Labour unveils budget plans

Coun Tim Swift, leader of the Labour group on Calderdale Council
Coun Tim Swift, leader of the Labour group on Calderdale Council

Calderdale Council could start building homes for rent again, if Labour’s budget proposals are agreed.

Labour’s plans, which were published earlier this week, also include money for a new swimming pool and leisure centre in Halifax; a proposal to invest in some of the council’s key buildings, including plans to refurbish the roof of the historic borough market; protecting the local welfare fund for people who are in emergency financial need; and more investment in flood defence and drainage schemes.

Labour has also promised that it will block Conservative plans to cut more than £2.5m from discretionary services, which it warns could put important facilities such as children’s centres, youth services and local libraries at risk.

Coun Tim Swift, leader of the Labour group on Calderdale Council, said: “We have put forward a plan which will enable the council to balance the books.

“We believe Calderdale needs to plan for the future – not wait until after the election to see what turns up.

“Labour are proposing that the council creates an investment fund which will ensure that we are able to start tackling problems in some of our most important buildings and facilities.”

Coun Swift stressed that the Labour budget also sets out a framework for balancing the council’s finances over the next three years while avoiding the Conservatives’ proposals to cut discretionary services.

“We’ve scoured all the town hall’s reserves, the earmarked funds and underspent budgets, to make sure that every penny possible is being applied prudently to create jobs and invest in the future – knowing that if our plans are successful, the council will also benefit in the longer term through increased council tax and business rate income,” he said.

“For most residents, our budget will mean a rise of less than 50 pence per household per week in April 2016, whilst protecting key frontline services and offering investment in our community’s future.”

Labour deputy leader Coun Barry Collins said: “Calderdale is in the grip of a housing crisis where young people and families are finding it increasingly hard to find homes they can afford to buy or rent.

“There are almost 10,000 people on the Keychoice housing waiting list, and our Housing Association partners are struggling to raise the money to build.

“We want the council to take the courageous step of building homes to rent on land that we currently own.

“The council should act now to develop an initial programme to build at least 150 homes by 2020.”