The Calderdale Council Budget
Wednesday, 25 February 2015
The HebWeb has received several items following the Calderdale budget
- Calderdale Council Tax freeze confirmed - from Calderdale
- Friends of Earth welcomes ambitious energy reduction target
- Liberal Democrats criticise Labour Councillors' lack of support for "green" elements of Council budget
- Labour says Calderdale's press statement doesn't mention cuts
Calderdale Council has frozen its Council Tax for a second consecutive year after the Council approved the budget on Monday 23 February 2015 at Halifax Town Hall. The budget covers the next three financial years, from 2015/16 to 2017/18 and includes measures which will boost tourism and economic growth.
Halifax Borough Market and Todmorden Market Hall will receive an additional investment of £500,000; and a £200,000 contribution to the Economic Investment Fund will be used to promote local job opportunities in tourism and business development.
To tackle cold homes, which have been linked to ill health and winter deaths, the Council will launch a £1.4 million affordable warmth scheme providing grants to improve heating and insulation. The Council has also set itself an ambitious target of reducing its energy use by 20% with any investment needed being funded by the energy cost savings produced.
Annual funding of £100,000 has been restored to provide short breaks for disabled children and the OrangeBox Centre will receive a £35,000 grant from the Council to enable it to continue to offer support to young people through a range of activities.
Leader of Calderdale Council, Cllr Stephen Baines said, "Although our budget is still under pressure I am delighted that we have been able to freeze Council Tax for a further year, and that we have been able to include measures which will stimulate business growth, so vital to our local economy.
"We have also continued to protect those essential services which support the most vulnerable people in our community."
The Council has already consulted on the savings plans for the financial years 2015/16 and 2016/17, as part of the budget processes in 2013 and 2014.
Later this year the Council will begin a detailed public consultation to help identify savings of £9.6 million which must be made by 2017/18.
The full budget can be viewed at www.calderdale.gov.uk/budget
Anthony Rae for Calderdale Friends of the Earth said: 'We welcome the decision by the Council to set an ambitious energy reduction target, which we have long called for, as part of their budget, and to spend £1.4m on protecting vulnerable people in fuel poverty by better insulating their homes. These are good contributions to Calderdale's Energy Future strategy, which is pushing for a 40% reduction in our carbon emissions by 2020'.
Local Liberal Democrat Councillors have expressed surprise that Labour Councillors failed to vote in favour of Liberal Democrat proposals on affordable warmth and reducing the use of energy in council buildings.
"We think that it's time that Calderdale Council took some serious action on issues that it's been talking about for a long time" says Cllr James Baker (Liberal Democrat, Warley), Chair of the Council's Economy and Environment Scrutiny Panel.
Councillor Baker said "I'm delighted that the affordable warmth scheme I proposed was agreed. Around 93 people a year in Calderdale die prematurely as a result of living in cold homes. These people are all someone's grandparents, friends and relatives. Lives will be saved from this measure, and many more people will have their quality of life improved by being lifted out of fuel poverty. It will also reduce the burden of costs placed upon the NHS as prevention is cheaper for the taxpayer than cure. I would have expected Labour to understand and support this, but they didn't.
"This scheme simply wouldn't have happened without the support of Calderdale residents who vote Liberal Democrat in local elections. It is a crying shame that Labour failed to back this measure, simply because we proposed it and they did not want to be seen backing a Liberal Democrat amendment. I can't understand that kind of party political petty mindedness."
Cllr Janet Battye (Liberal Democrat, Calder), a member of the Calder Energy Futures group added: "We also want the Council to reduce its use of energy and reduce carbon emissions. This needs some investment, but lower energy bills means that the Council should get this money back within 5 years and continue to save money after that. Labour didn't support that either."
Calderdale Labour leader Cllr Tim Swift has criticised the official council statement on the Conservative budget, approved on Monday with Liberal Democrat support, claiming that it fails to give people the full picture of what was agreed.
Cllr Swift said, "It's simply not the case that the Conservative budget only called for consultation on savings in 2017/18", he said.
"They set out specific targets for savings in most areas. Most damagingly, the budget calls for savings of £2.6m from a review of 'discretionary services' - that means dozens of services that people depend on, from children's centres to libraries, from parks to playgrounds, from grit bins to youth clubs.
"I'm not blaming the officers for this. Throughout the budget process, the Conservatives have followed a deliberate strategy of trying to hide the truth about what their proposals really mean. But Labour will not let them get away with this, and we will hold them to account in the weeks ahead. It is just appalling that the Liberal Democrats have been taken in and joined the Conservatives in this deception."