Inside the council: Time for the town to be better connected

ELECTION PICS - Coun Ann Martin portrait pic -annmart-
ELECTION PICS - Coun Ann Martin portrait pic -annmart-

Last week’s Echo led on more information about plans for long-term investment in our roads to reduce congestion and make our town centre more pedestrian friendly.

This is only one part of the changes we need to make sure that Brighouse is better connected and a great place to live – I talked in my last column about the need for improved train services too. I’m determined that better bus services will be the third strand of improvements we see. At the moment, the bus network is too dependent on the whims of the big bus companies rather than the needs of local people and local communities.

Brighouse profile, Commercial Street.  11 May 2012.
Picture Bruce Rollinson

Brighouse profile, Commercial Street. 11 May 2012. Picture Bruce Rollinson

We need the law changing so that bus services are better coordinated, with better planning of routes and easy ticketing so you can buy single tickets that cover different companies and also cover both bus and rail.

Labour locally and across West Yorkshire will keep up the pressure for new powers that make sure bus services are run in the interests of local people, not corporate share holders.

A threat to our civic hall?

I was very concerned to see the Conservative group proposing to cut council funding to the Brighouse Civic Hall and other public halls.

Sometimes the most damaging cuts in a budget can be hidden away, and this is a good example of that.

Eliminating the subsidy on public halls sounds quite innocuous – but when you look at the detail, that could for example mean having to raise income – that’s rent and room hire payments – by more than half.

The recent floods have shown the value of having a clear, well-supported hub for local services in each community.

We should be looking at how we can develop the role our Civic Hall plays, not risk undermining it.

A very tough budget agreed

I’m proud of how well Labour in Calderdale has managed our budgets over the last few years, in the face of the biggest ever cuts in local government spending under George Osborne.

We have protected and defended front line services, managed our budgets effectively and modernised and transformed many of our activities. Sadly, George Osborne’s repeated failures to meet his self-imposed targets for the deficit, combined with his stubborn insistence in the face of all the evidence that he can cut his way to growth, mean that we are facing yet further reductions in our spending power right through until 2020 – with the biggest cuts happening over the next two years. These are some of the basic facts. In 2010, our total government support was almost £140 million. By 2020, it will be down to just over £55 million, a cash cut of £80 million over 10 years. Revenue support grant drops by about £10 million to just over £25m next year, and is halved over the next two years.

It’s time that local Conservatives joined Labour in demanding a better deal for our area from their government.