council and other agencies. I want us to make sure that doesn’t happen, so that once a problem is reported, the right people can use the right powers to try and sort it out.

And the cuts we've faced to our council’s funding mean it's even more important to make sure these services work as efficiently as possible.

We will continue to work to make real and practical changes locally, despite the barries the Government in Whitehall puts in our way!

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