Inside the Council: Scott Benton (Leader, Conservative Group)

Under threat? Brighouse Library
Under threat? Brighouse Library

This week, Coun Scott Benton, leader of the Conservative Group, argues that the recently agreed budget at Calderdale Council is a bad deal for local residents.

Earlier this week, Councillors met to agree upon a budget for the upcoming financial year.

Despite the efforts of the Conservative Group, a Labour/Liberal joint budget was agreed which includes extensive reductions to public services and a hefty 4.86 per cent rise in Council Tax. There were a number of specific proposals which the Conservative Group could not agree to and we voted against the budget as a result; in particular, we fundamentally disagreed with those proposals which will see the public receiving a poorer quality of service despite paying more in Council Tax:

Despite some recent improvement, there remains widespread concern from residents about the highways service and its ability to deliver an adequate service. A very large reduction of £500,000 from the core budget was supported by Labour and the Liberals which will mean that Calderdale residents continue to receive a below-par service.

Yet another increase in parking charges was agreed by the Lab/Lib pact which is deeply disappointing. Some increases forced through by both parties in previous years haven’t even been implemented yet and traders and small businesses will be dismayed to see another damaging increase and a return to proposals such as evening charges in Halifax town centre.

Large cuts of £400,000 per year to the safer, cleaner greener service which keeps our streets, parks and environment clean will be strongly felt by all of our communities and will mean that many of our parks and green spaces are maintained to a poorer standard and that our streets and town centres are less appealing to visitors.

A reduction in spending on our libraries will inevitably undermine the service as the model pursued by Lib/Lab has been shown to lead to reductions in other local authorities over recent years. This may mean that some libraries will close.

Closing all of the household waste centres on numerous days each week was agreed, which will inconvenience to the public and could lead to an increase in fly-tipping and damage our environment.

The reductions in spending which have been recorded by local authorities up and down the country have provided an opportunity for councils to be innovative in designing services which address the challenges of local government in the 21st century. Some councils have looked to share services and collaborative more with others, to generate additional income and to redesign their model of service delivery so that it is fit for purpose. It remains a source of great disappointment that the current administration here in Calderdale lack the leadership, vision and the capability to rise to the challenges that the Council faces and this incompetence has contributed to the scale of the financial challenges facing the council.

The priorities of the Lib/Lab pact as seen by their budget are out of touch with the public and its Calderdale residents who are receiving a poor deal and paying the price.