THE first open meeting to discuss the council’s multi-million pound spending cuts turned into a “public-less” meeting when only one lay person turned up.
There were four councillors, three council officers, three environmental activists and retired council worker Margaret Barnes at the gathering in St Paul’s Church, Sowerby Bridge.
Council leader Janet Battye (Calder) said the 90-minute event had been worthwhile because of the quality rather than the quantity of people present.
“I didn’t know how many to expect but it is important to make ourselves available to answer questions on such an important topic.”
A second meeting to talk about Caldedale Council’s budget was held last night and pressure from councillors in Brighouse has resulted in a third being arranged at 6pm tomorrow at Rastrick High School.
The Council has to make savings of £65 million over the next 3 years and is proposing to increase in fees and charges, and spending cuts which could lead to 200 redundancies.
The 51 councillors are expecting a 5 per cent pay cut but there will be no increase in the council tax if the plan is approved as expected on February 28.
Mrs Barnes urged councillors to be cautious about making permanent a £250,000 cut to the fund for buying new library books and getting rid of “back office support workers” who she said were vital to support front line staff.
Anthony Rae, of Calderdale friends of the Earth questioned the financial impact of the council’s aim of “moving towards a more sustainable environment” and backed plans to raise parking charges by at least 10p an hour.
Charles Gate of the Green Party urged the council to send a letter to Lloyds Bank asking it to make up for the axing of Government grants which had forced the council tighten its belt.
The council’s health and social care spokesman Coun Bob Metcalfe (Lab, Town) explained how increasing demands for services and the abolition of the Primary Care Trusts meant made reorganisation inevitable.
Deputy leader of the council Tim Swift (Lab, Town) said it was unclear exactly how many jobs might have to go - it would depend on the numbers taking voluntary early retirement, the merging, outsourcing and privatisation of services.