Council charges set set to rocket by 20pc

Brighouse Pool. Jason Boam with his sons Isaac aged four and Jordan aged eleven
Brighouse Pool. Jason Boam with his sons Isaac aged four and Jordan aged eleven

INCREASED charges across a range of services is the predictable outcome of Calderdale Council’s budget debate.

Brighouse may have got its new swimming pool but people will have to pay more to use it.

Higher charges have been approved for using swimming pools, sport and leisure centres saving the council £450,000.

Prices could rise by 20 per cent, according to councillor Ian Cooper (Con, Todmorden) meaning a standard adult swim could rise from £3.50 to £4.20.

Conservative councillors tried to reduce the impact of higher charges on sports and leisure users. Andrew Feather (Sowerby Bridge) said fewer people would use the facilities and Ann McAllistair (Rastrick) said people in Brighouse would feel they were paying a high price for a much-needed facility.

Pauline Nash (Lib Dem, Skircoat Green) Cabinet member for safer and stronger communities, said results of the consultation showed that the service was important to people and if charges had to increase they would put up with it.

A rise in parking charges by around 10p an hour saving £453,000 was greeted with mixed reactions. Conservative councillor Amanda Byrne (Sowerby Bridge) agreed there should be a rise but felt it would still encourage people to park in the town centres if the increase was pitched lower.

Councillor Colin Stout (Ind, Brighouse) suggested charging for the three free car parks in Brighouse - Bank Street, Mill Lane and Church Lane.

Calderdale residents will also have to pay more for home care, but Bob Metcalfe, (Lab, Town) health and social care spokesman, said 70 per cent of users would continue to pay nothing.

Councillor Graham Reason (Con, Northowram/Shelf) said: “We are going to make those who pay more pay even more. They will continue to pay more until they have nothing. There must be another way.”

The budget will have a major impact on council workers with 200 forced redundancies. There will be fewer managers, cuts to training and overtime, new ways of working and a pay freeze.

Council workers, union officials and members gathered outside Halifax Town Hall to lobby councillors before Monday night’s meeting to show the strength of feeling against the cuts.

One protester halted proceedings after an outburst which led to him being removed from the council chamber by police.

Overall council spending in 2011/12 will be cut to £180 million. Council tax bills will remain unchanged in April and the council’s magazine ‘Calderdale Call’ will be scrapped in 2012.

Councillors will be scrutinising Calderdale’s library service at a meeting this evening. Talks have been held with staff about “transformation proposals” aimed at saving £250,000 a year, which could mean shorter opening hours and a reduction in the amount of new and replacement books bought for libraries.

Calderdale councillors will not be receiving an index-linked pay rise in May.

Last week they accepted a five per cent cut in their allowances leaving the 51 councillors £500 worse off.

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