Budget row puts Calderdale Council in “uncharted territory”

Halifax Town Hall
Halifax Town Hall
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CONSERVATIVES and Liberal Democrats have insisted they are not attempting to trigger a change of leadership at a Yorkshire council after joining forces to force through an alternative budget.

Calderdale Council’s Labour leader Tim Swift said the move put the authority in “unchartered territory”.

If the alliance of Tory and Lib Dem councillors vote together on the Budget on Monday they will be able to out vote Labour’s minority administration.

The move could force Labour to choose between carrying out measures they do not support or giving up leadership of the authority.

The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats have agreed a budget which includes reversing changes to car parking charges and providing £5,000 to forums in each ward to address local problems.

The proposals would also see sick pay for council staff scrapped for the first three days of illness.

Coun Swift said: “It is fine to say they are going to do all these extra things on top of our budget but where are the downsides, how will this be paid for?

“Calderdale has often not had a majority administration so in quite a lot of years there have been amendments to cabinets’ budgets. What we have not had is the announcing of this sort of partnership with such a fanfare.

“If the amendments are passed we will be looking at it and seeing if there is anything we can’t implement. There are elections in May and that could change the situation.

“I think they have put the council into unchartered territory.

“The bottom line is can we still deliver our priorities for Calderdale if this budget is passed?”

The Conservative and Liberal Democrat budget matches Labour’s commitment to freeze council tax bills in the coming year.

It also promises a further freeze next year and an “aim” to continue holding bills at current levels in 2016.

Conservative group leader Stephen Baines said: “It is fully costed and accepted by the chief financial officer of the council who has to be satisfied it is a workable and balanced budget.

“The Labour group were elected to run the council at the last annual council in May. In May that decision will be made again for the following year.
“Unless Labour walk away from running the council it’s something we wouldn’t consider doing until after the May local elections.”

Labour ran the authority in coalition with the Liberal Democrats until April last year.

Liberal Democrat group leader Janet Battye said: “We are not proposing to take over the running of the council.

“If they continue running the council and if our budget is passed on Monday then they will have to follow the budget the council has passed and we will see what happens next.

“My ward residents say to me they want councillors to act together to run the council and that is what we would like.

“The Labour cabinet, despite saying they are open and transparent, they prepared the budget in quite a secretive way.

“This is a signal to them we are unhappy at the closed and secretive way they have run the council.”

The alternative budget proposals include increasing the charge for replacing wheelie bins, making additional savings in the council’s transport department and cutting three posts in the authority’s planning teams.

If passed, the budget would also see eight new jobs created in the council’s “greener, safer, cleaner” teams who tackle issues such as dog fouling and litter.