Throughout the coalition years Liberal Democrats took a lot of flak for undertaking the difficult task of working to bring back proper management of the nation’s finances after years of reckless Labour spending.
Sadly it seems all of this effort was thrown out of the window at the last Autumn Statement when the Chancellor Philip Hammond announced an extra £122Bn borrowing to pay for Brexit. This is money that could be spent on our NHS or protecting local councils from cuts.
People will have heard in the news that the cost of social care continues to rise as the population ages, and with moves to restrict immigration there will be fewer younger workers able to pay taxes and contribute to this burden.
The cost of social care is so great that a Conservative run council in Surrey is proposing a 15 per cent council tax rise.
Faced with continued government cuts, and increasing social care costs, it would be disingenuous to lay the blame for Calderdale Council’s tough budget decisions solely at the hand of the local Labour administration.
However that does not mean there isn’t scope for improvements locally. The budget is incredibly tight, but we believe there are some additional savings to be made that the administration hasn’t explored.
One example for instance would be to transfer more services to local town and parish councils.
In the next few weeks the Liberal Democrat group on Calderdale will be exploring some savings ideas, and we hope to bring forward amendments to the budget that will help tackle problems such as speeding, littering and fly tipping and anti-social behaviour.
On a final note I must comment on what is presented in the council’s budget as an ‘investment’ in children and social care services.
The reality is this ‘investment’ is simply a year delay in previously planned cuts and savings.
If these savings has been made as previously planned and agreed we would have found ourselves in an improved financial situation this year.
Coun James Baker, Leader of Calderdale Liberal Democrats