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.

Reportage: Queensbury Tunnel 'a possible option'

The campaign to open up the Queensbury Tunnel as a cycleway between Halifax and Bradford is a few steps closer to becoming a reality.

The project was referenced by the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Transport Robert Goodwill MP as having great potential.

He said: “I think there is the potential to put even more lost railways back into use as dedicated cycleways - I know the Queensbury tunnel is one potential option.

“Where there is the demand, and the value-for-money case can be made, it should be possible to bring them back to life.”

The tunnel is owned by the Highways Agency which has agreed to drain the flooded tunnel and make a full assessment of the viability of the project once the water has been cleared.

Norah McWilliam of the Queensbury Community Heritage Partnership said: “There’s still a long way to go, but we feel that the whole thing is becoming more real.

“What we need to do is increase the political pressure on the Highways Agency to see the tunnel as an asset and not as a burden.”

The Queensbury Community Heritage Partnership is holding a public meeting at Holy Trinity Church, Queensbury, on Thursday, May 15, at 7pm, to discuss plans to transform Black Dyke Mills into a heritage centre.

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Friday, 9 May 2014

Health: Bust-up at A&E

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, 8 May 2014

Health: A&E campaign gets backing from political heavyweight

Campaigners took the fight to Save our A&E to the heart of government yesterday when a delegation from Band Together to Save our A&E went to London to make their voices heard.

The group met with Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham MP, who is fully behind the campaign to ensure Calderdale A&E is saved from closure and handed over petitions with hundreds of signatures.

MP for Halifax Linda Riordan said: “I am delighted that Labour’s shadow Health Minister Andy Burnham is backing the campaign to save the A&E.

“We have now collected over 2,000 names on petitions and these were presented to Parliament.

“It is another boost for the campaign but we still have a long way to go in securing the future of Calderdale A&E.”

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Monday, 5 May 2014

Reportage: Sowerby Bridge project will be a major boost

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Features: The man who refused to cash in on Beatlemania

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, 4 May 2014

Politics: Voting in Calderdale to be monitored by Electoral Commission

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Reportage: Tow de France

Calderdale Council has backed plans to give police powers to remove any vehicles blocking the Tour de France route leading up to the race.

The measures have been put in place to make the race run as smoothly and as safely as possible.

Councillor Barry Collins (Lab, Illingworth & Mixenden), deputy leader of the council, said: “This is a once in a lifetime event and there are going to tens, possibly hundreds of thousands of people in Calderdale on that day.

“It’s simple common sense that we use the available legislation to make sure that any vehicle which causing a problem or potential problem in the area of the race can be removed.”

Councillor Janet Battye (Lib Dem, Calder), said farmers and businesses in Hebden Bridge have supported the scheme by allowing the use of their car parking spaces by local residents and hopes that similar schemes will take place in all affected areas.

She said: “Provided the council helps residents find somewhere for residents affected to park their cars it’s a necessary proposal.”

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