Talking Politics: Tim Swift, Leader of Calderdale Council

editorial image

I am pleased that all parties on the Council agreed that we should make tackling speeding and dangerous driving a higher priority.

Over the past couple of years there have been too many reports in the Courier of lives being cut short, and other lives permanently changed, as a result of excessive speed and thoughtless driving.

This isn’t just about tougher enforcement, though. We have to be willing to challenge attitudes. In the past, some politicians have been happy to pander to populism by dismissing speed cameras as a money-making scam or describing speeding fines as ‘stealth taxes’. I’d like to see us return to the system where the fines from speed cameras were reinvested locally, not just in other cameras but also to support other road safety initiatives.

After all, there’s an easy way to avoid a speeding fine – stick to the limit!

Flood recovery progress

Two weeks ago, I was pleased to watch the contractors lift in the large concrete arches that make up the main span of the replacement bridge over the canal at Elland. It’s great to see this work on track for completion around the year end.

And a few days later, the A646 between Mytholmroyd and Hebden Bridge reopened after major reconstruction of the supporting embankment.

It’s good to see that alongside the community spirit that’s seeing local people and businesses bounce back, the work on fixing the damage is making good progress.

Casting light on a problem

Things don’t always go to plan – in councils as in our own lives – and for the past couple of years, we’ve been working hard to try and sort out problems with how the highways in Calderdale are maintained.

Recently Council staff have concentrated on getting the private company responsible to tackle the backlog of street light faults. As a result, over 3,000 faulty street lights have been fixed. Now the challenge is to make sure that most new faults reported are fixed within four working days – which is what the contract requires.

Fund local services properly

As leader of the Council, I’ve written to Teresa May asking for a fair deal in how Council services are funded. Since 2010, Government policy has forced us to find savings of over £90m – and unless they change course, we have to find at least another £13m over the next three years.

When you stretch the cloth that thinly, it’s not surprising if you risk it tearing and the gaps sometimes start to show!

The new chancellor has torn up George Osborne’s financial plans – now’s the chance to invest in the local services that people value.

Incidentally, whilst the Conservatives like to talk tough about keeping spending down, the facts tell a different story. Whilst the number of people employed by local government has fallen by 24 per cent since 2010, central government employs almost more people today than it did then. A clear case of ‘do what we say, not what we do!’