Monday, 15 September 2014

Politics: Council cuts to hit £100 million by 2017

Calderdale has seen a £100 million cut in council funding since the coalition government came into power in 2010.

Calderdale Council’ s Cabinet is currently looking atways it can cut a further £14.5 million from the council’ s expenditurewhich has alreadyseen reductions of £86 million.

Projections outlned in a report toCalderdale Council’ s Cabinet suggest thatif cuts continueat their current rate, by 2020 there willno council funding provided bycentral government.

Councillors havesaid that the cuts havebeen difficult for the council toabsorb and haveadmitted that they are struggling tofind further reductions.

Deputycouncil leader Scott Benton (Con, Brighouse) said: “The first major sticking point is for the financial year 2017/18 where we’vegot£14 million worth of savings tofind.

“We’ve already agreed savings in excess of £50 million over the last fiveyears or so.”

The level of cuts which have b een re qu ir ed have equalled 33 times the total budget allocated tolibraries across Calderdale.

The revelations haveangered members of the Labour party who haveaccused the Government of going too far with its austerity measures.

Councillor Tim Swift, leader of the Labour groupon Calderdale Council, said: “A lot of the the impacts of this have been hidden so far - there’s less support for council staff and theyarebeing asked to takeon responsibilities that theyhaven’t necessarily been trained for.

“It’ s such a large number to try and get your headaround - it’stwice whatwe spend on care for the elderly.

Halifax Labour MP Linda Riordan (pictured) said: “This is another example of the crippling cuts northern towns like Halifax havesuffered since this Government came topower.

“It’s time public services and public sector workers werevalued and invested in.

“Insteadwe havethis constant cycle of year-on-year cuts, which does nothing to
improve the lives of people across Halifax and Calderdale.

“It’ s time Northern towns weremade tofeel valued not victimised. ”

The reductions in funding come atatime when local authorities are seeing an increase in social care costs due toan aging population and an increase in the number of adults with severelearning difficulties.

The report also identifies increased financial pressure from Carbon Reduction Tax and whatits authors call “ other infla tionary pressures."

According toarecent report bythe Office for Budget Responsibility, by 2020 the share of funds handed tothe public sector will be lower than it was before the Second World War.

The plans todeal with the proposed cuts will be put to Cabinet on Monday.

Monday, 19 May 2014

Politics: Slow down on 20mph plans

The UK’s largest motoring organisation The AA has called for Calderdale Council to put the brakes on rolling out 20mph limits across all residential areas in Calderdale.

The call comes as the Conservative group have ‘called-in’ the proposals meaning council officers will have to scrutinise the plans in more detail and are demand wider consultation before the plans come into force.

The AA has said Calderdale Council needs to slow down and take into account the views of residents after a survey of 24,351 AA members revealed that a blanket 20mph limit was not what the public wanted.

Edmund King, president of The AA said: “The AA supports the setting up of 20mph speed limits where residents along those roads want them.

“If a blanket 20mph zone sets main roads at the lower speed, the incentive to stick to main routes and not take a short-cut along residential streets is lost.

“That is one of the reasons that, not only do 69% of AA members want a say on lower speed limits along their own streets.”

Calderdal Council’s Labour cabinet have condemned the Conservative group’s decision to ‘call-in’ the proposals.

Deputy council leader Barry Collins (Lab), said: "We're disappointed that this decision has been called-in - people want us to push ahead with 20 mph in all residential areas.

"It is the will of Calderdale," he added.

Labour council leader Tim Swift noted that the timing of the Conservatives’ move is suspect as the scrutiny panel has been booked for Wednesday, May 21 - the night before the local council elections.

He said: “The Tories are delaying this important work based on pure party politics and are hiding behind their so-called concerns about the provenance of the council consultation.

“I think with the scrutiny panel booked for the night before the election you can see why this is a party political move.”

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Reportage: Fire and Water project is an exciting prospect

Work has begun to transform vacant buildings in the centre of Sowerby Bridge into a thriving community venue.

The ambitious project took a step forward last week when council leaders transferred the management of the former fire station, swimming pool, council offices and library buildings on Mill Lane to the community partnership Sowerby Bridge Fire and Water.

Work has begun to remove dry rot from the buildings in order to make them usable for the plans which include a venue for music, film and theatrical performance and shows, art spaces, workshops, a riverside café and garden.

Phil Hawdon of Sowerby Bridge Fire and Water said: “Spread throughout the project is an over-arching educational service directed towards IT and digital media which will provide anything from support for individuals and businesses, a learning resource for would-be film makers and musical promoters and vocational courses.”

Sowerby Bridge Fire and Water has spent the last few years working on projects to bring the community together including December’s Winterlight festival which in 2013 attracted over 2,000 visitors.

Mr Hawdon said: “The council’s cabinet decision marks a significant step forward in the project – we can now move into the serious business of establishing funding and over the next few months we will be following up a number of approaches already made to the big funding organisations, with the aid of a professional fundraiser.

“This is a process started months ago but only now able to proceed with the confirmation of the council’s support.

Deputy Council Leader Barry Collins (Lab) said: “There’s an extraordinary potential - it’s going to make such a difference to the centre of Sowerby Bridge - it’s very exciting.”

Monday, 12 May 2014

Features: Inspiration close to home

Catherine Howe has had an extraordinary career. The Halifax-born singer and author has dipped her toes into the world of acting, appearing in Z-Cars and Doctor Who as a teenager; she won an Ivor Novello Award in 1975 for her song Harry; and now she is receiving acclaim as a historian.

Her latest book Halifax 1842 examines what many historians consider to be the first general strike of workers in 1842 which culminated in violent riots in Halifax.

“I’m the first generation in Halifax - my family are southern, but I was born here,” says Catherine.

“Just walking along the back streets of Halifax, and just looking at all the buildings, looking up at all the incredible architecture - even the little rows of back-to-backs - it just oozes with history and atmosphere.”

Catherine was brought up in a house just on the edge of Skircoat Moor and would spend hours playing among the rocks with her friends.

“When I started researching this book, I found out that all the strikers, all the Chartists, all the demonstrators and all the rioters assembled on Skircoat Moor,” says Catherine.

“Hundreds of thousands of men and women gathered where I used to play as a child.”
Catherine started to write songs from the age of five, and it was evident early on that she was a gifted songwriter.

When she turned 12 Catherine’s parents looked for a way to hone her talent and sent her to drama school in London.

By 15 she was acting professionally - first in theatre and then on television - appearing on shows including Doctor Who, Z-Cars and Dixon of Dock Green.

“I did four episodes of Doctor Who when I was 16 - I was a bit bewildered by it at the time,” says Catherine.

“I was in what was probably one of the worst Doctor Who episodes ever made - there was a lot of strange filming involved of people swimming in some tank or other.

“I remember [the second Doctor] Pat Troughton standing there almost ready to blow his stack - it was just silly really,” she says.

“Acting gave me the chance to work with all sorts of fascinating people like Jack Warner, Diana Coupland, Catherine Lacy - all names that meant an awful lot 50 years ago.”

By 17 Catherine says the call of music was too strong and left acting to focus on writing songs and getting a publishing deal.

“I made a conscious effort to leave acting, which was probably quite a foolish thing to do as it was going quite well,” she says.

“You do these stupid things when you’re young,” says Catherine. “But thankfully I was as lucky with the publishing as I had been with the acting because I picked up a good deal with a good publisher who were instrumental in getting me a recording deal.”

Although in recent years Catherine’s songs have given the label folk music - she was never a fan of it growing up, and instead found inspiration in artists like Buddy Holly, Fats Domino, Frankie Valli, the Beach Boys and The Beatles.

“I’m not sure my music tastes have moved on that much since then,” says Catherine.

“I still listen to James Taylor and Tom Waits - James Taylor for me is a complete and utter hero.

“I like my music live - and not often - I read all the time, but I can’t listen to music all the time.

“I’ve got a local pub and they don’t play music - for me it’s heaven.”

Catherine signed to the Reflection label, a subsidiary of CBS Records and recorded her debut album What A Beautiful Place at Trident Studios, London, in February 1971.

However, the album remained largely unheard until 2007 due to a legal dispute between record executives which blocked the album’s release.

Unperturbed by the setback, Catherine recorded her follow-up album Harry.

The album was released in 1975, and received instant critical acclaim - Catherine was presented with a prestigious Ivor Novello Award for the album’s title track Harry. .

“When I won the Ivor Novello in the mid-70s, only one other woman had won the award,” says Catherine.

“Receiving the award was fantastic - it definitely helps, but what really matters is writing a good song that people like, and Harry just happened to be a song that people seemed to love.”

Catherine recorded two more albums during the 1970s -.Silent Mother Nature from 1976 and
Dragonfly Days released in 1979.
She released two further albums Princelet Street in 2005 and English Tale with Vo Fletcher in 2010 and has just finished recording a new album with Ric Sanders of Fairport Convention, Michael Gregory from Home Service and guitarist Vo Fletcher

“We went back to the old way of recording and did everything live,” says Catherine.

“We recorded it in about four or five days, which is the way to do it.”
Parallel to her music career, Catherine has established herself as a keen historian.

“When I had my daughter in 1990s, I did an Open University degree course in History and Religious Studies,” says Catherine.

“I spent six years doing that and, wow, did I love doing that - it was wonderful, it changed my life.

“Going to drama school when I was 12 meant that my academic education came to an end then.

“I think if I hadn’t gone to drama school I would have probably started my writing career a lot earlier.”

Her first book, 2012’s George Jacob Holyoake's Journey of 1842, was positively received and was praised for its careful research and engaging style.

“I’ve always known I was a good song-writer, but I was so flattered when I saw the positive reviews for my first book,” says Catherine.

“I get more of a kick seeing my name on the front cover of a book than on the front of an album.”

Her latest book Halifax 1842 was originally inspired by a song by the folk group The Unthanks called The Testimony of Patience Kershaw.

“Patience was a Halifax girl who lived up at Boothtown who gave testimony to the mines and collieries commission in 1841,” says Catherine.

“I was very aware that I didn’t want to write a dry history, and I start the book talking about Patience.

“I spent hours and hours in Halifax reference library.“I wanted to find about a lot of things - I wanted to find about mining, the canals, the railways, and local families.

“Once I had the groundwork done, I started looking at the actual event of 1842, which meant I had to do a lot of research in London to look at things like Home Office records,” she says.

“Halifax was significant, because although there were disturbances in other towns, but in Halifax it was particularly violent.

“I’ve found it very useful to hone in on a year - I lead up to it and lead away from it, but I’ve found it a really good way to do it.

“Halifax is just oozing with history and I want everybody to know about it.”

Halifax 1842 is out now, published by Breviary Stuff Publication.

Friday, 9 May 2014

Health: Bust-up at A&E

Politicians and health bosses are set to clash after calls to drop proposals which could see the closure of Calderdale Royal Hospital’s Accident and Emergency department were rejected by doctors’ leaders.

Fury came after health bosses described the unanimous vote by Calderdale Council as ‘unhelpful’ and rejected its call for A&E closure plans to be shelved.

At a meeting at Halifax Town Hall yesterday, councillors said they were frustrated by the complete lack of consultation with the public that had taken place over the

Coun Megan Swift (Lab, Town) said: “How can it be an open consultation when people are already telling us what the outcome is going to be?

“There are lot of worried people - they want assurances over consultation, they want to know their voices are being heard.”

However, bosses at Calderdale NHS Clinic Commissioning Group (CCG) which organises the delivery of local NHS services have cast doubt as to when a public consultation would take place, citing Calderdale Council’s People’s Commission as something which will delay the process.

Dr Matt Walsh, chief officer of Calderdale CCG told the meeting: “Moving forward we have to look at whether the CCG is prepared to consult.

“I’m extremely uncertain that we will be able to move to consultation within the timeline.

“The additional hours that fitting this process in with the People’s Commission will delay the current projections.

“The CCG is listening to what the politicians are saying, but we need to make the services meet the demands of the population.

“We have to reflect on the need for change - we need to move into a more objective process.”

Council Leader Tim Swift said health bosses have made a ‘serious mistake’ by not withdrawing their proposals.

He said: ”The view the Council expressed reflected the huge concern in the community – not just in Calderdale, but also in Kirklees and Bradford – generated by the current proposals.

“It seems that the Trusts want to develop the plans into a fuller business case - I do not think the present timescales allow for genuine public involvement and debate to shape that.

“The controversial nature of the current proposals will continue to drown out discussion about the future of health and social care.”

MP for Halifax Linda Riordan (Lab) has criticised the way the CCG has engaged with the public over the issue and has called for an immediate consultation process that is open and transparent.

She said: “This is yet another example of health bosses and the Government hiding behind procedure and pointless platitudes.

“What the people of Halifax and Calderdale want is the A&E to stay open, end of story.

“The callous closure proposal is looking more hollow by the day.

“Health bosses need to stop the closure farce now, with a frank admission that a catastrophic error of judgement has been made.”

Monday, 5 May 2014

Reportage: Sowerby Bridge project will be a major boost

Cabinet members at Calderdale Council agreed to the transfer of the running of Sowerby Bridge library building, former swimming pool, offices and fire station to the community partnership company Sowerby Bridge Fire and Water Limited.

The company behind Sowerby Bridge’s Winter Light festival has drawn up plans to transform the vacant spaces into a community hub incorporating spaces for art, music and theatre studios.

Phil Hawdon of Sowerby Bridge Fire and Water said: “It’s absolutely excellent news - it’s something we’ve been working with the council on for so long and it’s great that it’s come through.

“Sowerby Bridge is a town which doesn’t have a great deal of facilities - there’s very little available to people.

“We’re really trying to make sure it will be available to as many people as possible.”

Fire and Water has already gained support from local residents and businesses and councillors applauded the company’s professionalism and ambition.

Deputy council leader Barry Collins (Lab, Illingworth & Mixenden) said: “There’s an extraordinary potential with this - it’s going to make such a difference to the centre of Sowerby Bridge. Fire and Water has built a huge bank of support from the local community - there are hundreds of people in Sowerby Bridge now who regard themselves as supporters of Fire and Water and they’ve made people see the exciting possibilities of that complex of buildings.”

The asset transfer will hand the management of the buildings over to Fire and Water under a 125 year lease with safeguards in place should problems arise.

The services in the library will continue to be run by Calderdale Council, but the rest of the building will be run by Fire and Water. The project follows the success of a similar asset transfer deal at Hebden Bridge Town Hall.

Coun Collins said: “Sowerby Bridge is an old industrial town which is starting to reinvent itself in a really fascinating way. There’s a real need to develop community facilities and that’s exactly what this scheme will do - it’s very exciting. There’s going to be investment, jobs and these old buildings will be put back into use - it’s a win win situation.”

Features: The man who refused to cash in on Beatlemania

His brother is one of the most famous men in the world, but Mike ‘McGear’ McCartney chose not to ride on the coat tails of Beatlemania and set out to carve his own career as a musician and photographer.

Tonight he will be at Square Chapel, Halifax, to talk about his extraordinary life, recalling stories and sharing photos and films from his childhood days in Liverpool, his chart-topping career with The Scaffold, and his career as a photographer.

Mike is as proud as ever not to cash-in on his brother Paul’s popularity and even went as far as changing his surname at the height of the Beatles’ popularity.

“Americans cannot believe that I changed my name from Mike McCartney to Mike McGear,” says Mike.

“Talk about killing yourself, talk about not cashing in, talk about going the hard way - that’s what we do in Liverpool.

“My family name was just too well-known - it would have been like being called Mike Presley or Mike Sinatra.

“It was the pride and determination not to cash in and because I did that, a lot of people only knew me as Mike McGear.”

As a member of pop group The Scaffold, Mike had a string of hits including Lily the Pink (1968), Thank You Very Much (1973) and Liverpool Lou (1974).

From 1970 to 71, Mike was a regular on children’s TV on the subversively titled Score With The Scaffold.

The show was characterised by a sense of mischief and improvisation that wouldn’t be allowed on TV today.

“Even from its title you could sense what we were doing - there’s one meaning of the word score that’s to do with counting, and then there’s another,” says Mike.

“In the 60s, if you had an idea to try something then you just did it - if it took off all the better.”

“Today, an artist working on TV has to jump through hoops with accountants and lawyers and so there’s no spontaneity on TV now - it’s all too clinical and clean - it’s a real shame, there’s definitely something lost there,” he says.

Mike says he can’t wait to see what his visit to Halifax has in store for him, as every town he visits on his tour brings up new stories and reunites him with old friends.

“I can’t wait to get to Square Chapel to find out who’s there, because every gig I have done I have had people come up to me and remind me of this and that from decades ago.

“For instance, at one of the points in my two hour show I show a video that was filmed all around Liverpool in 1967, and at a show in Devon a bloke came up to me at the end and said he was the cop in the video - you couldn’t make it up.”

Returning to the road has also put him in touch with old flames from his youth.

“I used to go out with a girl from near Scarborough and I have a picture of us from when we were 16 years old.

“I saw her on the Antiques Roadshow with the letters I’d sent to her as a 16-year-old lad talking about getting Scaffold together and I drew her all these cartoons,” says Mike.

“I hadn’t seen her for 54 years and on the day we were to perform in Scarborough, my manager told me she’d sent me message through Facebook.

“She brought the cards and letter with her to the theatre and allowed me to photograph them - it was absolutely extraordinary.”

Mike says each gig is completely different because he tries to tailor each show to the place he is perfoming and responds to the audience.

“I always go off on tangents during the shows because I think of things or someone in the audience will remind me,” he says.

lMike ‘McGear’ McCartney will be perfoming Sex, Drugs and Rock ‘n’ Roll (I Wish!) at Square Chapel on Friday.

Sunday, 4 May 2014

Politics: Voting in Calderdale to be monitored by Electoral Commission

Calderdale is one of 15 areas chosen by The Electoral Commission to be monitored in the run-up to elections next year.

Restrictions on postal voting and identity checks at polling stations may be needed to help crack down on fraud, the elections watchdog has said.

While cases of wrongdoing were limited, it said voters remained concerned and it would monitor 15 specific areas.

It is calling for police and electoral officers to toughen up procedures ahead of elections next year.

The commission is looking at a number of options to crack down on abuse of the system in Britain.

These include adopting measures such as restricting postal voting to constituents that are physically unable to come in person and forcing people to prove their identity at polling stations.

The areas being monitored also include: Birmingham, Blackburn with Darwen, Bradford, Burnley, Coventry, Hyndburn, Kirklees, Oldham, Pendle, Peterborough, Slough, Tower Hamlets, Walsall, and Woking.

Friday, 18 April 2014

Business: 120 jobs boost at Halifax insurers

A booming insurance firm in Halifax has created 40 new jobs and plans to recruit up to 80 more over the next 18 months.

Covéa Insurance has opened a new department at its office at Blackwall to deal with household insurance claims.

The new staff started work this week after an eight-week training programme.

“We’ve got a really good mix of people on the team,” said manager Kelly Morris. “They’ve been trained in the technical and legal side of home claims, so it’s really paid off - they’re starting the role very confidently.”

The group hope to expand their business and plan to employ a further 80 staff at their new offices at Dean Clough.

“We’re branching out,” said claims director Adrian Furness. “We’re looking to launch a ‘direct’ arm, so we’ll be looking to recruit a sizeable sales force in Halifax.”

Covéa, the largest mutual insurer in Europe and in the UK, is a merger between Reading-based firm MMA and Halifax-based Provident.

“We’re proud of our Halifax tradition and that’s something we want to keep going,” said Adrian. “Despite being part of Covéa, we’re all about supporting the local community.”

He said Covéa is committed to developing the skills of younger people in Halifax and currently operate an apprenticeship scheme through Calderdale College.

“We set that up a couple of years ago and it’s been brilliant - the success rate has been amazing,” he said. “It’s been working well and we’re really keen to keep that going.”

He added that one of Covéa’s core values was its commitment to the local community.

Reportage: Around the corner - our five generations

Five generations of the same family live within a stone’s throw of each other at Copley, Halifax.

Jenna Holden, 27, and husband Dale welcomed 7lb 7oz Maizie Marie earlier this year.

The couple will not be short of babysitters, with four other generations of family to call on all living within yards of their front door.

Jenna, Dale and Maizie rent a flat in Dean Court, yards away from doting grandparents John and Paula Rae and Jenna’s 23-year-old brother Paul.

Meanwhile great-grandmother Sandra Megson, 66, and great-great-grandmother Pearl Nicherson, 93, are just across the road at Copley Mill House.

“We can look out of the window and see each other’s houses,” said Sandra. “It’s nice to be able to go for walks around the village with the pram - I’ve got three great-grandchildren, I’m so proud.”

Maizie recently turned three-months-old and has started to lift her head up and lie on her tummy.

“She’s gorgeous,” said Sandra. “She’s really beautiful. She laughs all the time - she’s a really happy baby.

“As soon as you look at her and say hello, she gives you a big beaming smile.”

The family followed Jenna who moved into a flat 10 years ago.

Grandmother Paula, said: “We wanted to be close to each other, and Copley is such a beautiful area.

“We are a close family and it’s great to be able to pop over and see mum and gran whenever I want to, as I don’t drive. I can see mum’s living room from my bedroom window. Having Jenna so close also means I can be on hand to help with the baby.”