A third time round for Lib-Lab pact

Janet Battye and Tim Swift outside Halifax Town Hall
Janet Battye and Tim Swift outside Halifax Town Hall

CALDERDALE Council’s Lib-Lab pact is set to carry on for a third year.

The decision to continue the joint administration will be formally announced at next week’s annual council meeting.

And, as predicted in the Courier, current council leader Janet Battye (Lib Dem, Calder) will step aside to allow current deputy Tim Swift (Lab, Town) take the top job for the first time.

Councillor Swift said: “I am very pleased to have the opportunity to serve Calderdale as leader of the council.

“We set out new priorities in the campaign but we also want to build on the good work over the last two years.

“Our focus will be on the economic situation and tackling youth unemnployment.”

He praised the Coun Battye, who will become deputy leader, and the successful working relationship of the Lib Dems and Labour over the past two years. Labour became the largest party on the council following this month’sw local elections with 20 seats, the Conservatoves have 17, the Lib Dems have 12 and there are two independents but without a majority they were still looking to form a coalition.

Councillor Battye said: “We have had discussions with both of the other parties and have seriously discussed every possible option. We have, though, come down on the side of continuing our agreement with the Labour group.

“The council has made tremendous strides towards improvement over the last couple of years and work that has been started needs to be concluded. We believe we can best influence that work from within the Cabinet.

“Obviously the balance swung towards Labour in the local elections but they do not have a majority on the council.

“Together we do have a working majority and so can provide the clear leadership the council needs.”

Conservative group leader Stephen Baines said that it was now up to the Tories to continue being effective opposition following the disappointment of losing four seats at the local elections.

“They have decided to continue and we will continue to be a constructive opposition,” said Mr Baines.

“To have lost four seats and some very very good, experienced councillors - it’s a loss for the Conservative Party and for the people of Calderdale.

“We have been a constructive opposition - we have agreed where we needed to but where we have seen better ways of doing things and saving money instead of hitting frontline services we have put those forward.”

As part of the shake-up Councillor John Beacroft-Mitchell (Lib Dem, Luddenden Foot) takes over as deputy leader of the Liberal Democrat Group but will relinquish his Use of Resources Cabinet portfolio, swapping roles with Labour’s Bryan Smith to become Chair of the relevant Scrutiny Panel.

Councillor Pauline Nash (Lib Dem, Skircoat) will continue in her role as portfolio-holder for Communities while Coun Ashley Evans (Lib Dem, Warley) will continue to hold the Education and Lifelong Learning portfolio.