Talking politics: Coun Tim Swift

Coun Tim Swift.
Coun Tim Swift.

This week, Coun Tim Swift, Leader of Calderdale Council, argues that Calderdale Council is doing all it can to protect front-line services.

This week, Calderdale Labour finalised our plans for Calderdale’s budget for the next three years.

We are putting them forward against a background of continued massive and unjust reductions in the funding available for local services. This is a direct result of central Government policy. But despite the huge cuts, totalling more than £100m per year by 2020, Labour will continue to lead responsibly, balancing the books whilst doing all we can to protect front line services.

Demand for local services continues to grow. More vulnerable people depend on social care to enable them to live fulfilling and independent lives. And the crisis in the NHS is creating even more demand.

Similarly, more children and families need support whilst at the same time other public services such as the police, fire service and our schools also face increased pressures from the same mix of rising demand and Government cuts.

Overall, Government policy means the council has no choice but to ask local people to pay a bit more and at the same time continue to make cuts and find savings to balance the books. As I have argued in previous columns, the Conservatives want to make cuts, but always try to force others to carry them out.

Privatising the buses was a mistake, and local people are still suffering. Next week, one of two bus services to Southowram is stopping – leaving the village with only one bus an hour to and from Halifax for most of the day.

This is nothing to do with the Council. It’s a decision taken by a private bus company who presumably don’t think they are making enough money from running the service. (Although if the service was more reliable they might have had more customers!)

It’s a good example of why the privatisation of bus services three decades ago was such a disaster.

It shows that why politics matters. What national government does – when they get it wrong, and then won’t listen - has a direct effect on local people and local services.

Funnily enough, the system in London is different.

And bus use in London has risen whilst it has fallen in the rest of the country.

All in it together?

Along with the claim that austerity was unavoidable, one of the myths of the previous coalition government was that we were ‘all in this together’ – implying that the pain of their policies was ‘equally shared’ across different parts of the population.

The facts tell a different story. For example, since 2010, the number of people employed by Calderdale Council has fallen by almost 1,300.

By contrast, central Government now employs MORE people than it did in 2010.

So local council staff – that’s the people who look after our parks, work in our libraries, run our children’s centres and nurseries, care for older people and the vulnerable – they are the ones targeted by the Conservatives for cuts. Not central Government.

All in it together? I don’t think so!