Saturday, 27 December 2014

Politics: Labour launch bus campaign

Labour’s Shadow Minister for Regional Growth Gordon Marsden visited Brighouse Bus Station to launch his party’s Passenger Power campaign.

Under the proposals, local authorities would have more right to make decisions about their own bus routes and making it easier for smaller companies and charities to take over services.

Mr Gordon Marsden said: “This Government’s lack of care for buses has led to services becoming more centralised and only profitable services being prioritised, while local communities have been isolated.

“A lot of people we have spoken to today understandably said they’d be more likely to use buses if there were a more comprehensive service. That’s why as part of our grants to bus companies we will expect them to put a greater emphasis on serving their communities than on their profits and executive bonuses.”

Josh Fenton-Glynn, Labour parliamentary candidate for Calder Valley, said: “One of the reasons I was so keen to talk about this campaign is because from Blackshaw Head and Mill Bank to Rastrick and Brighouse communities in Calder Valley are being left isolated because of cuts to bus services, and it’s something that is regularly brought up when I knock on doors.

“We have fought hard to protect the services for these communities in Calderdale but until more local controls are given to regions over bus routes, bus barons will continue to carve up the profitable services while passengers suffer.”

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Friday, 26 December 2014

Reportage: Crunch time for sixth form college bid

Plans to open a 1,000-place sixth form college in Halifax town centre have moved a step closer to becoming a reality after its bid has reached the final stage of the application process.

Trinity Academy, the school leading the bid to open Calderdale 6th, has announced that its application has advanced to the final interview stage.

The bidders will attend an interview in London in early January to progress the bid further, with a view to open the college in September 2016.

The bid has almost 2,500 signatories who have signed to say that they would seriously consider sending their child to such a 6th form when it opens in 2016.

However, the bid did not get the backing of Calderdale Council following an amendment pushed through by the Labour group in October to hold more discussions on the school before offering its support.

Michael Gosling, principal at Trinity Academy, Holmfield, said: “We are very much looking forward to discussing the details of the bid in full.

“The evidence for the need for Calderdale 6th is overwhelming, both in terms of the picture for the results and the fact that currently a quarter of our young people need to travel out of the district to obtain the post-16 experience that they deserve.

“The bid has attracted a great deal of support from a number of important quarters, but particularly from the young people and their parents it will serve.

“We have had almost 2,500 signatories from young people and parents who said they would look to join us when the doors open in 2016.”

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Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Court: Jealous man jailed for life after frenzied attack on rival

A jealous boyfriend who stabbed a man to death in a frenzied knife attack after finding out he had slept with his girlfriend was jailed for life at Bradford Crown Court.

Daniel Campbell was stabbed repeatedly while he slept at his Elland home in an attack Judge Mr Justice Coulson described as “bestial in its violence”.

The killer, Robert Lyn, 45, appeared in court for sentencing after he admitted stabbing 38-year-old Mr Campbell at his house on Elizabeth Street on July 18.

Prosecutor Peter Moulson QC told the court that Mr Campbell had spent the night with Lyn’s girlfriend.

Mr Campbell accidently telephoned his own girlfriend while the pair were together, the court heard.

She recognised their voices and posted a message about the incident on her Facebook page.

Lyn found out he had been cheated on while checking his phone on the bus ride home from his agency job in the complaints department at the Morrisons head office, Bradford.

Mr Moulson said Lyn visited the Aldi supermarket at Lane Gardens, Elland, and purchased a packet of three knives from the store.

He drank half a bottle of brandy and hid two of the knives and the packet they came in in a toilet cubicle at the Travellers
Rest public house on Huddersfield Road, Elland.

The court heard Lyn then headed to Mr Campbell’s home at around 7.20pm with a six-inch chef’s knife - a neighbour who saw him said Lyn “looked possessed.”

Lyn knocked on a neighbour’s door and asked if they knew where Mr Campbell was, he said: “I’ve got a surprise for Danny.”

Mr Moulson told the court that Lyn started kicking Mr Campbell’s front door, and could be heard shouting “I know you’re in there - let me show you what a real man looks like.”

Lyn then picked up a concrete plant pot and used it to force open the front door.

Lyn found Mr Campbell sleeping in his bed, he then stabbed Mr Campbell 20 times in the neck and abdomen.

The court heard that while this was happening, Lyn’s girlfriend was in the bathroom unaware of what had happened to Mr Campbell.

She emerged from the bathroom and was confronted by a bloody Lyn who said: “How do you like your boyfriend now?”

Lyn left the scene and made his way to a nearby take-away and asked the owners to call him a taxi.

The court heard that when the taxi arrived, Lyn lay on the back seat covered in blood and told the driver to “go go go.”

The driver said he was going to call the police and Lyn ran from the cab and headed towards Elland town centre.

Lyn was quickly chased down and arrested by PC Gallagher who gave chase and an off-duty officer PC Macnamara who happened to be passing in his car.

Upon arrest Lyn asked the officers “Is he dead yet?” and said “What would you do if you found out your girlfriend had been cheating?”

The judge applauded both officers for their bravery and quick thinking, adding that they had potentially saved a lot of police resources by bringing Lyn into custody so quickly.

A statement from Mr Campbell’s mother read out the court described her grief at the sudden loss of her son.

She said: He was a pleasure to be with and had a lot to live for.

“I have a Daniel shaped void in my life that will be with me forever.”

Richard Wright QC, defense counsel for Lyn, told the court: “This was a pointless and needless death” and said Lyn was “wholly remorseful” for what had happened.

Summarising the case, Judge Coulson said: “However upset you may have been, you do not inflict violence, especially this level of violence, before you speak to the man.

“I do not accept that you were provoked - you are 45 not 15.”

Judge Coulson considered the “appalling injuries on a sleeping and defenceless man.”
He told Lyn: “You butchered him.”

The judge outlined Lyn’s previous convictions which included robbery, assaulting a police officer and possessing a knife in a public place.

Lyn, of Huntingdon Avenue, Huddersfield, will serve a minimum of 26 years in prison.

After the case, Det Ch Insp Steve Snow, of Protective Services (Crime), said: “Daniel was a quiet, caring and loving son, who was loved by all his family. However, on July 18 the lives of Daniel Campbell’s family were changed forever by Robert Lyn.

“Lyn’s brutal attack was fuelled solely by jealousy and he subjected Daniel to a violent, sustained and savage attack whilst he lay in his bed, for which he has shown no remorse.

“The events of that evening have without doubt had a significant and profound effect on Daniel’s family.

“Robert Lyn is a dangerous individual who, today, has been sentenced to spend his life in prison for this brutal attack.

“I hope that today’s sentence can bring some small comfort to the family of Daniel, who hopefully one day can start to rebuild their lives.”

Features: Dealing with debt this Christmas

It’s easy at this time of year for people to get into debt, and the temptation to borrow money from payday lenders or doorstep loan sharks can lead to a quick descent into hardship.

Those struggling with debt are not alone, and there are a number of services across Calderdale that can provide advice and support when things can look their most hopeless.

Payday lenders and loan sharks charge high levels of interest that can quickly become unmanageable if payments are missed, with some lenders charging interest rates in excess of 4,000 per cent.

The council offers support for people in financial hardship by offering money to help with council tax and housing.
Kerry Maynard, revenues and benefits team manager at the council, said: “We’ve got a number of statutory schemes across the council to do with housing benefits and council tax reduction.

“Over and above that, we’ve introduced a lot of new initiatives to help people through change.

“So, on the council tax side, we’ve actually put aside a hardship fund for people who are really struggling to get their finances in order.”

Traditionally, the profile of people taking this sort of help was people who were out of work and claiming unemployment benefits, however, over the past few years the number of people who are in work seeking help has increased dramatically.

Kerry said: “We’ve noticed a change in people seeking support over the past 18 months - certainly from a housing benefit and council tax benefit perspective - we’ve got more people who are working and on low incomes than who are unemployed and claiming benefits.

“When we talk about helping people, there’s been a real shift - it’s not just people on unemployment benefits, it’s a much wider spectrum now.”

Frances Burns, director at Calderdale Credit Union, said employers who take advantage of their staff through irregular working patterns and low wages have a lot to answer for when it comes to people in work struggling to make ends meet and turning to payday lenders or loan sharks.

She said: “The real tragedy is that employers are getting away with not paying people a decent wage - and that’s the heart of it.

“Someone in work might think ‘I’ve got a salary coming in next month, so it’s okay to borrow two or three hundred pounds’ - you might as well jump into a bucket of tar.

“What we are shocked at is that it’s not people who don’t have bank accounts or are excluded from the financial system any more.”

Calderdale Credit Union is a not-for-profit financial institution that offers a selection of financial services including affordable loans, savings and debt advice.

Frances said: “The key thing for people to understand is how much money have you got coming in, and how much money have you got going out.

“No matter what your social level, unless you understand that you’re not to get anywhere.

“Sit down and write it out - you’d be shocked at how much you pay out day-to-day.

“Be honest, and work out what your priorities are.”

For building financial security the main piece of advice is to save money - even if is a pound a week.

Frances said: “I’ve seen it time and time again how much dignity there is in having your own money - even if it’s a small amount.

“When the savings are going up and the debt is going down, it’s easier to see light at the end of the tunnel - for me that’s why I do what I do, I want everyone to see that light at the end of the tunnel.”
Perhaps, most importantly, if you or someone you know is struggling with debt don’t be afraid to ask for advice or seek help.

Kerry said: “People are willing to come forward, but we are very aware that there are a number of hard-to-reach people in the borough who just aren’t engaging, and if they did we might be able to help them with a multitude of things.

“People are willing to come forward, but we are very aware that there are a number of hard-to-reach people in the borough who just aren’t engaging, and if they did we might be able to help them with a multitude of things.”

Schemes and strategies

A number of schemes and strategies to tackle debt have been launched across the borough by organisations including the Citizens Advice Bureau, Noah’s Ark, Calderdale Credit Union, Age UK, DART and Calderdale Council.

Stuart Muxlow, project manager at Calderdale Council, explained that there are a lot of small things the council has done to try and help people avoid taking out high-cost loans.

He said: “We know payday lending has been booming for a number of years now and the council welcomes all the recent national reforms to the market - it was a real growth industry that was going largely unchecked.

“We took a stance a while ago and blocked links to payday lenders from council computers including in libraries.”

The council has been working with Calderdale Credit Union to encourage 11-year-olds to start saving and change their attitudes to managing money.

Stuart said: “Today, most people’s first experience of money tends to be online, so people are growing up with this perception of an endless credit card attached to iTunes or eBay or wherever.

“It’s moving away from the idea of saving up money to buy something you want.”

The Junior Savers scheme encourages Year pupils to save regularly, with the council agreeing to give the pupils a £15 bonus if they are still saving at the end of Year 11.

Debt advice has also been made available across the borough with drop-in sessions being held at events like children’s playgroups to reach people within their communities.

Stuart said: “If you’re feeling pressure you might not necessarily want to pay your bus fare into town to see Citizens Advice and identify yourself as needing help.

“We thought that maybe if we put help in more community-based groups and advice can be given at that point, we thought that might be useful.

The council has put aside £99,000 to put into a consortium which includes the Citizens Advice Bureau, Age UK, DART, the Dean Clough Foundation and WomenCentre.

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Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Politics: Handling of A&E plans 'a total shambles'

Linda Riordan has struck out at health bosses, branding their handling of the restructuring of local hospital services “a total shambles”.

The Labour MP for Halifax has called for a halt to proposals which could lead to the downgrading of A&E to an emergency walk-in centre.

She has demanded a full and transparent review of local health services.

Mrs Riordan said: “The issue has now become a farce. We have the Trust saying one thing, the CCG doing another and the Government failing to deliver on its promises.

“It is little wonder that the people of Calderdale are so disgusted with what is going on. No one is taking any responsibility. The outline business case clearly sets out that the A&E in Halifax will close.

“The outline business case does not have one clinical argument in it. It was all business and finance speak. It is 200 pages long, but fails to make one effective argument as to why the A&E in Halifax should close.”

Dr Alan Brook, chair of Calderdale CCG, said: “I can’t see a future where there isn’t some sort of emergency centre in Halifax.

“The outline business case is not actually a proposal to invite rejection or acceptance - it’s a work-in-progress.The document contains some aspirations that we’ve said should be phased - so we’re focusing more on the care closer to home before addressing the in-hospital services.

“What’s described in the OBC is only a component of what the future service would look like,” he added.

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Sunday, 21 December 2014

Reportage: Green light for transport plans

A £1.4bn programme of transport improvements for West Yorkshire has been agreed by the West Yorkshire Combined Authority, with £150 million being set aside for Calderdale.

The programme of 30 schemes across the region will see road improvements, a new junction on the M62 near Brighouse, rail line upgrades and increased opportunities for park and ride at more accessible stations. They are among schemes to be undertaken under the West Yorkshire Plus Transport Fund.

Coun Stephen Baines, Conservative leader of Calderdale Council, said: “This is great news for the region, providing the essential investment in our infrastructure which is needed to fuel economic growth, create new jobs and stimulate business productivity. For Calderdale it will bring improvements to the A629 Halifax to Huddersfield corridor, to Halifax town centre and much needed enhancements to the Calder Valley rail line.”

Coun Barry Collins, deputy leader of the Labour group, said: “Calderdale has punched above its weight in the two-year Transport Fund negotiations. The result is an estimated £150 million of infrastructure investment across the borough. Over the next decade, the challenge will be to drive our projects effectively to completion.”

Peter Box, chair of West Yorkshire Combined Authority, said, “This vital programme of transport development focuses on delivering benefits which transcend district boundaries.”

Work should start on most schemes by 2021.

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Saturday, 20 December 2014

Reportage: £500,000 boost for Square Chapel

Halifax’s Square Chapel Centre for the Arts has been awarded more than half a million pounds to deliver its Creative Communities project.

The £500,927 grant from the Big Lottery Fund will enable Square Chapel, in partnership with Hebden Bridge-based arts organisation Verd de Gris and Orangebox young people’s centre, Halifax, an outreach project aimed at improving community cohesion, to improve skills and opportunies for those involved.

The partnership programme includes arts and crafts classes and afternoon dances for older people; drama, dance, arts and music workshops for young people; some creative inter-generational projects; and an extensive schools outreach programme.

The project aims to reduce social isolation, improve community cohesion and improve skills, knowledge and quality of life for people in Calderdale.

Michaela O’Sullivan, education and outreach manager at Square Chapel, said: “We’ve been delivering outreach programmes for the last 12 years, and this funding will help us to continue the great work we’ve been doing for at least the next three years - it’s a really exciting prospect.”

Verd de Gris will be delivering a large programme of work with communites across Calderdale to improve cohesion between generations and cultures.

Jeff Turner of Verd de Gris said: “We do a lot of work with older people, a lot of work with schools - the main focus is to bring people together from different age groups and different communities.

“We do a lot of work about sharing and learning from one another.”

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Thursday, 11 December 2014

Obituary: Tributes paid to former Mayor

Tributes have been paid to former Mayor of Calderdale and councillor William “Bill” Carpenter who died peacefully at the age of 88 at Calderdale Royal Hospital on December 2.

Born in London in 1926, William Charles Albert Carpenter served on Calderdale Council for more than two decades.

He was a messenger for ARP during the Second World War before enlisting in the RAF at the age of 17 in 1943.

After serving in Burma, he re-enlisted in the RAF as an electrical engineer. He was commissioned in 1959 and was awarded the Sword of Honour.

On retirement in 1976, he moved to Brighouse and began a career in local government.

He was first elected to Calderdale Council in May 1980 and served as a councillor for Rastrick until May 1984.

He lost his seat at the May 1984 elections, but returned to the Council in August 1984 through a by-election in the Northowram and Shelf ward.

He represented Northowram and Shelf from August 1984 to June 2004 when he retired as a councillor.

He served as Mayor of Calderdale in 1992/93 and as Deputy Mayor in 1995/96 and was granted the Freeman of the Borough in 2000.

Council leader Stephen Baines said: “He really was a very good councillor who served the people of Calderdale very well. He was hard-worker and had a good sense of humour, and he was a very good debater.”

He had a wide range of interests including history, current affairs, classical music, jazz, choral singing, amateur radio and military history.

He was the husband of his late wife Margaret who he married in 1947, and the father of Linda, Amanda, Philippa, and his late son Paul.He also leaves six grandchildren and six great grandchildren.

The funeral service and cremation will be held on Friday, January 9, at Park Wood Crematorium, Park Road, Elland.

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Politics: MP William Hague visits Halifax

First Secretary of State and Leader of the House of Commons William Hague MP was in Halifax this week to see the PolyFrame factory first-hand.

Mr Hague joined Conservative parliamentary candidate for Halifax Philip Allott on a tour of the company which has recently announced a boost of 300 local jobs.

He said: “It’s a fantastic company - I’ve been very impressed with what I’ve seen.

“I think it’s an inspirational business because it’s an example of succeeding in Britain.

“It’s providing employment and training for a huge number of people.”

The MP for Richmond has been in Parliament since 1989 and recently announced that he won’t be standing at the next election.

He said he was most proud of the work he did at the Foreign Office and taking the Disability Discrimination Act through Parliament.

He said: “Working with David Cameron over the last ten years has been great.

“He’s the sanest person I’ve worked with as a party leader and I want him to win the next election.”

He said he regretted how slowly the Conservative party responded to its loss to Tony Blair in 1997.

He said: “We should have changed even faster than we did - we should have brought in more women candidates and more ethnic minority candidates.

“We’ve done that now, but I wished we’d stepped on the accelerator at that time.”

Mr Hague was recently described by Prime Minister David Cameron as the ‘greatest living Yorkshireman’.

He laughed when asked about the statement and said: “This is not me that’s said that, and of course the greatest living Yorkshireman would be very modest.

“It’s not for me to say that, but the Prime Minister did say that - I understand Geoffrey Boycott wasn’t too pleased when he heard about it.”

He added that there is no chance that when he leaves Parliament he will join some of his former Conservative party collegues in defecting to UKIP.

He said: “A vote for UKIP is essentially a vote for Labour.”

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Friday, 3 October 2014

Politics: Calder Valley NHS debate series begins

The first of four political debates between the three main political candidates in Calder Valley took place at a packed-out room at Brighouse High’s sixth form centre.

The incumbent Conservative MP Craig Whittaker, Liberal Democrat Parliamentary candidate Alisdair McGregor and Labour candidate Josh Fenton-Glynn all outlined their positions on local NHS services and broader political issues.

The evening started with each candidate delivering a seven minutes speech on local health service provision.

Mr McGregor said in his speech that NHS services are too centralised and should be spread out for everybody to use. He said his biggest concern - based on three years working in the NHS in Nottinghamshire - is waste.

He said the PFI funded Calderdale Royal Hospital is a “grotesque waste of money.”
But said the Government is caught berween a rock and hard place but would like to see the hospital back out of PFI deals.

Mr Whittaker said the local NHS is currently undergoing a huge strategic review that will see better care in people’s communities.

He said: “Is it any wonder people pile into A&E when so few choices are available?”
He accused Labour of scaremongering and accused Mr Fenton-Glynn of employing “schoolboy politics”.

He added: “There are no proposals to close our A&E.”

Mr Fenton-Glynn said he cared deeply about the local hospital where he was born and where his mum was treated twice for cancer.

He said: “A lot of people are scared about changes we’ve seen proposed - I owe a lot to our local health services.”

He said many of the indicators used to see if the NHS is working are on a downward turn - ambulance waiting times, A&E waiting times and GP appointment times.

He added: “Mr Whittaker says anyone who disagrees with him is scaremongering.”

The next debate will be held at Calder High School, Mytholmroyd, on Thursday, October 9, 7pm to 9pm.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Features: Talking newspaper with a worldwide appeal

The Calderdale Talking Newspaper Association has been a vital local news source for blind and visually impaired residents across the district and beyond.

For the past 35 years volunteers have read pages from Calderdale’s four local newspapers - Halifax Courier, Brighouse Echo, Hebden Bridge Times and Todmorden News - and sent over 1,300 editions out to hundreds of listeners completely free of charge.

“We’re free at the source - we never ask for a penny from our listeners and the postage is free,” said secretary Norma Willoughby.

A team of approximately 25 dedicated volunteers are involved in putting together the weekly Talking Newspaper including six editorial teams who select and read the stories, the sound engineers who record and edit the stories and the two admin teams who prepare approximately 180 envelopes each week for distribution to individuals and organisation all over the world.

“We don’t just distribute to listeners in Calderdale - we’ve got listeners who used to live in Calderdale who now live on the Isle of Man, Germany, Spain, Australia, and New Zealand - it is worldwide” said volunteer Roz Jowett, who gives up one Tuesday morning a fortnight to ensure the editions are sent out on time.

Each Talking Newspaper is recorded on a Wednesday night at Halifax Society for the Blind on Clare Road, by one of six editorial teams that rotates on a weekly basis so each episode has a different set of readers and editorial styles.

“We get the papers on a Friday for free from Shoesmith’s newsagent on Commercial Street,” said one of the six editors, Ann Kendall.

“I take them home and go through all the stories and tear out pages which I think will have something I can include, and then I neaten them up and sorting them into categories.

“We all aim for between an hour and an hour-a-half worth of stories to read.
“All of the editors do it differently, but we all try to do what the listeners have asked for.

“We know the listeners all seem to like a quiz, so we all include a quiz.

“I like to include nostalgia items, others include poetry readings - we all have our own way of doing things,” she added.

When the organisation was founded in February 1979, the Talking Newspaper was sent to listeners on cassette tape, but today they are sent out on computer memory sticks which can be used in home computers and on MP3 players and shared online through the Courier’s website.

Listeners who do not have access to a computer are sent a device with attached speakers that allows the memory stick to be played directly.

Alongside the Talking Newspaper, volunteers also put together a fortnightly sports episode and a quarterly magazine featuring articles from the Yorkshire Post

Magazine, Down Your Way and the Dalesman among others.

“For those of us who put together the quarterly magazine, we are a bit less constrained by news and we do choose what we record,” said Norma.

“We try and give a broad spectrum, and try and keep away from the news unless it’s a really hot topic.

“On the last stick we did a bit about the Tour de France and the First World War.”

The organisation has said is looking to recruit new volunteers to read the newspaper as some of its current roster of readers are looking to stand down.

Volunteers are asked to dedicate a few hours on one Wednesday evening in six to give blind and visually impaired people access to local news.

[Roz's story]

Roz Jowett went from being a listener to a volunteer following a pioneering operation that restored her sight loss.

Roz was diagnosed with Myopic Macular Degeneration - a degenerative condition which affects a part of the eye essential for seeing straight ahead and seeing details.

“I couldn’t read, I couldn’t recognise people - I couldn’t recognise my own family’s faces,” said Roz.

“I used to have to remember what colour shirt my husband was wearing if we went shopping in case I got lost.

“I thought I’d never be able to see my grandchildren grow up - it broke my heart.”

Roz was told by doctors that there was no cure for the condition and as her sight reduced, she became a listener of the Calderdale Talking Newspaper.

“A surgeon phoned me up and told me an Italian researcher had come up with an experimental operation,” said Roz.

“You never know what’s around the corner - they categorically told me there was nothing they could do and I would eventually go blind.”

Roz was only the second person in the UK to receive the procedure known as an IOLVIP, which stands for intraocular lenses for visually impaired people

The experimental operation, which isn’t readily available on the NHS, was carried out by Shafiq Rehman at the Yorkshire Eye Hospital, Yeadon.

“I’ve got telescopic lenses in my eyes,” said Roz.

“The back of my eyes were damaged and irreparable, so they put a new lense in where you would have a cataract lense and another telescopic lense beside it where there had never been a lense before.

“They work together and move the image to a different part at the back of my eye where I can see.”

With her eyesight restored, for past five years Roz has given one Tuesday morning a fortnight to help to make sure that all of the admin is carried out for the Talking Newspaper.

[Ken's story]

Ken Campbell has been a volunteer at the Talking Newspaper since its inception in February 1979.

“When I first started doing the Talking Newspaper I was asked to do five minutes of sport on the normal tape,” said Ken.

“35 years on, I now produce a sports edition on its own, which is still an arm of the Talking Newspaper.”

The sports edition of the Talking Newspaper is recorded fortnightly and is sent out at listeners’ request.

“We have a lot of people who don’t like news and a lot of people who don’t like sport, but it’s there for everybody if they want it,” said.Ken.

Putting together the sports edition of the Talking Newspaper provides a different set of challenges to produce than the news edition.

“Sport is not so easy as reading a newspaper article, because sport has got to have some ‘oomph’ to it,” said Ken.

“If you’re reading out a match report it’s got to be concise and have all the elements to keep the people roused in their seat while they listen.

“Sport is happening every day, and sometimes it’s not easy to keep up with.
“I particularly highlight all of the local football teams in the area - Halifax Town, Huddersfield Town, Leeds United, Burnley, Bradford City and anything else of interest.”

Ken’s voice will already be familiar to blind and visually impaired people who attend Halifax Town games, as Ken provides live commentary during the matches at the Shay.

“One of the advantages I have is that every home match at the Shay, I do commentary for blind and visually impaired people, so I know how to paint a picture live as well,” he said.

“The important thing for me is that it has got to come across like it’s not being read.”

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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.

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Transport: Full steam ahead for rail electrification?

The campaign to upgrade Calder Valley’s rail line has been given a major boost after it was revealed that the task force considering electrification projects in the North has confirmed that the line is now being 'seriously looked at' by Network Rail.

In February, when the list of lines being considered for upgrade was announced, Calder Valley was not included. But intense pressure from campaigners and lobbyists has highlighted its importance to decision makers.

If successful, the Calder Valley line could see electrification by 2024.

Deputy Labour leader Barry Collins, said: “The absolutely impassioned lobbying campaign we’ve run in the last six months has paid off.

“Our target was to ensure that the Calder Valley line would be in the frame for potential electrification, and we’re now in the frame - this is really good news.

“We need to make sure that we keep pressing hard so that when the task force presents its findings in February, the Calder Valley line is included.”

Campaigners have long been calling for improved signalling, modern trains and electrification of the line amid worries that Calderdale is being left behind.

Chancellor George Osborne is also being lobbied to back a £15 billion plan to revolutionise transport across the North to redress the balance of rail funding which in recent years has given priority to the South East.

The One North report, put together by transport executives across the North, includes proposals for a 125 mph transpennine rail link that would reduce rail journey times between Leeds, Sheffield and Manchester to 30 minutes alongside the electrification of the Calder Valley line and improvements to rolling stock across the network.

In a video address given to the Electrification Task Force, Baroness Kramer said: “For most, if not all of the North of England’s railways, it is a case of when they will be electrified, not if.”

Council leader Stephen Baines said: “It could mean a major improvement for travel which could have knock-on effects for the economy in Calderdale.”

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Monday, 25 August 2014

Podcast: When Wrestlers Act - episode 02

Welcome to the second episode of When Wrestlers Act!

In this podcast we review series 4 episode 7 of the A-Team entitled Body Slam.

The episode first aired in 1985 and features Hulk Hogan in a key role along with cameos from Big John Stud, Greg Valentine, Ricky Steamboat and Gene Okerlund.

The episode sees the Hulkster joining the A-Team to save a youth centre from mobsters.
If you enjoy what you hear, please help spread the word!

The next episode of When Wrestlers Act comes out on Sunday September 7 - we're hoping to get an episode out once a fortnight.

Useful links:

Twitter: @WWAPodcast.





Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Court: Pair convicted for the attempted car theft

Two men were convicted of attempted car theft after trying to steal a Land Rover Discovery from the forecourt of PHG Motors, Hipperholme.

Calderdale Magistrates Court heard how Nathan Asquith, 27, of Edinburgh Road, Leeds, and James Harmer, 22, of Tyersal Road, Bradford, were discovered by police at 3am on June 25 next to the vehicle at the premises on Halifax Road..

Prosecutor Jane Farrar told the court that upon inspection, police officers found that attempts had been made to force the lock, and on the ground nearby they found a screwdriver and a latex glove.

Arresting officer PC Ronan told the court: "It looked like someone had tried to barrel out the lock and there were fresh metal shavings around the lock.

"I suspected they were responsible for the attempted theft of the vehicle.”

During police interviews Asquith said that he was inspecting the Land Rover because he was interested in buying the vehicle and denied trying to break in.

During his defense, Asquith said: "I know it looks dodgy, but there there's no crime in going to look at a vehicle.”

The panel of Magistrates were unconvinced by the pair’s defense and found both men guilty..

Chair of Magistrates Anthea Wood told the pair: "We feel that weight of the circumstantial evidence is overwhelming.”

Asquith, who is currently serving an eight-week prison sentence for handling stolen goods was handed a 16-week prison sentence to be served concurrently with his current jail term.

Harmer, who is currently subject to an 18-month suspended sentence for possession of cannabis with the intent to supply, will be sentenced at Bradford Crown Court on September 24.

Monday, 18 August 2014

Podcast: When Wrestlers Act - Episode 01

Here it is! The very first episode of When Wrestlers Act.

In this episode, Jon Cronshaw is joined by his good friend Colin Cox to review Body Slam (1986).

Directed by Hal Needham, Body Slam is a hilariously bad film starring Dirk Benedict (Face from the A-Team) as dodgy music manager M. Harry Smilac.

Smilac brings together the worlds of rock music and professional wrestling to create a new concept - Rock and Roll Wrestling.
In supporting roles are a cast of wrestling stars including 'Rowdy' Roddy Piper, The Wid Samoans and Captain Lou Albano.

Let us know what you think and help spread the word by following us on Twitter and Facebook and telling all of your friends.

We're also open to review suggestions - if you have any recommendations, please let us know!

Useful links:

Twitter: @WWAPodcast.


Audioboo: /wwapodast.


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Monday, 28 July 2014

Politics: Evening parking charges called-in by opposition groups

The Conservative group on Calderdale Council is leading a revolt against the Labour Cabinet’s decision to keep evening parking charges in Halifax.

Cabinet’s controversial decision not to honour the removal of the charges has been called-in by Labour’s opponents who are concerned that the leading group have ignored the will of the Council.

Stephen Baines, leader of the Conservative group on Calderdale Council, said: “This was agreed at budget Council as a proposal to go through and Labour are overturning it.

“They say they listen to the people - they don’t.

“They are forcing through what they want and overruling the will of the Council because it was a majority decision by the Council at the time.

“The businesses in King Cross have lost a tremendous amount of money since the parking charges were introduced and people have lost their jobs or had their hours reduced as a direct consequence of these charges.”

The call-in will put the scheme before a panel on Tuesday who will decide whether to put it to full council on Wednesday.

Coun Baines said: “If all 26 members of the opposing parties turn up and vote against Labour on this issue, then it will go through and the charges should be removed - unless Labour again try to block the will of the Council.”

Colin Raistrick, (Ind, Hipperholme and Lightcliffe) - the councillor who could have the casting vote if the scheme is put to full council - said he was undecided how he will vote.

He said: “I think the current car parking strategy is falling apart - everything they’re doing is just a knee-jerk reaction.

“Whatever the Labour party want to say about process, they have defied the will of the Council.

“It’s completely undemocratic - it’s like living in a dictatorship.”

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Thursday, 26 June 2014

Health: Health chief joins calls to save our NHS

The chief officer of Calderdale NHS’s Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) Matthew Walsh has said the Foundation Trust’s ‘preferred option’ of closing Calderdale Royal Hospital’s A&E department is not his preferred option.

Dr Walsh explained that he was upset that the public see the CCG as uncaring.

He said: “This organisation does actually care. The thing that’s distressed me over recent months is the sense that we’re hell-bent on destroying the NHS.

“I want to be out on the streets marching, I want to save the NHS - that’s why people in this organisation get out of bed in the morning.”

He stressed that the work the CCG are doing is to improve care for people living with long-term illnesses.

He said: “The work we’re doing at the moment is looking at how traditional nursing and community services can link in with what the hospitals are doing in areas like diabetes and respiratory disease.

“A lot of people go into hospital because they aren’t getting what they need from community services.”

“Our duty is to look forward to begin to change our system so that it can meet the challenges of the future, and in doing that we’ve got to be brave enough not to hold onto the past.”

However, when asked directly if he could assure the people of Calderdale that the A&E will remain open, he could not.

He said: “I don’t know - I don’t know what the right model of care will be yet.

“What we know is that we need to improve the way community services are delivered and reduce the reliance on hospitals. “

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Saturday, 14 June 2014

Theatre: HG Wells’ dark vision of society takes audience back to the future

There are few short stories that have had the impact and influence of The Time Machine by H G Wells - a tale that popularised the concept of time travel and coined the phrase ‘time machine’.

Next Friday, actor and playwright Robert Lloyd Parry will be performing his one-man adaptation of Wells’ 1895 classic at Square Chapel, Halifax.

“What a brilliant idea to think of a vehicle that could travel through time,” says Robert.

“It’s an amazing idea, and to think that he was the first person to come up with something so influential makes it very exciting.

“I’m approaching it as a piece of storytelling. It’s a one-man show where you encounter the time traveller just after he’s returned from the future. It’ simply me on stage recounting the experiences.”

The Time Machine recounts the story of an unnamed time traveller who invents a machine to travel into the distant future.

He travels to the year 802,701 to find the human race has degenerated into two distinct species - the decadent Elois that evolved from the upper-classes and the sinister and cannibalistic Morlocks that evolved from the Victorian working-classes.

“H G Wells was a founder member of the Fabian society - he was definitely interested in the way society works and the divisions within society,” says Robert.

“It’s a satire of its own time, which I think is no less relevant today.

“Society has always been divided, and his vision of the distant future takes that division to the ugliest extremes.”

The play is staged around the central prop of a full-size time machine - a giant metronome designed and built by Factory Settings Ltd who created many of the giant props used in the opening ceremony of the 2012 Paralympics.

“It’s basically a ten-foot high metronome with steps up to the top so I can climb up it and over it,” says Robert.

“It becomes the focus of whatever I’m talking about at the time - at one point it’s the pedestal beneath the Sphinx where the time machine gets hidden, and then it becomes the well he climbs down where he meets the Morlocks for the first time - it’s a multi-purpose central focus for the audience.”

The Time Machine contiues Robert’s obsession with late-19th century fiction, and follows his eerie retellings of the ghost stories of M R James.

He recently played the author in Mark Gatiss’ documentary “Ghost Writer” shown on BBC2 on Christmas Day 2013.

“That period of literature, the end of the 19th century, just thrills me and has done since I was a teenager,” says Robert.

“I first read The Time Machine when I was 13. There’s a great philosophical, political and satirical dimension to it, but more than anything, it’s just one of the great adventure stories, one of the great achievements of the human imagination - I just love the thrill, the horror and the absurdity of the story,” he says.

“You have this Golden Age of the English short story towards the end of the 19th century.

“Literacy greatly improved during the 19th century, so there was a real appetite for accessible stories.

“Wells produced a few works like War of the Worlds and the Invisible Man within a very short period.”

Robert says he has tried to keep the story as close to the original novella as possible, but made changes to the beginning and casts doubt onto whether the time traveller is telling the truth.

“I’ve cut out the first 20 pages where the time traveller is arguing with his dinner guests about the reality of time travel and the fourth dimension and so on,” says Robert.

“I didn’t think that had much place on stage, so I’ve reduced it to the adventure itself,” he says.

“I like the idea that audiences would be perfectly justified in thinking that the narrator is simply a mad man - you don’t get that so much in H G Wells’ novel, but there is doubt among his listeners.

“I look pretty disheveled when I arrive back from the future, so people would be justified in thinking that I was a tramp who’d taken something that has expanded his mind.”

“I’d like people to think that he is telling the truth, but it is open,” he says.

lThe Time Machine will be performed at Square Chapel, Halifax, on Friday, June 20.

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Thursday, 12 June 2014

Reportage: Calderdale swears in new Mayor

The new Mayor of Calderdale Patricia Allen was sworn in at the mayor making ceremony at Halifax Town Hall.

Mayor Allen takes over the duties of retiring mayor Ann Martin, who represented Calderdale along with her deputy Lisa Lambert.

In her inaugural speech, Mayor Allen said: “I am very much looking forward to the year ahead, especially next month when the Tour de Frace cines through Calderdale.

“It’s a diverse community that I will be very proud to represent.”

The Mayor will be supporting three local charities over next 12 months: the Percival Whitley Educational Trust, DART and Weekend Care.

Councillor Malcolm James was sworn in a deputy mayor. The Mayor’s Consort is Mr Robert Weeks and the Deputy Mayoress is Mrs Janet James.

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Sunday, 8 June 2014

Court: Cannabis farmer avoids prison

A 25-year-old Halifax man avoided jail after pleading guilty at Bradford Crown Court to producing almost half a kilo of cannabis.

Police raided the home of Andrew Sirmond at Sunnybank Road, Halifax, in April 2013 and discovered a locked room containing a dismantled cannabis farm and 437g of the ‘skunk’ varient of the drug with an estimated value of £3,745.

The father-of-three was sentenced to four months in prison, suspended for 18 months, and to attend 30 days supervision from the Probation Service.

Presiding judge Colin Burn said: "Even though you have responsibilities, you let yourself go in a bad a way - the reality is that you're making your house a target to criminals who know what’s there.

"It seems to me that if you had decided to have a trial, it would have certainly been a five month sentence in jail.”

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Saturday, 7 June 2014

Court: Filthy - shocking pictures of Halifax sausage factory revealed

Shocking video footage and grisly photographs of a sausage factory in a Halifax barn expose appalling and filthy conditions which put thousands at serious risk.

The sausages were distributed to high profile pubs, cafes, hotels and restaurants across Calderdale and West Yorkshire - and were even supplied to the canteen at Halifax Town Hall and Eureka! The Children’s Museum.

The operators of a B&L Sausages Ltd were sentenced this week after being convicted for breaches of food hygiene and safety regulations.

Prosecutor Howard Shaw told Bradford Crown Court how Brian Wainwright, 45, and his 38-year-old wife Lorraine had operated a company that produced sausages from \a barn at Mixenden Lodge Cottage Farm, Mixenden, that posed a ‘high risk to public health’.

Mr Shaw said that when the barn was raided by Environmental Health inspectors in May 2012, officers discovered rat poison directly above the work station where the sausages were prepared, and filthy conditions including hanging cobwebs, cement dust and animal manure in the preparation area.

Sausage meat was left in open containers and dead animals including a cow and a chicken were left on the floor, in crates and hanging from a rusty hook.

Particles from the unsealed barn wall had fallen into the mincer and the tools including a meat cleaver and whisk were found to be rusty and caked in filth and blood.

During the raid, the farm’s dog ran off with a lamb’s head that was lying on the barn floor.

Mr Shaw said the sausages, produced during the time spent at the barn between April and May 2012, accounted for approximately 27,000 meals.

One cafe owner, not named in court, said the sausages “had a strange taste and would stick to teeth when you bit into them.”

Mr Shaw added that there was no evidence of any actual food poisoning as a consequence of the breaches.

Judge Colin Burn said: “It is hard to imagine a more lethal environment for providing food for public consumption.

“It was undoubtedly a serious public health risk waiting to happen - it’s a miracle that no one was seriously affected.”

Mr Wainwright, of Lee Mount Road, Lee Mount, Halifax, was sentenced to eight months in prison for each offence, suspended for two years and was ordered to carry out 300 hours of community service.

He is also prohibited from managing a food production business.

Wainwright’s wife, also of Lee Mount Road, received a fine of £750 for failing to provide information about suppliers of food to the company and businesses which had been supplied with products by B&L Sausages.

The sausages were described on the B&L Sausages’ packaging as being “Passionately sourced in Yorkshire.”

Speaking after the case Calderdale Council’s Cabinet member for Economy and Environment, Barry Collins, said: “The Council welcomes this verdict. Our Environmental Health officers have worked tirelessly on this case, alongside the Food Standards Agency.

“People should be able to have faith that food businesses are following hygiene rules, and that the products they buy are safe to eat. When health is put at risk we won’t hesitate to take action.

“We work hard to give local businesses the information they need to comply with food hygiene and safety rules, but when the advice and direction aren’t taken, our only option is to prosecute.

“I thank everyone who has shown such determination in pursuing this case. It sends a clear message to other food businesses to make sure they put their customers’ safety first.”

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Politics: 20mph limits to be rolled-out across Calderdale

Calderdale Council’s Cabinet last night agreed to roll out 20mph speed limits across residential areas in the district over the next three years.

The move will see all current 30mph zones in built-up areas become 20mph in a move which councillors say will reduce the number of deaths and serious injuries on our roads.

The measures were proposed after it was revealed that children are almost twice as likely to be killed or seriously injured on the roads in Calderdale compared to the national average.

Councillor Simon Young (Luddendenfoot, Lab) said: “There’s rarely a time when I knock on a resident’s door where road speed doesn’t come up as an issue.

“The majority of citizens support the introduction of the 20mph scheme.”

In a consultation with 1,200 residents, the results found that over 80 per cent of people support measures to curb speed limits, however, less that 50 per cent support the preferred proposal of a district-wide 20mph speed limit.

Barry Collins. deputy council leader, said: “Calderdale will be the first council in West Yorkshire to introduce a council-wide 20mph speed limit in residential areas.”

Conservative members of the council have called for further consultation before the plans are rolled out.

Councillor Scott Benton (Brighouse, Con) said: “Less than one per cent of residents took part in the consultation, and we simply do not believe the council has the legitimacy to introduce this policy given the apparent lack of support from the public.”

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Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Politics: Residents to have say on 20mph zones

Residents across Calderdale will be given a say over how 20mph speed limits will affect their local roads.

At a scrutiny meeting called-in by members of the Conservative group on Calderdale Council, Labour deputy council leader Barry Collins told the meeting that residents will be given a say over which main and trunk roads will have their speed limits reduced.

Coun Collins said: “We’ll work over next 3-4 years and consult with residents about what they see as a residential area.”

“It’s not just a matter of sticking up a few signs - it’s about residents making their own communities safer.”

The scrutiny panel was called to look at whether the consultation for the 20mph sceme was conducted properly.

However, members of the Labour cabinet were highly critical of the Conservative group for booking the panel for the night before the local election.

Of the three members of the Conservative group that requested the call-in, councillors Stephen Baines, Graham Hall and Simon Benton, only counillor Benton attended the panel.

Chair of the scrutiny panel, Coun Benton said: “We’re not making political mischief out of this.

“Cabinet have wasted time on this issue and we’ve had a little opportunity to raise concerns on preferred option.

“At no point has council demostrated a sufficient mandate to bring in this policy.”

They received further criticism for not inviting any council officers onto the panel.

Leader of the Liberal Democrat group, Janet Battye, raised concerns that only 1,200 people responded to the consultation from a population of over 200,000.

Coun Collins said: “It wasn’t a large consultation, but it was an open one.”

The decision to implement the 20mph zones was passed.

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Friday, 23 May 2014

Politics: Brighouse election leaflet row

A row has broken out in Brighouse after an independent political candidate accused a rival candidate and councillor of stealing his election leaflets and asking a shopkeeper to take down his poster.

Danny Murphy has alleged that Conservative candidate for Brighouse, Howard Blagborough, along with councillor Scott Benton (Brighouse, Con) removed his campaign leaflets from a convenience store and told an independent newsagent to remove to take down a poster.

Mr Murphy explained that Mr Blagborough had taken the leaflets from the One Stop Shop.

Mr Blagborough said: “I had gone into the One Stop Shop in Brighouse and noticed a display of election leaflets for a rival candidate on the counter.

“I asked about these leaflets to be fair to all people standing for the election.

“The shopkeeper passed me the leaflets so I could have them as evidence, so I could take them to the electoral officer in Calderdale.

“In my view I was defending the integrity of the election.”

However, Mr Murphy claims that Mr Blagborough was asked by election officials to return the leaflets and only returned them after the police were called.

Mr Murphy said: “All I was told by the deputy returning officer was that there wasn’t an issue, but that I shouldn’t put them out there again.

“I told her that Howard had taken them and she told me he had no right to do that and the police have ended up having to get involved.

“The leaflets were returned eventually, but he ignored calls and emails from the returning officer and it took the police phone call for him to return them - it’s really petty to be honest.”

Mr Blagborough said: “I was given no timescale as to when to return the leaflets to the One Stop Shop, so I was going to return them at my earlierst convenience.

“The guy contacted the police and the police contacted me.

“It quite ridiculous when I’m defending the electoral process.”

Mr Murphy also alleges that Coun Benton asked the newsagent at Hove Edge to take down on his election posters, claiming the Coun Benton told the newsagent he was an electoral officer.

He said: “I’ve checked with Linda Clarkson and the Electoral Commission, and they’ve told me he had no right to do that whatsoever.

“When I went to the shop to find out why the poster had been taken down, councillor Scott Benton was coming out of the shop - he said hello, I said hello back and that was that.

“The lady from the shop said someone from the Electoral Service has just been in.

“I asked if she meant Scott and told her he was an elected councillor for the Conservatives.

“She said ‘oh right, well he’s just told me he was from Electoral Services.

“I asked if she was sure and she said she was a hundred per cent sure.

“He was asking about the displaying of leaflets, so obviously I reported that to the returning officer.”

Coun Benton denies that he posed as an officer, and said he’d introduced himself to the newsagent as an officer.

He said: “I’m aware an allegation has been made.

“My understanding is that it was passed to Calderdale Council and also the police - both of whom have fully investigated it.

“Somebody at Calderdale Council has had a word with me following the allegation.

“As far as Calderdale Council are concerned it was purely a mix-up and are taking no further action.

“They are completely satisfied with my response regarding the allegation, which I may say was completely unfounded.

It seems a misunderstanding has transpired because the lady thought I’d said I was from the council, when I said I was a councillor.”

A spokesperson from Calderdale Council confirmed that a complaint had been made by Mr Murphy, she said: “This issue has been raised through the Council’s standards procedure and councillor Benton has personally assured the Council’s Monitoring Officer that at all times he described himself as being a Councillor.

“The issues around leaflets and posters is an election matter and has, we understand, been referred to and dealt with by West Yorkshire Police.”

Detective Inspector Ian Lawrie, of Protective Services (Crime) at West Yorkshire Police, said: “We were made aware of an allegation relating to the theft of campaign material in Brighouse.

“The issue was resolved amicably with the campaign material returned and words of advice given.”

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Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Politics: Crumbling schools could benefit from new scheme

Dilapidated schools in Calderdale could finally receive new buildings from next year as the Government bring forward their Priority School Building Programme.

Calder High and Todmorden High are both in urgent need of repair and it is hoped that these schools will be given top priority when the funds are released.

In 2009 Education Secretary Michael Gove visited Calder High as being among the worst condition schools he had visited.

Under the old Building Schools for the Future system, the need to rebuild schools was judged by criteria which included exam results and social deprivation, meaning that Calder High and Todmoden High never qualified for the criteria.

Under the new system every school in England has been surveyed, with priority for building new schools being given to those in the worst state of dilapidation and the highest demand for school places.

Conservative MP for Calder Valley Craig Whittaker said: “We know that schools like Calder High and Todmorden are in a bad state of dilapidation and depending on where these schools rank on the national list depends on whether these schools are in with a shout.

“It will be the most dilapidated schools in England that are dealt with first - I don’t know where Calder and Todmorden will be on the list, as the list hasn’t been published yet.

“It’s a huge priority for the Calder Valley, and has been for some years, so the more pressure we can put on the government the better.”

Councillor Megan Swift (Lab, Town) has welcomed the announcement but is worried that local schools will miss out on the funding.

She said: “The challenge this time is to make sure the Government delivers the investment we need for local children.

“The experience of the past decade has been that however well a school is performing, replacing poor classrooms with modern facilities does help to raise standards and inspire our young people to do even better.

“There’s been enough talk and enough promises made – now it’s time for the Government to deliver for both Calder High and Todmorden.”

Calderdale Council are currently putting together an application to the Government to rebuild the school buildings in the worst state of dilapidation.

Andrew Whitaker, headteacher.of Todmorden High, said: “As the community will be aware, the local authority has already made a commitment to invest £5m in our school this financial year which allow us to complete the first phase of the redevelopment that our school needs.

“This shows that the local authority are committed to ensuring that the Todmorden community has a truly outstanding school that our young people so richly deserve.

“Although this will make a significant impact on the quality of facilities we have at the school, it is now time for the Government to invest to ensure that our young people have a building that reflects their incredible efforts.”

Anthony Guise, headteacher of Calder High said: “We’re hoping for one of two things.

“Either the possibility of a full rebuild - which will always be the dream for a school in our current situation.

“Or, on a more realistic front, we are looking at major investment to build a new yeaching block at the back of the school to replace some classrooms that are in my opinion coming to the end of their lifespan.

“Ultimately the students at Calder High deserve a brand new building that reflects the new approach that we’ve got here.”

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Politics: Parking row continues...

Members of Calderdale Council’s cabinet blasted leaders of the Conservative and Liberal Democrat groups for making promises about scrapping controversial parking charges they were unable to keep.

The parking row erupted earlier this year when evening parking charges were brough in at Halifax town centre, and charges were levied at car parks across Calderdale which were previosuly free to use.

A coalition of Conservatives and Liberal Democrats voted through an amendmend to the council’s budget calling for the new charges to be scrapped.

The budget came into force on April 1, but no changes have been made to parking charges since.

Deputy council leader, Barry Collins (Lab), made the criticisms at a full council meeting at Halifax Town Hall this week.

Coun Collins said: “If promises were made that changes would be made by April 1, then the people who made those promises should be blamed.

“If those who put in the amendment were to have done their homework, they would have known this.”

Coun Collins explained that council’s hands are tied until it goes through another process of consultation and scrutiny, meaning that the current set of parking regulations will remain unchanged for the forseeable future.

Coun Collins said: “Whether the people who made amendments like it or not, there are processes we have to got through.

“When the Liberal Democrats were in Cabinet, they supported the very parking charge changes that they then rescinded with their budget vote with the Tories.

“Our position on parking is absolutely clear.

“I’ve got figures on the uptake of the parking schemes - this story that nobody is parking on Royd Lane car park in Ripponden is nosense.

“In some of the outlying car parks, the scheme has been very successful, especially on the Mill Lane car park in Brighouse,” he added.

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Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Politics: UKIP candidate defends expenses claims

Council candidate David Ginley has defended claims about expenses on his election campaign leaflet.

It reads: “When I was the on the Council between 2006-10 I claimed no expenses, no travel allowance and no computer.”

The UKIP candidate for Illingworth and Mixenden ward’s expense record shows that between 2006 and 2010 he received a total £39,636 in basic allowance and £459 for travel and subsistence.

When asked for an explanation Mr Ginley he said: “I didn’t claim any expenses between 2006 and 2010.

“It doesn’t mean that I didn’t claim basic allowance - I claimed the basic allowance, but I didn’t claim travel and didn’t claim a council computer.

“I think on those occasions [when travel expenses were claimed] I was on the Fire Authority at the time.”

The expenses were confirmed by the Courier after concerns were raised by a number of Mr Ginley’s political rivals. A full breakdown of expenses follows:

2006/07 (May elections to end March) - basic £8409, travel and subsistence £278

2007/08 (full year) - basic £9670, travel and subsistence £116

2008/09 (full year) - basic £9960, travel and subsistence £39

2009/10 (full year) - basic £10,392, travel and subsistence £26

2010 (beginning April to May elections) - basic £1124

Mr Ginley is no stranger to controversy.

In 1993 Mr Ginley appeared in court after voting twice in a council election.

He was found guilty and was ordered to do 200 hours of community service plus costs.

Ginley claimed that as he paid poll tax on two properties he should be entitled to two votes.

In 2003 Mr Ginley appeared before Calderdale Magistrates and admitted two charges of forgery that arose from an unpaid plumbing bill - he was handed a 180 hour community order plus costs.

Mr Ginley was arrested in 2010 on suspicion of electoral fraud. He said that confusion had arose following the collection of proxy vote forms.In 2012 he was kicked out of the local Conservative Party following accusations of ‘unethical practices’ after he allegedly asked someone to stand as a ‘Liberal’ candidate to undermine the prospects of the Liberal Democrat candidate.

Mr Ginley is adamant that he has done nothing wrong, he said: “I didn’t claim expenses like most people do for attending every week, but when I was on business for the Fire Authority that’s what the expenses were for.”

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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.”

Saturday, 17 May 2014

Transport: Train station for Elland is 'long overdue'

The chair of West Yorkshire Metro James Lewis has called upon the Department for Transport to back plans to build a new rail station at Elland.

Speaking at the annual general meeting of the Halifax and District Rail Action Group (HADRAG), Mr Lewis said that Elland was long overdue for a train station.

He told the meeting that the business case for building a station at Elland was a strong one, adding that investment in good transport was necessary for economic growth in the town.

He said: “40 years ago, people worked in their locality and people’s working lives were in the areas they live.

“We’ve seen growth in employment in Manchester and Leeds, and with that we’ve seen a shift to people commuting larger distances.

“Transport is essential for our changing economy.”

He told the meeting that Elland station was at the ‘top of the list’ in terms of where to build new stations.

He said: “Elland has always had a strong business case in railway terms, but now we also need to make the social and economic case.

“We need to keep up the pressure - we’re doing a lot of work, we’ve committed staff and resources for this.”

Calderdale Council’s deputy leader Barry Collins was also at the meeting, and said the council were determined to make sure a new station is built in Elland as quickly as possible, with hopes to complete by 2018 at the latest.

He said: “Elland is going to happen this time - if we do the work, we can make this happen.”

Chair of HADRAG Stephen Waring added that this project should have happened over a decade ago, and is worried that it will get bogged down in planning and red tape.

He said: “Let’s hope it doesn’t take 10 years to get a station in Elland.”

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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.”

Transport: Further delays to Todmorden Curve

The upgrading of the Calder Valley line was delayed again this week following revelations that the reinstatement of the Todmorden Curve has been delayed until at least December.

The development of the 500-yard switchback line will provide direct rail services between Burnley and Manchester, benefitting passengers in Todmorden who will no longer have to change trains at other stations.

The news of the delay comes after tests were carried out on the line in the early hours of Sunday morning.

Although the track is now complete, the Curve won’t be used until at least December because of a shortage in rolling stock.

Labour parliamentary candidate for Calder Valley, Josh Fenton-Glynn, said: “It’s ridiculous that there will be no trains available to run on the line and we’ll keep pushing the Government on it until it’s rectified.”

James Lewis, chair of Metro, told the Annual General Meeting of the Halifax and District Rail Action Group (HADRAG) that it is time that decision-making on projects like the Todmorden Curve should be made locally.

Mr Lewis said: “In the short term we’re going to have the establishment of Rail North - we can do a better job than the Department for Transport.

“Why a civil servant in London makes decisions on local trains doesn’t make sense.

“If you’re a civil servant in London, you have a completely different view to someone travelling on the 1980s diesel train.

“Getting a grip of the railways locally is incredibly important,” he said.

Linda Riordan, Labour MP for Halifax, said: “It is yet another example of our local line being treated like a Cinderella service.

“What passengers want to see is investment, extra capacity and quicker journey times - instead we get old carriages, slow journeys and dither and delay on new projects.

“It is really not good enough and Northern Rail, Network Rail and the Government need to get a grip.
“Passengers using the Calder Valley line deserve better than this.”

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Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Features; Stout beer with a bit of Dutch courage

Calderdale is home to a thriving industry of small, independent breweries that have bucked the trend of decline in the UK’s alcohol industry.

Little Valley Brewery at Cragg Vale near Hebden Bridge has found success in the export market, shipping its organic vegan beers to countries across Europe and Asia.

The brewery was founded in 2005 by Dutch master brewer Wim van der Spek and is managed by his partner Sue Cooper.

The couple met in Kathmandu, Nepal, in December 1999. Sue had been working in the country for the previous two years and decided she wanted to cycle home to England through Asia and Europe.

“Four days before I left, a friend of mine said they’d just met a Dutchman who’d cycled from Holland to Nepal,” says Sue,

“I thought he could give me some good tips on where to go and what to avoid travelling though Asia - we met up, had a chat and went our separate ways.

“We bumped into each again a month later purely by chance when we were both travelling through India.

“So we travelled together for a while and again ended up going our separate ways.

“He had a six month contract to complete in Holland, and in December 2000 he moved over to England.”

Wim found work at a brewery in Inverness for two years and then the couple moved to Hebden Bridge.

After working at a factory in Halifax, Wim drew up a business plan for Little Valley Brewery.

“We thought let’s come up with a name that would link us to the locale, but wouldn’t place geographical limits on us in the future,” says Sue.

“We live together, work together, go on holiday together - you’d think we’d be sick of each other.

“People always say never work with your partner, but it works really well for us.

“There are lots of little valleys around - not just in Calderdale, but across Yorkshire - and it’s symbolic of Yorkshire’s heritage and countryside.”

Indeed, it was names and places in surrounding Calderdale that inspired the breweries first line of both cask and bottle-conditioned beers.

Withens Pale Ale takes its name from Withens Clough reservoir, on the hills above the Calder Valley.

Cragg Vale Bitter takes its name from Cragg Vale - the home of Little Valley Brewery.

Stoodley Stout is named after Stoodley Pike, Tod’s Blonde after Todmorden and Moor Ale draws its inspiration from Yorkshire’s moorland.

And Hebden’s Wheat which takes its name from Hebden Bridge.

“We wanted to name the wheat beer after Hebden because wheat beers tend to be little bit different, a little bit quirky, a little bit odd, and that’s exactly what Hebden is,” says Sue.

Little Valley now produce ten lines of beer including, most recently, the introduction of a light ale inspired by Britain’s first Tour de France competitor, Brian Robinson.

“We wanted to create something that was light, that you could drink when you’re out in the summertime,” says Sue.

“It’s a nice addition to the range that’s completely different to all the others - so we do expect it to continue beyond the Tour de France.

“Brian’s a big fan of the brew - he describes it as ‘quaffable’, so he’s given us his seal of approval.”

By expanding its range, Little Valley has found drinkers who might not have traditionally considered themselves to be real ale drinkers.

“Traditionally the beer range of a brewer in the UK might have been a bog-standard bitter,” says Sue.

“For a lot of people a traditional bitter just doesn’t taste that nice - it can be quite an assault on the taste-buds which can put people off.

“If you’re introduced to beer through lighter styles like the ginger pale ale, it has a different appeal.”

“More and more, women are becoming important figures in beer so the choice of style is becoming broader to reflect the people buying it,” she says.

“When you broaden what’s available on the market, you tend to appeal to a broader audience.”

In recent years, the brewery has made inroads into exporting its bottled beers to Ireland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Holland, Finland and Hong Kong, with export sales making up almost a quarter of its total.

“At the end of 2008 we went to a business conference called Going Global encouraging businesses to export,” says Sue.

“When we went in we thought surely we’re not big enough to export, but we came out of it thinking we can - we bottle our own beers, we do an interesting range and they do travel.

“And with Wim’s continental background, it means he knows the type of beers to send out - so we send our Hebden’s Wheat out to quite a few countries.

“We got an email last year from a guy who said he was originally from Yorkshire and had been living in Norway with his family for more than 20 years,” she says.

“He said he went into a little shop in the middle of nowhere in Finland and a bottle of Withens Pale Ale caught his eye.

“He couldn’t believe that a little Yorkshire brewery had made its way into a remote part of Finland.

“It’s absolutely fantastic to think that they’re drinking our beer over there.”

Although many of the larger breweries produce an organic line of beers, fewer than one per cent of brewers in the UK are certified as wholly organic.

“On a personal level, we’re green-friendly and we’re always very conscious about what we do to our environment - I wouldn’t call us fanatics, but it fits for us to do something organic,” says Sue.

“There are very stringent rules about being able to trace all of our ingredients, which is good news for people after the horsemeat scandal - you won’t find any horsemeat in our beers.”

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.