Friday, 8 May 2015

Politics: Tory MP's Savile tweet sparks internet backlash

The Conservative candidate for the Calder Valley in today’s General Election has sparked anger after sharing a joke comparing the Labour Party to paedophile Jimmy Savile.

Mr Whittaker, who served as Calderdale Council’s cabinet member for children and young people between 2007-10 and sat on the Education Select Committee between 2010-15, shared a post on Twitter linking to a Daily Mail article which read: “Trust Labour? I’d rather trust Jimmy Savile to babysit.”

Mr Whittaker has been widely condemned for sharing the tweet and has been criticised by hundreds of Twitter users who have branded the joke as “sick”, “vile” and “crass”.

Josh Fenton-Glynn, Labour’s candidate for the Calder Valley, said: “You would think that someone in his position would have a greater sense of sympathy to these issues - it’s deeply offensive.”

He was also criticised by charities including the Care Leavers’ Association and the Who Cares? Trust.

The Care Leavers’ Association wrote on its Twitter account: “We are not happy with @Whittaker4mp comments RE:Jimmy Savile on his Twitter. We would like comment from him.”

Mr Whittaker was chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Looked After Children and Care Leavers from 2012 until April this year.

Twitter user Ruth Kennedy wrote: “Really quite confused at how chair of APPG for looked after children could endorse that.”

Mr Whittaker has declined calls to apologise.

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Thursday, 7 May 2015

Politics: UKIP candidate 'voting for a hung parliament'

A UKIP candidate has said a hung Parliament is what’s best for democracy.

Paul Rogan, UKIP PPC for Calder Valley, has said that the public will be better served by politicians if neither the Labour nor Conservative parties gain a majority in next week’s General Election.

“A hung Parliament is more democratic and better for long-termism,” he said.

“What you get now is a flip-flop - every time we get a change in government everything’s up in the air and everything gets turned upside-down.

“If you have a hung Parliament - or what I see as a more democratic Parliament - the civil servants, the press and the parliamentarians have to work differently,” he said.

“There’s more compromise and more negotiation - you have to work harder to reach an agreement.”

Mr Rogan explained that the current system is less representative and can give a majority party the ability to push forward legislation without negotiating with other parties.

He added that he’d like to see the voting system reformed to a form of proportional representation where voters will be able to vote for an individual to represent their constituency and cast a second vote for the party of their choice.

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Politics: Tory business boost pledge

The Conservatives have committed to create an enterprise zone in Halifax within the first 100 days of the new parliament.

Business Secretary Matthew Hancock told the Courier exclusively that if the Tories gain a majority government after the General Election, he will establish an enterprise zone in Halifax to give a boost to local industries.

“Over the past five years, enterprise zones have helped grow jobs and bring investment to areas where they have been set,” he said.

“After strong campaigning from Philip Allott, we’ve committed to bringing an enterprise zone to Halifax.

“Unemployment has dropped by a third in Halifax and there have been 3,000 new businesses since 2010, but we don’t want to rest on our record and we think that Halifax has a strong future if Britain sticks to the plan.”

Businesses operating within the enterprise zone will get relief on taxes including business rates; extra support from the government and the Local Enterprise Partnership; and the ability to fast-track planning applications.

Mr Hancock said: “We’ve had great success with these in other parts of the country - they give a boost by making it easier for businesses to grow.”

Mr Hancock said what kinds of industries will be in the enterprise zone will be up to the people of Halifax, but said that Halifax has a strong history of manufacturing and could see the benefits felt by that sector.

He said: “We need to back British manufacturers. Given the growth recently, and given the history, there’s a big opportunity for an enterprise zone to take Halifax forward.

“It will give us the framework for the investment that everyone wants to see.”

Philip Allott, Conservative PPC for Halifax, said: “It’s really positive - it makes a big statement that there’s a lot of effort being put in in terms of regeneration.

“I’ve been pressing ministers for a long time now to get some inward investment and now the government’s come good and we’re actually going to do it.”

Holly Lynch, Labour PPC for Halifax, said: “Having worked for a company in Halifax, I know how tough the past five years have been for businesses.

“Yorkshire Forward and Business Link disappeared almost overnight when the Tories took office, so it’s a bit late - less than a week before the election - to start making promises.”

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Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Feature: UB40 stay loyal to their music and politics

When UB40 released their debut album Signing Off in 1980, few could have suspected the global success that the Birmingham reggae-pop act would achieve, selling 70 million records over three-and-a-half decades.

With their first three albums about social injustice, UB40 appealed to a generation raised on punk and reggae, reaching number two in the UK charts with their debut and follow-up Present Arms.

“We’ve got working class politics, and I think that shone out from the first couple of albums,” says guitarist and founder Robin Campbell.

“The politics haven’t changed in any way, shape or form - we still write our own material and our albums now are just as political as our first few albums were.”

Their fourth studio album Labour of Love saw the group achieve their first UK number one single with a cover version of Neil Diamond’s Red Red Wine.

The album led many of UB40’s fans to accuse the group of covering love songs to make money and betraying their working class roots.

“The success of Labour of Love changed a lot of people’s attitudes towards us - I’m really tired of people saying that we sold out,” says Robin.

“The first album had cover versions on it, but maybe they were less well-known songs.

“Nothing’s really changed - we’ve done a series of cover albums. I think we’ve done four out of 18 albums.

“Nothing’s really changed except we release a new covers album every seven or eight years - we do those albums for fun, and we wanted to do them from when we started - they’re just covers of the songs we grew up on, the songs that made us want to be UB40 in the first place,” he says.

Growing up in Birmingham during the 60s, Robin says he was inspired by the varied music he was exposed to, especially from the immigrant communities from the Caribbean that had made their home in the city.

“I grew up on the Beatles the same as everybody else and all the English pop music of the day - Merseybeat and all that,” says Robin.

“Before that I was listening to ska, which was the then Jamaican pop music - that was because I had a lot of Jamaican friends who all played ska.

“In the summer of ‘67 reggae happened - it was rocksteady, it wasn’t even called reggae then - and that changed my life,” he says.

“I became obsessed with this new form of music - the pop music slowed down and the bass and drums became the prominent thing and the song and the singer became less important than the ‘riddim’ - it changed the way I listened to music.

“It was people like Jimmy Cliff, Desmond Dekker and Ken Boothe - all these people had hit records in the British charts before the 70s happened, and before Marley and the Wailers happened.

“They dressed the same as the other pop artists at the time - they’d wear flares and these horrible, flowery shirts - I thought reggae was going to rule the world.

“It wasn’t perceived as political music until the 70s when Bob Marley happened, but Marley was just one artist and lots of other artists jumped on the bandwagon - they grew dreadlocks and started singing ‘conscious’ lyrics,” he says.

“For me, reggae is no less relevant today than it was then - it’s just a form of pop music to me.”

Former UB40 lead singer Ali Campbell released his debut solo album in 2007 and announced that he had left the group the following year.

Following Ali’s departure, UB40 recruited Robin’s younger (and Ali’s elder) brother Duncan to step in as lead vocalist and he has been performing with the group since.

“When Ali left it was very difficult - it was quite traumatic,” says Robin. “It was heading that way for a couple of years - he was obviously unhappy being in the band and there was always the threat that he was going to go solo - and he did.

“We were tremendously lucky that I had another younger brother who should have and could have been in the band from the beginning, but he opted not to be and regretted it ever since.

“When Ali left, I went to Duncan and said ‘how do you fancy the job?’ obviously, he jumped at it and also got Ali’s blessing over the phone.

“Since then, Ali hasn’t spoken to him or me - it’s all very disappointing, it’s all very silly,” he says.

“We still make a sound that is instantly recognisable as UB40 and with the similarity of Duncan’s voice to Ali’s, we can do a pretty good version of the old stuff.

“It’s not that weird - when you look at other family bands where brothers sing together, there is a tonal quality that brothers share - that’s why I knew we were incredibly lucky to have another brother that would be able to give us that.

“We’re not doing a slavish impression of Ali and wouldn’t try to, but we can still sing our songs and sound like UB40 - that’s a fantastic advantage.”

Recently, the dispute came to a head when Ali, along with other former UB40 members Mickey Virtue and vocalist Terence “Astro” Wilson went on tour using the UB40 name.

“There’s only one UB40 - we’ve never stopped. It’s difficult to talk about, but we’re taking our brother to court to stop him using the name of the band that he left eight years ago.

“He did leave, and to start years after leaving the band to decide that because things didn’t work out the way he wanted to, that he could hijack the name of the band that he left, is just ludicrous.”

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Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Politics: Lib Dems needed 'to keep other parties in-check'

A Liberal Democrat candidate has said it is important that his party is part of a coalition after the election to keep the other parties in line.

Alisdair Calder McGregor, Liberal Democrat PPC for Calder Valley, said: “You need to have Liberal Democrats to keep either a Labour or Conservative government in check because UKIP and the Green Party are just extreme versions of those.

“Labour need someone to hold their hand to say ‘you’ve got to keep the economy on track’ and the Tories need someone to hold them back to say ‘you can’t cut that’.”

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Saturday, 2 May 2015

Politics: Christian Party candidate says politicians have lost their way

A Christian Party candidate has said that modern day politics has lost its way and needs a stronger moral foundation.

Trevor Bendrien, the Christian Party PPC for Halifax, has said that politicians now overlook important values like honesty, integrity and kindness in favour of economic competence.

He said: “It’s all about spreadsheets and the spreadsheets don’t balance because they miss out the important things that make Britain what it is.

“We’ve turned into a nation run by accountants and they’re wrecking it.

“Politicians need to be honest. Politicians have reputation of being a power-oriented group who will say anything to get into leadership and then ignore their promises.

“We need a dependable voice to speak out for our town rather than play party politics with it.”

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Friday, 1 May 2015

Politics: Party wants to put Yorkshire First

Rod Sutcliffe has said that Yorkshire has a comparable population to Scotland, yet doesn’t have the same powers to make decisions on a regional level.

“Yorkshire is big enough to manage itself. Yorkshire has five million people - Scotland has five million people,” he said.

“Scotland has self-government - Yorkshire doesn’t have any of those things. The key is to have regional tax-raising powers and powers to decide how to spend it.

“What we get here is we get funding and then we’re more or less told how to spend it.

“Nearly all of the council funding is already allocated before we even get it, so there’s no spare cash for any sort of development. If Scotland can do it, we can do it.”

Dr Sutcliffe said he would like to see powers devolved to all regions across the country, with the ability to raise taxes and fund projects locally.

“All regions should have more say in their affairs - the way I’m trying to do that is to use Yorkshire as an example,” he said.

“If you look across Europe, most countries have federal systems of regional government.

“If you look at Germany, the average is about five million.

“In the long-term we’d like to see most of the powers that Westminster has, and most of the decisions that Westminster takes, being devolved to the regions.

“The only things a national government needs to be managing are foreign affairs including international trade and development, defence, immigration and currency.”

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Thursday, 23 April 2015

Politics: David Cameron visits Courier officers

The Prime Minister David Cameron hit out at Labour for the financial state of Calderdale Royal Hospital during a visit to the Halifax Courier offices this week.

Mr Cameron criticised Labour for drawing up the deal to build a £64 million hospital building under the Private Finance Initiative (PFI) which will eventually cost the taxpayer £774 million.

“Labour should hang their heads in shame when they remember this PFI deal done under their government,” he said.

“After the election we want to do what we’ve done with other hospitals, which is sort out the PFI mess and financial mess that they’re in.

“I want people to know that Calderdale Royal Hospital is going to provide great services,” he said.

“We’re seeing a growth in population of people using our hositals and using our A&E.

“We want to see the improvements in primary care - so we will have this seven day access to GP surgeries from eight in the morning to eight in the evening for everyone by the end of 2020.”

Philip Allott, Conservative PPC for Halifax, added that both he and Mr Cameron were keen to keep the A&E in Halifax.

Mr Allott said: “What Mr Cameron has agreed is to guarantee our A&E - he’s adamant in backing me up.

“We will not close the A&E,” he said. “We can restructure and rebalance the debt, and Mr Cameron has given me the green-light if we get a Conservative government to underwrite the debt.

“By restructuring the debt we can bring the trust back from the red into the black.

“The Prime Minister has ruled-out the closure of the A&E.

“So all the banners around Halifax that say ‘David Cameron: hands off our A&E’ can be taken down. My message to Andy Burnham (Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary) is take those banners down.

“The A&E’s not closing and we’re going to keep fighting for Halifax,” he said.

During his interview, Mr Cameron also responded to Labour’s accusation that the Conservatives have made life more difficult for those living in poverty, including the rise in food bank use, welfare cuts and sanctions and the Bedroom Tax.

Mr Cameron said: “We’ve taken three million of the poorest people out of income tax altogether; we’ve seen the first real-terms rise in the minimum wage; we’ve cut taxes for working families; we’ve put in place extra childcare to help people back to work; we’ve had the Work Programme which has been the biggest back-to-work programme in the country’s history.

“It was Labour which crashed the economy - it was the poorest who were hit the hardest, working people lost their jobs and I’m fed-up with hearing the lectures, frankly.

“The election’s going to come down to choice of who do you want to run the economy, who do you want to run the country.

“This is not a moment for protest or message sending - it’s a moment for decision making.

“Voting for UKIP will let in Labour which will put an end to the recovery and be a disaster for Halifax and the rest of the country.”

Mr Cameron was on the campaign trail with Mr Allott with only a fortnight to go until the election.

Halifax has been targeted by the Conservative Party as a key marginal seat.

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Sunday, 5 April 2015

Politics: Candidate Joe sings for world peace

Calder Valley Parliamentary candidate Joe Stead has said he started his own political party because he couldn’t see anyone else that he wanted to vote for.

Mr Stead, 73, set up the World Peace Through Song party after becoming disillusioned with the major political parties.

He said: “Last October, I thought to myself ‘who am I going to vote for?’ - I used to be a staunch Labour support, but since 2003 when Tony Blair decided to attack Iraq I said to myself that I could never vote Labour again.

“We now have disaffected muslims across the world - if we apologise for what we did in 2003, that might go some way to stopping all the young muslims heading out to Syria to join Isis.

“You can’t change history, but the history we have could have been completely different.”

He said as a candidate he is for saving the A&E in Halifax and said that the staff saved his wife’s life there when she suffered an allergic reaction to nuts, adding that if he’d had to take her to Huddersfield she wouldn’t have survived.

He said he is in favour of re-nationalising the railways and introducing a minimum charge that supermarkets can pay farmers for milk.

He added through song: “Labour can’t be trusted, since they bombed Iraq.

“Tony Blair should go to jail and I don’t want Labour back.

“Please don’t vote for UKIP, they’re just a waste of space.

“Their manifesto isn’t nice, their leader’s a disgrace.

“Greens are headless chickens, Liberals are no-shows.

“Vote for World Peace Through Song, in May just vote for Joe.”

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Saturday, 4 April 2015

Politics: George Osborne visits Sowerby Bridge

The Chancellor George Osborne was in Sowerby Bridge this afternoon to see first-hand the work being done by steel firm Pulman and Sons.

During the visit he outlined the importance of the HS2 high speed rail link for the future of our economy and called upon Labour Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls make it clear where he stands on the issue.

Mr Osborne said: “HS2 is an essential part of the long-term economic plan for the country and for Yorkshire.

“That’s what I think and that’s what the local Labour councillors think.

“And under the Conservatives that project will definitely go ahead with all the jobs and benefits that will bring.”

Holly Walker-Lynch, Labour PPC for Halifax, criticised the visit, dismissing it is a photo opportunity.

She said: “The Labour Party has made it crystal clear that we support HS2, so I’m not sure why George Osborne has come all the way to Halifax to suggest otherwise.

“Most local people had hoped that he was going to announce his support for the electrification of the Calder Valley line or possibly to join Labour in committing to get rid of the outdated pacer trains, but sadly not.

“Another Tory just turning up for a photo.”

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Monday, 30 March 2015

Reportage:Ofsted finds council needs to do more to support Children and Young People

Ofsted inspectors have said that improvements are required across the board at Calderdale Council’s Children and Young People’s Services, but the department is set to be pulled-out of special measures.

The department was rated inadequate by inspectors in 2010, but a four-week-long inspection in January found the department is making improvements to its services, but that it still has a long way to go.

The inspection found that the department required improvement in key areas: children who need help and protection; arrangements for children in care and its management and governance.

The council’s adoption services were found to be inadequate because of the length of time it takes to complete the adoption process.

Coun Colin Raistrick (Ind, Hipperholme and Lightcliffe), cabinet member for Children and Young People, said: “We’ve taken a huge step forward.

“I know we’ve only gone from inadequate to requires improvement, but we were at the bottom end of inadequate and now we’re at the top end of requires improvement - so it’s not just a one point improvement, it’s a 1.8 point improvement.

“To use a football analogy - we’ve come from being at the bottom of the conference to looking for promotion to the championship,” he said.

“I don’t make political points and nobody in Calderdale makes political points about Children and Young People’s Services.

“We’ve changed the whole way of working - it’s unrecognisable from what it was in 2010.”

The report said the council was doing some things very well and highlighted the way it deals with child sexual exploitation (CSE) as being good practice.

The report said “CSE is given a high priority in Calderdale,” adding that a central register used by the department and police means agencies have “comprehensive and timely information about those most at risk”.

Stuart Smith, director of Children and Young People’s Services, said: “We had a lot of praise for a number of areas: early intervention services, the troubled families programme, and the way we manage our intake and assessment centre.

“We keep a central database of children who are vulnerable or might be at risk so that the left hand always knows what the right hand is doing.

“For example, if a child has missed school and stays out overnight without telling their parents and say they get nicked for possessing cannabis on the streets - they’ll appear three times on our database and we’ll get a special alert.

“That’s one of the ways we identify children at risk of CSE.”

Inspectors found that were no children in care who shouldn’t be, and found that no children in immediate risk had been missed by the department.

The report highlighted three key areas that the department must improve as a matter of urgency: to reduce the amount of time it takes to complete adoptions; to improve the recruitment of adopters; and to ensure that more young people are interviewed when returning home after being reported missing.

Mr Smith said the council has recently set up a Permanence Improvement Board to address the length of time it takes to adopt a child.

“Every fortnight social work managers look at all the cases to see if there are any kids for whom we could make the permanent arrangements more swiftly,” he said.

“We do something called twin-track planning. You hope that a child’s arrangements will improve sufficiently that they can go and live with their parents.

“But even though you try really hard to make that work, you also work in the background to set up an adopter for them.”

Mr Smith said the recruitment of adopters is a complicated process and one that must be balanced with the welfare of the child.

Coun Raistrick said: “Government policy is right on this - we should be trying to make the process as pain-free for the adopter and as quick as possible for the adoptee.

“You also don’t want to make mistakes by rushing things - there is an argument that rushing things could be worse for both parties.

“This report shows that we always act in the interests of the child - that’s the most important thing.”

Mr Smith said the council is looking into ways to encourage more young people to speak to social workers after the return from being reported missing.

He said he expected to receive confirmation from the government that the department will be officially taken out of special measures.

“None of it is failing and there are no children who aren’t safe,” he said.

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Saturday, 28 March 2015

Politics: Lib Dem candidate launches election campaign

The Liberal Democrat Parliamentary candidate for Halifax Mohammad Ilyas opened his campaign office on Hopwood Lane, Halifax, to mark the start of his election campaign.

Mr Ilyas is the first ever British Pakistani candidate to have been selected to contest the seat.

He said: “My priority is the young people of Halifax - I want to see more jobs and apprenticeships.”

He said the Liberal Democrats are the only party that have committed an extra £8.2 billion for the NHS and said he is committed to fighting against any plans to downgrade local health services.

He said: “The Liberal Democrats have worked very hard to fight against Tory cuts and if you look at our manifesto you’ll see that around 70 per cent of our policies have been achieved.”

Mr Ilyas said he is committed to spreading a message of diversity and equality.

Coun James Baker (Lib Dem, Warley) said “Whilst the likes of UKIP play on fear of people who are different, we offer a different vision. A vision of hope in which people of different backgrounds work together to build a peaceful, tolerant and understanding society.

“It is in celebration and respect of our differences that we will build that society, and I am proud to be working towards that goal with Mohammad and the Halifax Liberal Democrat team.”

Mohammad is of Pakistani origin and moved to this country in 1973. He currently lives in Halifax and is married with 4 children. He is self-employed and runs a Driving School.

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