Friday, 4 September 2015

Politics: Man with leukaemia told he must work

A man with leukaemia who doctors say is too sick to work has been told by the Job Centre that he is not doing enough to find a job.

Michael Ward, 59, of Southowram, says he has been told by Job Centre officials that he is not sick enough to claim Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and is not entitled to Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) because he is not actively seeking work.

Michael Ward has chronic illness who doctor says is too sick to work, but Job Centre staff disagree. With local MP Holly Lynch.
Michael Ward has chronic illness who doctor says is too sick to work, but Job Centre staff disagree. With local MP Holly Lynch.
Mr Ward has lived with chronic leukaemia for 18 months and was diagnosed with severe arthritis in his left knee in 2012.

“I’m getting fed up of the Job Centre rejecting me all the time because of what I’ve got,” he said. “I can’t cope with getting a job and they say I’m fit for work - which I’m not.”

“I keep trying to explain to them, but it keeps going over their heads - they’re trying to push me into warehouse work, but that’s something I can’t do,” he said.

“I feel really shocked and down - it’s getting to the ridiculous now. It’s taking a lot out of me mentally - there are a lot of things that I used to do that I can’t do anymore.”

Mr Ward said was well he worked in warehouses, but his condition now makes physical work impossible.

“I’m afraid that with the pressures they’re putting on me the leukaemia will flair up, and when it does that’s not something an employer’s going to like,” he said.

Halifax MP Holly Lynch has taken up Mr Ward’s case and has vowed to highlight the issue in Parliament.

Ms Lynch said: “The Job Centre are telling me that Mr Ward is falling between two different benefits, but is eligible for neither.

“The Government needs to take a more compassionate approach - the DWP are making a real mess of this.”

Figures released by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) reveal that 90 people a month died between 2011 and 2014 shortly after being declared “fit for work”.

The official DWP statistics revealed that during the period December 2011 and February 2014 2,380 people died after their claim for Employment and support Allowance (ESA) ended because a work capability assessment found they were found fit for work.

Halifax MP Holly Lynch said: “Job Centre staff are following the procedures in place, but these procedures need to change, especially with difficult and complex cases.

“These figures have shown that thousands of people have died shortly after being declared fit for work - the Government has got this completely wrong.”

The DWP said it could not comment on Mr Ward’s case without his National Insurance number.

Follow: @jlcronshaw

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Politics: Addressing poverty is key: new MP

Holly Lynch, the newly-elected Labour MP for Halifax, has said how proud she is to represent the constituency in Parliament.

Ms Lynch narrowly held the seat for Labour in a close election battle against Conservative candidate Philip Allott.

She held the seat against the national backdrop of a Conservative majority, with Labour losing 26 Parliamentary seats across the UK.

“We bucked the national trend in Halifax - I think we always do - so there’s a silver lining there,” she said.

“We had hoped that we’d have a Labour government -I’ve just got to work twice as hard on the same objectives.”

Ms Lynch said her priorities are to address poverty in Halifax, especially child poverty and the rise in food-banks.

Some of the key policies such as a getting rid of the spare room subsidy (known as the bedroom tax) and curbing the privatisation of NHS would be much more challenging to deal with under a Conservative administration.

“We’re not in a position to get rid of the bedroom tax, which looks like its only going to get worse,” she said.

“We’re not in a position to repeal the Social Care Act, which will lead to more privatisation and fragmentation of the NHS, putting more pressure on hospitals and frontline staff.”

Ms Lynch said that the most pressing issue is to re-build the Labour Party following its election defeat and the resignation of their leader Ed Miliband.

“The truth is we’ve got a lot to learn about why the result went the way it did,” she said.

“We’re going to be speaking to a lot of people and doing a lot of soul-searching - there’s no substitute for listening in politics.

“We’re going to have a period of re-building and finding a new leader is going to be a key part of that,” she said.

“There are lots of options for good leaders from our region, as well as plenty of options for women leaders as well - we may well have a Yorkshire candidate, if not a Yorkshire leader.”

Ms Lynch has spent the week since her election victory adjusting to her new life in Westminster.

“There’s a lot to take in - there’s a lot of traditions and etiquettes you have to pick up quite quickly,” she said.

“On top of that there are quite a lot of complex procedures in law-making that you’ve got to get your head wrapped around.

“Then there’s the practical aspects of finding an office in Halifax, finding a flat in London.

“What a change, what an opportunity, what a lot of work - I’m in a position where I can help people and make a lot of difference,“ she said.

Follow: HxCourierJon

Saturday, 16 May 2015

Politics: Whittaker's pledge: Cash for schools is my priority

Todmorden High and Calder High schools will be the top of Craig Whittaker’s priority list when he returns to Westminster next week.

Mr Whittaker reiterated his promise to address the appalling condition of the school buildings following his re-election as the Conservative MP for Calder Valley.

He said: “My priority for the Calder Valley, as it has been for the past five years, is to continue working hard as a good local constituency MP - looking at our schools, to keep badgering the government for money for Todmorden and Calder High School.”

He said the Prime Minister David Cameron has promised the money and that he will hold Mr Cameron to account on that promise.
Prior to his election in 2010, Mr Whittaker made the same promise to the people of Calder Valley, but was unable to secure funding for the project.

In February this year, Mr Whittaker mounted a rooftop protest at Todmorden High when it became clear that the school, along with Calder High, had been overlooked for funding from two different government schemes.

Andrew Whitaker, headteacher at Todmorden High, was critical of the last government’s failure to fund the much-needed repairs at his school, but welcomed Mr Whittaker’s commitment to the issue. He said: “Todmorden High School is a very good school with an outstanding group of students.

“Our whole community were therefore rightly disappointed that the previous coalition government decided not to allocate essential funding to transform our buildings.

“We therefore welcome the support from Craig Whittaker MP in working with all adults associated with the school as we continue to make every effort to ensure that we secure the very best resources for our very deserving community of students.”

Anthony Guise, headteacher at Calder High School, said he was pleased to hear Mr Whittaker will continue fighting for improvements, but criticised the government for allowing the school to fall into disrepair.

He said: “As one of the remaining state-maintained schools, it is appalling that we are still having to educate the children of the Calder Valley in buildings that are no longer fit for purpose.

“In 2010, the Local Authority identified £4.5 million of work that needed doing then.

“The level of investment required is sadly beyond the coffers of Calderdale Council, so to secure funding for even a major refurbishment would be a fantastic result for the Calder High community would be a major achievement and would have a major impact on the quality of experience we could provide,” he said. “I am committed to improving Calder High School, both inside and out and I am glad that Craig is prepared to continue fighting for the same end.”

Sue McMahon, National Union of Teachers divisional secretary for Calderdale, criticised Mr Whittaker’s “empty rhetoric”.

She said: “Despite being on the Education Select Committee, Craig Whittaker has had little influence or impact. He and his government have had five years yet have failed to deliver. Huge resources are having to be committed by Calderdale Council in order to patch-up both schools.

“Our young people and staff deserve buildings fit for the 21st century.

Coun Tim Swift, leader of the Labour group on Calderdale Council, welcomed Mr Whittaker’s priorities, but said the scheme for building new schools leaves local authorities with a lot of uncertainty.

:“If he can do that, great - but he said that last time,” he said.

“We don’t care where the money comes from or who delivers it, these schools should have had investment ten-years-ago.

“My worry now is that at least under Labour’s Building Schools for the Future there was a clear programme that said over time every school will either be rebuilt or refurbished.

“We seem to be back to this game of bidding for bits of money every year with no certainty as to what will be there which makes it incredibly difficult to plan ahead,” he said.

Follow: HxCourierJon

Monday, 11 May 2015

Politics: Tories make only gain in council electinos

The Conservatives were the only party to gain ground in the Calderdale Council elections at the expense of a seat lost for both Labour and the Liberal Democrats.

The Labour group are still the largest group on Calderdale Council with 24 seats, the Conservatives have 21, Liberal Democrats five and there is one independent councillor.

No party has enough seats to claim an overall majority on the council, but is currently being run by a Conservative-led coalition.
Conservative Mike Payne was elected in Sowerby Bridge over Labour incumbent Dave Draycott with a 250-vote majority.

Mr Payne said: “Obviously I am very pleased. This is the third time I have stood to be on the Council.

“Praise must go to Dave Draycott for all the work as a councillor he has done over the years and all for the community.

“I now look forward to working a lot for the community.” Chris Pearson took Greetlan d and Stainland for the Conservatives from the Liberal Democrats with a majority of 844 votes after Peter Wardhaugh stood down.

He said: “It is incredibly humbling. So many people have supported me and this is the culminations of three years hard work.

“People have put their trust in to get the work done and there is a clear determination for change.”

Labour leader Tim Swift held onto his Town seat by 625 votes and deputy Labour leader Barry Collins held on to Illingworth and Mixenden with a majority of 545 votes.

Liberal Democrat deputy leader James Baker managed to hold onto his Warley seat with a majority of 55 votes. Scott Benton, the Deputy leader of the Conservative group, maintained his seat in Brighouse with a 948-vote majority.

Follow: HxCourierJon

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Politics: Tories pushed all the way

The Conservatives held onto to Calder Valley, but saw Labour cut their majority by almost a third.

Craig Whittaker held onto the seat for a second term, but saw his majority reduced by more than 31 per cent to Labour’s Josh Fenton-Glynn from a majority of 6,431 in 2010 to 4,427 in 2015.

Following the result Mr Whittaker thanked his campaign team and the constituents who voted for him to stay in power.

He said: “They clearly do not want the regressive policies and out-of-date, out-of-touch Labour party.

“They’ve seen through the lies and petty politics and I thank each and every one of them for putting their faith in me for a second term.”

Labour’s Josh Fenton-Glynn has said he wouldn’t rule-out standing again, but said that it would be the decision of the party.

He said: “I congratulate Craig Whittaker on being re-elected - we don’t see eye-to-eye on a lot of issues and I’ll continue to fight for the people of Calder Valley.”

“We had the greatest swing towards Labour than any other constituency in the country, and we increased our vote by about 5,000 - that’s not an endorsement of Craig’s time in office.”

UKIP saw their vote share increase by 8.8 per cent and the Liberal Democrats saw their share fall by 20.2 per cent.

The Green Party saw their share of the vote more than double compared to 2010, with Jenny Shepherd receiving 2,090 compared to 858.

Ms Shepherd said,“This growth in the numbers of people voting Green gives us a good basis for starting to turn Calderdale green, by tackling the issues that people have told us matter to them.

“That’s why the Greens will continue to push for a fairer, more representative system so in future everyone has the confidence to vote for what they believe in.”

Follow: HxCourierJon

Friday, 8 May 2015

Politics: Tory MP's Savile tweet sparks internet backlash

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mr Whittaker has declined calls to apologise.

Follow: HxCourierJon

Politics: It's Holly for Halifax!

The Labour Party held onto the key marginal seat of Halifax... but only just.

Holly Lynch held onto the seat in a close contest between herself and the Conservative Philip Allott.

Labour’s majority was reduced by 61 per cent from 1,472 votes in 2010 to 428 in 2015.

Ms Lynch was selected only six weeks prior to the election following the decision by former MP Linda Riordan to stand down.

Following the result Ms Lynch said: “Having been selected only six weeks ago, it’s been a tremendous team effort.

“I want to hit the ground running and speak to residents in every area of Halifax.

“This result could have been possible without a dedicated group of people.”

She thanked Mr Allott, describing him as a “formidable opponent” and told Gary Scott, the Green Party candidate, that she promised to be the “greenest MP Halifax has ever seen.”

The Conservatives increased their total vote share by five per cent since 2010, but this still wasn’t enough to defeat Labour.

Mr Allott said: “Obviously it’s a hugely disappointing result. We campaigned extremely hard for two years. “For various reasons we failed to connect with Park Ward as well as we could.

“Had we secured that vote it would have been a Conservative victory.”

The Liberal Democrats saw a 15.4 per cent drop in their total vote share, while UKIP saw a 11.3 per cent increase.

Follow: HxCourierJon

Thursday, 7 May 2015

Politics: UKIP candidate 'voting for a hung parliament'

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Follow: HxCourierJon

Politics: Tory business boost pledge

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Follow: HxCourierJon

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Feature: UB40 stay loyal to their music and politics

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Follow: HxCourierJon

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

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

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

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

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

Follow: HxCourierJon

Saturday, 2 May 2015

Politics: Christian Party candidate says politicians have lost their way

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

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

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

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

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

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

Follow: HxCourierJon

Friday, 1 May 2015

Politics: Party wants to put Yorkshire First

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Follow: HxCourierJon

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Politics: David Cameron visits Courier officers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Follow: HxCourierJon

Sunday, 5 April 2015

Politics: Candidate Joe sings for world peace

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Follow: HxCourierJon

Saturday, 4 April 2015

Politics: George Osborne visits Sowerby Bridge

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Another Tory just turning up for a photo.”

Follow: HxCourierJon

Monday, 30 March 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Follow: HxCourierJon

Saturday, 28 March 2015

Politics: Lib Dem candidate launches election campaign

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Follow: HxCourierJon

Friday, 27 March 2015

Politics: Labour selects candidate from Halifax

Holly Lynch has been selected by the Labour party as its Parliamentary candidate for Halifax.

Ms Lynch was chosen by members of the Halifax Constituency Labour Party over four other candidates at a hustings debate at the Threeways Centre last weekend.

“I’m from Halifax. I’ve worked here, I’ve grown-up here, I went to school here,” she said.

“It’s a great place to live, but we’ve also got our problems too - I think we’d all like to see more jobs, more opportunities for young people and I think I can be the fresh start we need.”

Ms Lynch said she is passionate about standing up for local A&E services, getting rid of the exploitation of zero-hours contracts and tackling poverty.

She said: “It’s absolutely galling that we need things like food banks in Halifax - the families that are there, the children and young people that are hungry - we’re not a developing country, I find it really difficult to comprehend.

“Delays in benefit payments and changes to benefits are what leads to people needing food banks - we really need to address those issues.”

With less than six weeks to go until voters go to the polls, Ms Walker-Lynch said she knows she’s got a lot of campaigning to do.

She said: “You can see that there’s an awful lot of money on the Tory side going into campaigning in Halifax, but it all seems to be photo opportunities and a superficial involvement with the issues in Halifax.

“The Tories will always have more money than Labour, but I know Halifax much better than Philip Allott and I think he lacks credibility in his campaign.”

Follow: HxCourierJon

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Politics: Calder Valley hustings raises immigration issue

Parliamentary candidates fighting for the Calder Valley seat in May’s General Election took part in a hustings debate at Christ Church, Hipperholme.

A range of issues were debated by candidates from the Conservative, Green, Labour, Liberal Democrat and UKIP parties.

A few hundred people turned out to hear the candidates’ views on issues including health, pensions, employment and housing.

The candidates were also asked about their position on immigration and the UK’s relationship with the EU.

Craig Whittaker, Conservative MP for Calder Valley, said: “Immigration comes in two parts.

“There is the immigration we can control from places like India, Australia and Pakistan - it’s incredibly difficult to enter the country if you’re from those countries.

“The thing that we can’t control is immigration from Europe, and we’re the only party that has promised a referendum on Europe and promised a renegotiation with the EU,” he said.

Josh Fenton-Glynn, Labour PPC, said: “Public services aren’t being stretched because of immigration, they are being stretched because of under-investement.

”In terms of the EU, I think we should stay in. The CBI has said the EU is worth £3,000 per family - we’re already poorer under this government that we were under the last.”

Alisdair Calder McGregor, Liberal Democrat PPC, said: “People are not coming to this country to scrounge - immigrants claim less benefits on average than native born people.

“I believe in open borders, I do not believe in stopping people from moving around the world - a world where capital can move but people can’t is the wrong way up.”

Paul Rogan, UKIP PPC, said: “I don’t believe you can integrate 1.2 million people into a country without problems.”

Jenny Shepherd, Green Party PPC, said: “Immigration works both ways - there are hundreds of thousands of people from the UK who are living in countries in the EU.

“People should be able to move where the can get the best living,” she said.

“A report by the Office for Budget Responsibility has shown that one of the main reasons for growth in our economy is because of the contribution of migrants - migration has done us a world of good.”

Follow: HxCourierJon

Friday, 20 March 2015

Politics: Labour to choose candidate to stand for Halifax seat

The Labour party is facing a frantic rush in its fight to retain the marginal Halifax seat with just weeks to go to the general election.

Its Parliamentary candidate will be selected tomorrow after a shortlist of five women was put forward following MP Linda Riordan’s announcement that she is to stand down due to ill health.

Halifax is seen as a key battleground seat for both Labour and the Conservatives who are hoping to gain enough seats to become a majority Government in May.

And with less than seven weeks to go, members of the Halifax constituency party will choose a candidate after the five take part in a hustings debate.

Each candidate will be given ten minutes to convince local party members that they are the right person to stand.

Earlier this week six candidates were interviewed by Labour’s National Executive Committee with five of them being put forward to the all-women shortlist - Holly Walker-Lynch, Jo Coles, Dot Foster, Susan Hinchcliffe and Naveeda Ikram.

Holly Walker-Lynch is a Labour activist from Halifax who works as a communications officer for Linda McAvan MEP; Jo Coles works as a political aide to Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls MP in his Leeds constituency; Dot Foster represents Sowerby Bridge on Calderdale Council; Susan Hinchcliffe is a Bradford councillor with a background in business; and Naveeda Ikram is also a Bradford councillor.

Calderdale councillor Jenny Lynn (Lab, Park) was the only candidate on the original longlist who was not put forward for the shortlist.

She said: “I’m very disappointed, but I’m confident that we’ll choose a good candidate who will be able to defeat Philip Allott on Saturday.

“There are two women from Halifax, two women from Bradford and one from Leeds - I’m really pleased that all the candidates on the shortlist are from Yorkshire.

“The last couple of weeks have been a rollercoaster, that’s for sure - I was both surprised and disappointed not be shortlisted.

Councillor Foster said she was honoured to have made the shortlist and the protecting local health services was her top priority.

She said: “As a local candidate I feel that Linda was vital and served Halifax extremely well and I feel I’d be a worth successor.”

Ms Cole said she too was concerned about local health provision, she said: “I’ve got the skills and experience to win for local people - to protect local health services, to ensure Halifax gets a good deal from regional devolution to Yorkshire and to ensure children and young people get the opportunities they need to get on and do well.”

Councillor Ikram said she felt humbled to have been shortlisted adding that the issues she deals with on a daily basis in Bradford are similar to issues families are dealing with in Halifax.

She said: “Everything about Halifax is going to be a priority for me.”

Ms Walker-Lynch said her priorities are dealing with food poverty, fighting against health cuts and bring more investment into Halifax.

She said: It’s a great place, it’s my home-town - we need to see more redevelopment and investment in transport.”

Tim Swift, leader of the Labour group on Calderdale Council, said he wasn’t prepared to comment on his preferred candidate.

He said: “I’m just genuinely interested now to see who is chosen as I don’t think there is an obvious ‘favourite’ nor anyone who is being pushed.
“It’s one of those rare selections where it really will be decided by the performance on the day.”

The selection process has not been without its issues - infighting in the Labour party and with trade unions has meant a delay in the selection process.

Philip Allott, Conservative PPC for Halifax, said: “It’s clear that Labour is racked with divisions over their selection of a Halifax Parliamentary candidate.

“First they wanted someone from Unite, then someone from the region, but have now seemingly rejected one of the best-known local candidates.

“If they can’t even get their act together on choosing someone to fight the seat, there is little hope for Halifax if Labour wins the general election.”

The husting will take place tomorrow at the Threeways Centre, Ovenden, Halifax, from 11am.

Follow: HxCourierJon

Monday, 16 March 2015

Reportage: Halifax sixth form bid turned down by government

Proposals to open a 1,000-place sixth form college in Halifax town centre were turned down by the government.

It was hoped that a new college would be built under the controversial Free Schools programme with a focus on academic subjects to be opened by September 2016.

The application for the college was put forward by Trinity Academy Halifax who were concerned that too many students were being travelling our of Calderdale to study A-Level subjects.

Michael Gosling, principal at Trinity Academy Halifax, said: “The news that the bid for Calderdale 6th has not proceeded to the final approval stage is a blow for the young people of Halifax.

“The vision for this post-16 academic provider was to transform educational outcomes and stop thousands of students having to travel out of the area to secure the experience that they deserve.

“However, the government has made it clear that they have prioritised bids in areas that would have a shortage of places unless new provision is opened.”

Conservative Parliamentary candidate for Halifax Philip Allott said he will continue to press the issue with Education Secretary Nicky Morgan.

Follow: HxCourierJon

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Health: Boost given to Care Close to Home scheme

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has selected Calderdale to take the lead in a national scheme to transform health and social care across England.

Calderdale is one of 29 areas across the country selected as a ‘vanguard’ area and will be given a share of £200 million funding to develop local health and care services with the aim of creating closer ties between home care, mental health and community nursing, GP services and hospitals.

The funding will be used to enable local health bosses to roll-out their Care Closer to Home plans which include providing more specialist care for long-term illnesses and providing improved treatment for people living in care homes.

Matt Walsh, chief officer for NHS Calderdale Clinical Commissioning Group said: “I am pleased that our approach to transforming health and social care – our Care Closer to Home programme - has been recognised nationally.”

The new partnership group Calderdale Health and Social Care Economy will bring together a range of health services, commissioners and councillors.

Coun Ann McAllister, Calderdale Council’s Cabinet Member for Adults, Health and Social Care, said: “This funding will help us to deliver the ambitions of our recent People’s Commission report and build on the positive work we have already achieved with our partners – allowing us to work together to achieve better outcomes for residents who need our support.”

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said: “This is a pivotal moment for the NHS and supports the government’s long term plan to deliver more joined up, proactive, personalised care for our most vulnerable. By integrating services and moving more care closer to people’s homes we can ensure efficient spending, and prevent unnecessary trips to hospital for the frail elderly and people with long term conditions.”

Follow: HxCourierJon

Saturday, 14 March 2015

Features: 'Halifax has always been my priority' - an interview with Linda Riordan MP

Since 2005 Labour MP Linda Riordan has been the elected Member of Parliament for Halifax.

Last month she announced that she will be standing down at this year’s General Election in May due to ill-health.

Mrs Riordan was first elected as Halifax MP in 2005, following her Labour predecessor Alice Mahon’s decision to step down and was re-elected in 2010.

“I’d like to say thank you to the people of Halifax for electing me – twice as an MP and several times as a councillor,” she said.

“In 2010 there weren’t many people who expected me to get re-elected, but Halifax quite often bucks the trend, which I’m extremely grateful for.

“It is an honour and a privilege to be an MP – there are only 650 of us and there a lot of people who want to be one.”

Mrs Riordan has spent the past decade working on behalf of the people of Halifax - from high profile campaigns, such as keeping more than 5,000 Lloyds Banking Group jobs in the town in 2007-08, to helping individuals who contact her on a daily basis.

“My priority has always been Halifax – never London,” she said.

“We’ve had some very good achievements in Halifax.

“Saving jobs at HBOS, fighting for the A&E and getting a direct train line to London – those are all good things, but the real success is when you help individual constituents,” she said.

“The issues that people are coming to see about during my Friday surgeries are about zero-hour contracts and benefits being cut.

“I had one man who came to me and said he loved his job, but he’s on a zero-hours contract.

“He said they’d rung him up to work in Keighley on a Sunday morning. So he travelled on the bus at his own expense, he gets there and is told it’s quiet after an hour so he’s not needed.

“He gets paid for one hour, he’s lost his Sunday, he’s travelled all the way to Keighley and back for one hour’s pay – people can’t live on that,” she said.

“How do you budget? You can’t if you’re on zero-hours.

“It’s us, the taxpayers, who are subsidising these jobs and then the government attacks the benefit claimants as if they’re the wrong ‘uns!”

Mrs Riordan has served under three Prime Ministers during her time in Parliament – Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and David Cameron.

She said that although she was a passionate Labour supporter, she did not support Tony Blair in his decision to go to war in Iraq.

“It was dreadful. You want to be loyal to your leader as an MP. It’s not a decision you take lightly to vote against your own party, particularly when they’re in government, but there are certain things that I could not support, and that’s a decision that I took,” she said.
“Tony made mistakes, and it wasn’t my politics – we know what his biggest mistake was, and that’s what went wrong for him,” she said.

“When it comes to defending ourselves against somebody like Hitler, then you do it, but going into a war because George Bush says so is not the right thing to do – and it’s been proven that it wasn’t the right thing to do.

“Gordon Brown I loved – I absolutely thought he was a genuine guy – I’m hoping that history will look more favourably on him than it does at the moment. He came at the wrong time,” she said.

“I’ve always stuck to my principles and did what I thought was best for Halifax.
“Whether it was under Gordon or Tony, I always voted with my conscience told me to do,” she said.
Mrs Riordan said she wants to see more passion from politicians, especially those in her own Labour party and said that politicians need to make it clear what the differences are between parties and why it matters.

“We’re not all the same, but if you don’t go knocking doors and talking to people – that’s where I think we as a Labour party have lost our way,” she said.

“We need to get out there and talk to the people that matter – the people that vote for us and elect us.

“If you’re not engaging them, you get the rise of UKIP and other parties because we’re not telling them individually what you actually stand for and what the Labour party stand for,” she said.

Over the past decade Mrs Riordan has seen a shift in the demands of the job being elected to a party in power to one in opposition coupled with a popular feeling of distrust and apathy towards politicians and the established political parties.

“Since being elected we’ve had two Prime Ministers who didn’t exactly go out in glory, which is a shame,” she said.

“We’ve had five years of the Tories, which is not suited to Halifax at all – I can’t think of anything good that’s come to Halifax in the past five years.

“The right-wing press has done a hatchet job on Ed Miliband, but let’s give him a chance and I’m sure he’ll prove the press wrong and be a good Prime Minister,” she said.

“I’ll still be involved in the Labour party. I’ll be fighting for people with disabilities, fighting to keep the A&E in Halifax and I’ll try not to interfere with the new Labour MP – as long as they put Halifax first there will be no problems.”


Mrs Riordan has said she is standing down due to poor health.

For over 20 years she has been living with rheumatoid arthritis – a debilitating condition that causes pain, swelling and stiffness to bones and joints.

“I’m in terrible pain with it – it’s in every bone in my body,” she said.

“The treatment I’m on now means me going into hospital for two days every couple of months.

“The treatment is a cancer treatment – it’s marvellous, but it does have side-effects.”

Mrs Riordan said that being an MP requires a seven day a week commitment – something she finds increasingly difficult.

Her time as an MP is split between Halifax and London and doctors have told Mrs Riordan that travelling is bad for her condition.

“I want to leave gracefully, I don’t want to sit on the sidelines thinking I wouldn’t have done this or that – I just want a good candidate who will represent Halifax and let them get on with the job,” she said.

“You do notice yourself slowing down when you hit a certain age. Do I want to be stood up in Parliament in ten years’ time? No – I think it’s time that somebody younger took the mantle.

“I’m not knocking anybody else, but I do think there’s a time and I do think it’s my time.

“I always liked the line that it’s better for people to be asking why you’re going, not when.”

But Mrs Riordan explained that until a few months ago, she was determined to fight the next election.

“I realised I couldn’t do it like I’ve done it before,” she said.

“It’s not just about me, it’s also about my staff – they’re losing their jobs. I don’t want to put people out of work, and I’m sure they’ll all go on and do much better things.

“It was a very serious decision and my health started getting a lot worse.

“Now I just want the Labour party to put a candidate in place so she – and I hope it’s a she – can go out working for Halifax,”

Indeed, this week Mrs Riordan wrote a letter to Iain McNicol, Labour’s general secretary, to complain that progress in selecting a prospective candidate had been “extremely slow” adding that it was becoming “increasingly urgent” that a candidate is selected.

Follow: HxCourierJon

Friday, 13 March 2015

Reportage: School's college bid is rejected

Proposals to open a 1,000 place sixth form college in Halifax town centre were turned down by the government.

It was hoped that a new college would be built under the controversial Free Schools programme with a focus on academic subjects to be opened by September 2016.

The application for the college was put forward by Trinity Academy Halifax who were concerned that too many students were being travelling our of Calderdale to study A-Level subjects.

Michael Gosling, principal at Trinity Academy, Holmfield, said: “The news that the bid for Calderdale sixth has not proceeded to the final approval stage is a blow for the young people of Halifax.

“The vision for this post-16 academic provider was to transform educational outcomes and stop thousands of students having to travel out of the area to secure the experience that they deserve.

“However, the government has made it clear that they have prioritised bids in areas that would have a shortage of places unless new provision is opened.”

Conservative Parliamentary candidate for Halifax Philip Allott said he will continue to press the issue with Education Secretary Nicky Morgan.

He said: “It’s disappointing that the application hasn’t been approved. This initial application hasn’t succeeded, but it doesn’t stop Trinity Academy from putting forward a new application or indeed other people in Halifax coming forward with a similar application.”

Follow: HxCourierJon

Thursday, 12 March 2015

Politics: School repair issue raised in Parliament

Craig Whittaker, Conservative MP for the Calder Valley, demanded answers in Parliament over why Todmorden High and Calder High School had missed out on Government funding intended for buildings in the worst condition.

Mr Whittaker questioned the property surveys the Department for Education (DfE) had used to decide which bids received Priority Schools Building Programme (PSBP) funding.

Last month he staged a roof-top protest at the school after it emerged that both Todmorden High and Calder High School were not going to receive PSBP funding.

Josh Fenton-Glynn, Labour PPC for Calder Valley, said: “I’m afraid this is a case of too little too late from an MP who has let down the young people of Calder Valley. He voted to scrap the last Labour government’s Building Schools for the Future programme in the full knowledge that Todmorden High and Calder High had made bids that could have seen both schools rebuilt.

“It’s not just shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted, it’s knocking the stable down, leaving it unattended for five years then complaining the horse has gone,” he added.

Follow: HxCourierJon

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Reportage: Wrestlers head-locking to the Shay

The pageantry and athleticism of professional wrestling will be returning to Halifax this month as Megaslam Wrestling brings its show to the Shay.

Some of the top names in British wrestling including ‘The Warrior’ Paul Malen, ‘The Mexican Sensation’ El Ligero and female wrestler Chardonnay will be taking part in the show.

Brad Taylor, Megaslam Wrestling promoter, said: “Our show is catered towards families - the kids, the parents, the grandparents - it’s about putting on a show for them.

“We bill it as a two-hour family entertainment spectacular - they’ll see the lights, all the cameras will be there filming for Megaslam TV, we’ve got smoke machines and big AV lights.

“You boo the bad-guys, cheer the good-guys - it’s a good, wholesome family entertainment show.

“We try to mix up the British and American styles,” he said.

Wrestler ‘The Warrior’ Paul Malen hopes he will be in-line for a shot at the Megaslam Wrestling championship which will be defended by Bully Boy Carter in an action-packed tables, ladders and chairs match.

Paul said: “The only way to win the match is to climb a ladder to obtain the championship belt which is hanging from the ceiling.

“Other than that, the use of tables, ladders and chairs is all legal - there are no disqualifications.

“It’s very entertaining for the crowd to watch,” he said.

“My message to Bully Boy Carter is to keep that title nice and shined-up for me because I’m going to be taking that title and putting it back on my mantel where it belongs.”

The show takes place on March 21 from 7.30pm.

Follow: HxCourierJon

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Reportage: Landmarks to be bulldozed for shops plan

Northgate House and Halifax Central Library are set to be bulldozed and replaced with a major new shopping development under new plans unveiled by Calderdale Council.

Bidding has opened today to acquire the site for a major retail development when council staff move out in spring 2016.

The council has received £1.3 million funding from the Leeds City Region to clear the site next to Halifax bus station in the heart of the town centre, to make it a more attractive prospect for developers.

Ian Gray, director for economy and environment at the council, said: “We’ve got a lot of small, independent shops in Halifax town centre, and one of the big things we’ve been missing is some of the bigger retail shops like Primark that attract a lot of people into towns.

“For us, it’s about creating a site that has great accessibility for shoppers coming in and complements what we’ve already got rather than competes with it.”
Mr Gray said there were a number of developers who have expressed an interest in owning the site.
James Crawley, lead for corporate projects at the council, said: “Since we first marketed the site in late-2013, the economy has markedly improved in the region.

“That, coupled with the funding we’ve received to clear the site, will hopefully mean it is a lot more attractive as a proposition.”

It is unclear yet what the site will look like as this will be up to the developers and planners to negotiate. Mr Gray said it will most likely consist of either one large retail unit or more units in a shopping centre area.
Deputy leader of Calderdale Council Coun Scott Benton (Con, Brighouse) said: “We are confident that improvements in the economy and selling the site cleared of buildings will help attract more developers to take it forward. Regenerating this site is a key priority for the Council to enable continued growth of our local economy, and ensure that the retail and leisure offer in Halifax remains competitive with other towns and cities,” he said.

“We have very few larger retailers in the town centre at the moment, and we know that Halifax needs more of these to bring in more shoppers and help smaller independent stores to prosper.”
The plans are in addition to other regeneration projects taking place across the town centre over the next few years including the redevelopment of the Piece Hall, the refurbishment of the Princess Building and the proposals to improve Halifax train station.

Northgate House is currently used as office space for council staff, but will be fully vacated in spring 2016 as part of the council’s office savings strategy to locate staff in fewer offices in the town centre.

The closure of the Central Library will coincide with the opening of the new state-of-the-art library and archive next to the transformed Piece Hall in spring 2016 - demolition work will start after this.

Follow: HxCourierJon

Monday, 9 March 2015

Reportage: College judged 'inadequate' by inspectors

A damning report by education watchdog Ofsted has highlighted as series of failings at The Maltings College, Wheatley.

The report, which draws its conclusions from an inspection of the college in January, rates the school as ‘inadequate’ - the lowest rating given by Ofsted.

Inspectors found that students don’t make enough progress in English and Maths, and this is blamed on a shortage of teaching staff.

They also found that student attendance was poor, and that measures to reduce poor attendance had not worked.

There were criticisms too that not enough students completed their courses, leading to low success rates on hairdressing and beauty therapy, horticulture and motor vehicle courses.
Poor careers guidance and lack of suitable job placements were also highlighted.

Julian Dowson, Principal of The Maltings College, said “The journey we have been on has not been the smoothest since we opened our doors and we acknowledge that there are areas in which we need to improve. We are confident that we have already made huge strides to do so.

“I am pleased that our 14-16 provision was judged as ‘Good’ and that the college is seen as a welcoming and friendly place where a strong culture of mutual respect is promoted.

“We look forward to our next Ofsted visit when the benefits of all the changes made and the impact they have had will be undoubtedly recognised.”

The Maltings College opened its doors in 2013 as a 6th Form Academy as a free school which was part of the Inspire Learning Trust.

The Principal Designate left prior to the 2013 opening closely followed by the Executive Head in 2014, and since August 2014 the college has been without support from the Inspire Learning Trust.

Follow: HxCourierJon

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Reportage: Long waits for children's wheelchairs

Concerns have been raised by local parents over an increase in waiting times for the provision children’s wheelchairs.

Since last October, the supply of wheelchairs has been carried out by private company, Opcare.

Parent Michael Dean said he is worried about the increase in waiting times for wheelchair assessments.

“This presents a serious problem for children like our son Oliver, who have severe physical disabilities,” he said.

“He is a full-time wheelchair user, has very low muscle tone and is prone to pressure sores - difficulties that are exacerbated by ill-fitting seating,” he said.

“It is crucial to his health that his wheelchair is monitored on a regular basis, and these waiting times place our children at risk.”

Coun Megan Swift (Lab, Town) has raised concerns with NHS commissioners. She said: “I’ve been hearing some dreadful stories, and it appears that the CCG chose to go with the cheapest option.”

Martin Pursey, head of procurement at Kirklees CCG, said: “When Opcare took over the contract there were 158 children awaiting assessment and provision of equipment.

"An additional 165 referrals have been received for children since the service started and a total of 259 children have now been assessed.”

Follow: HxCourierJon

Reportage: Electrification is top priority says rail minister

The electrification of the Calder Valley has been recommended as a priority by a cross-party taskforce to Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin.

The group has said that 12 lines across the north of England including six lines in Yorkshire should be pushed to the top of the list for the next round of electrification upgrades which will take place from 2019 to 2024.

Campaigners from Halifax and District Rail Action Group who have been fighting for electrification of the trans-Pennine route for months said they were delighted.

And it’s victory for the Courier’s campaign, backed by businesses across the district, as electrifying the line will mean faster, cleaner, greener, more energy efficient trains, punctual services and massive benefits for Calderdale passengers.

Stephen Waring, chair of HADRAG, said: “Nearly 15 months ago everyone locally and across the region was astonished when the DfT omitted the Calder Valley line from the task force’s list.

“In our Christmas 2013 letter to Patrick McLoughlin we put common sense arguments for Calder Valley line electrification and the government and its Transport Department were forced to concede our line must be considered,” he said.

“A lot of work has been put into this for well over a year by Calderdale Council and West Yorkshire Combined Authority as well as the wider Rail North consortium.

“We are also extremely grateful to Mid-Yorkshire Commerce for keeping up the campaign.
“Now, thanks also to the professional work done by the northern electrification taskforce, there is a strong business case for electrification of our line backing HADRAG’s common-sense arguments.”
Mr McLoughlin said: “I want to see a rolling plan for further electrification and this study will have a vital part to play in setting the agenda for 2019 and beyond.

“Network Rail will take the taskforce’s findings into account as it develops its nationwide plan to improve the nation’s railways.”

The news has also been welcomed by politicians from across the political divide.

Linda Riordan, Labour MP for Halifax , said: “This would be a welcome boost, but there also needs to be faster trains, more carriages and more services.

“This Government has failed on all three. I have long campaigned for electrification and a future Labour Government would give the green light for more investment and better trains.”

Philip Allott, Conservative Parliamentary candidate for Halifax, said: “It’s great news - it shows that when we pull together in Calderdale we get what we want.
“There’s been a lot of effort not just by me, but by a lot of people on the council across the political spectrum.
“It bodes well for the vision I have for Halifax which is having high speed trains, upgraded trains and signals and third platform at the station.”

Paul Rogan, UKIP Parliamentary candidate for Calder Valley, said: “This is good news for the environment and for travellers. Electric trains cause less pollution, are lighter, cheaper to run and are more modern rolling stock - it’s a win-win.”

Alisdair Calder McGregor, Liberal Democrat Parliamentary candidate for Calder Valley, said: “As I advised Liberal Democrat Transport Minister, Baroness Susan Kramer when we met at Liberal Democrat Conference, electrification of Calderdale is essential for the good running of trains between Manchester and Leeds, as if only one of the two pennine crossing routes is electrified, operational resilience is halved.”

The report by the rail taskforce was presented to Mr McLoughlin at Sheffield Station yesterday.

Harrogate and Knaresborough MP Andrew Jones, who chaired the group, said: “The need for rail electrification is significant. It is part of the improvements in infrastructure that we need in the north. We know how much there is to do and to do it we are looking at a task of generational scale. Indeed, this report is intended to look years ahead.”

It recommends that the case for electrifying 12 lines, including the six through Yorkshire, is developed further ready for the next investment plan by Network Rail which will cover the five years from 2019. The five other lines recommended for electrification are the Harrogate line, the Selby to Hull line, Dearne Valley line, the route connection Sheffield to Leeds via Barnsley and the stretch from Northallerton to Middlesbrough.

Follow: HxCourierJon