The UK has been experiencing 40 years of increasing social and economic inequality, with a huge increase in people who are in work, but in poverty, and with reduced opportunities for our young people.
Several of the wards in Calderdale are amongst the most deprived in the country, yet the Conservative Group in the Council proposed budget changes for the next three years that would have further penalised those of us who are “just about managing”, and would reduce further the terms and conditions of council employees, already severely affected by public sector pay restraint.
This would undoubtedly have reduced morale and also have an impact on the ability of remaining staff to deliver the services the community needs.
Their proposals included: l Contracting out remaining specialised social services, with staff redundancies, loss of experienced staff, and no clear idea of what savings, if any, would result. There is also the real risk that, if the provider were to walk away from the contract, there would be no-one to pick up the pieces.
l Reducing council tax benefit, exposing low-income households to much higher bills, when they are the least able to afford them, as well as increasing debt-recovery costs to the council.
l Changing the salary structure for council employees, cutting half a million pounds from their wages.
l Removing sick pay for the first two days of illness and imposing two days of annual leave without pay, which again would hit hardest those least able to afford it.
I am proud that the rest of the council rejected these mean and divisive ideas last Monday. After seven years of public service austerity policies, brought in to pay for the misdemeanours of the financial sector, we need to acknowledge their failure and the terrible damage that they are causing to society in England.
Dr Colin Hutchinson, Heath Villas, Halifax