Inside the Council by Tim Swift: Challenging but still a great time

Sunshine on Halifax Town Hall, with blue sky above.
Sunshine on Halifax Town Hall, with blue sky above.

Biggest Cuts, Biggest Challenges – but despite that, it’s a great time to be leading Calderdale.

From time to time, people ask me why I chose to become leader of the Council when we are facing the biggest cuts in spending we have ever experienced. And of course, I understand where they are coming from. Between May 2010 and April this year, we had already found savings of over £40 million. By 2015, that figure will rise to more than £70 million. And following the Chancellor’s most recent spending review, the savings target will rise further, to almost £90 million.

There’s a danger that figures like this can get a bit meaningless. So to put it into context – Calderdale’s net budget this year is just over £180 million. The net budget for the library service is around two million pounds – so if we closed every library in Calderdale (don’t worry, that’s not something I have the slightest intention of allowing) it would only scratch the surface of the problem.

But I believe that it’s in challenging times that what we do matters most. At best, great challenges ask all of us to raise our game. That’s why we’ve called our priorities for Calderdale, “Building Ambitions”. We’ve set out our view of what we have to focus on – encouraging economic growth; setting high aspirations and ambitions; developing resilience; ensuring sustainability by finding ways to reduce long-term demand; delivering efficiency and effectiveness in public services; and promoting fairness.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m angry about the way the Government is treating Calderdale and the North of England. I believe their cuts and many of their policies are unnecessary, unjust and unfair. But I’m not interested in presenting ourselves as victims. I’m determined we show by our actions how we want to make Brighouse, Rastrick and the whole of Calderdale a better place to be.