Friday, 27 February 2015

Politics: Council Tax frozen, but £9.4m must be saved in next 3 years

Residents will see a freeze in Council Tax for two years, but the council has to find £9.4 million savings by 2018.

The Conservative-led administration worked with the Liberal Democrats to pass its budget.
Coun Stephen Baines (Con, Northowram and Shelf), leader of the council, told the meeting: “There are very few changes to the budget for 2015/16, but the Council Tax still remains as a zero increase as in the agreement last year.

“The major changes in our budget come in in 2017/18. We’ve always firmly believed that this should be decided after consultation with the general public, which is why we haven’t put forward any firm proposals,” he said.

“We’ve put forward some rough headings which are not set in concrete, so the general public can say what their priorities are.”

The budget was roundly criticised by the opposing Labour group.

Coun Tim Swift (Lab, Town), leader of the Labour group, said: “The Conservative budget lacks imagination, provides no sense of vision for the future and puts off any meaningful decisions until after the election.”

The main concern about the budget highlighted by both the Labour and Liberal Democrat groups is a £2.6 million cut to discretionary services - this includes libraries, leisure centres, winter gritters, public toilets, children’s centres and youth services.

An alternative budget put forward by the Labour group was blocked, because although Labour are the largest party on the council, they are one member short of an overall majority.

Coun Swift said that until a few minutes prior to the meeting the Labour group were expecting to be supported by the Liberal Democrat group.

The Mayor of Calderdale Coun Pat Allen (Lib Dem, Elland) sought legal advice before casting a deciding vote supporting the Conservative-led administration’s budget.

Coun Janet Battye (Lib Dem, Calder), leader of the Liberal Democrat group, said: “We had hoped to support the Labour budget, but what we really wanted was cross-party consensus.

“Our concern with the Cabinet proposals is that discretionary services look as though they may take the biggest hit in terms of expected savings in two years time - these are the bulk of the services that we know local people want and value - so we’ve got qualms about both of the budgets,” she said.
“No green proposals have been put forward - we want to take action on affordable warmth and we want the council to get to grips with its use of energy.”

Amendments put forward by the Liberal Democrat group which include measures to reduce energy usage in council buildings by 20 per cent and to set aside £1.4 million to improve insulation in social housing were passed when the Labour group abstained from voting.

A further amendment by the Labour group to inject a further £35,000 of investment into the Orangebox young people’s centre, Halifax, was passed unanimously.

Councillors from both the Conservative and Labour groups were reprimanded by the Mayor during the meeting for heckling and jeering during the debate.


The Liberal Democrat group put forward two green amendments to the Cabinet’s budget which include plans for affordable warmth and to improve energy efficiency within council buildings.

The proposals will put a target on Calderdale Council to reduce it’s energy output by 20 per cent over the next five years by introducing energy saving light bulbs and solar panels to council buildings.

Coun James Baker (Lib Dem, Warley), deputy leader of Liberal Democrat group, said: “This proposal will reduce our energy bills as a council, reduce our energy consumption and reduce the emission of greenhouse gases caused by the burning of fossil fuels.

“We really want to see this nailed - there’s been a lot of talk about this in the council for a long time, but we don’t think there has been enough action on it.

“It’s not costing the taxpayer anything, and hopefully in five years’ time the taxpayer will start to see the savings.”

The second amendment will set aside £1.4 million for an ‘affordable warmth’ scheme that will bring about savings to the health service of an estimated £4 million.

Coun Baker said: “If people live in warm, insulated homes then they are less likely to be admitted to hospital wth cold-related illnesses.”

The amendment was passed, but the Labour group abstained from voting.

Coun Barry Collins (Lab, Illingworth and Mixenden), deputy leader of the Labour group, told the Liberal Democrat group: “Our party is passionate about affordable warmth and we would have been happy to support this amendment.

“We absolutely agree with the proposals, but had there been an attempt to provide an arrangement for the budget with you we would have been able to support this amendment,” he said.


The Labour group failed to get the support of the Liberal Democrat group to push forward its alternative budget proposals.

The amendment outlined plans to put £50,000 aside to look into building new homes for rent; a new swimming pool and leisure centre for Halifax; a Capital Investment Fund to help with the repairs of historic buildings including Halifax Borough Market and Todmorden Market; funding for those in urgent financial need; and further investment in flood defence schemes at Mytholmroyd.

Coun Barry Collins (Lab, Illingworth and Mixenden), deputy leader of the Labour group, told the meeting: “We’ve tried to create an alternative proposal that meets the needs of Calderdale and meets the hopes and aspirations for the future.

“There is a major problem with housing up and down the country. It’s in part caused by the failure of the market to deliver the housing that people need; it’s also to do with the major difficulty that registered landlords and social landlords are in at the moment,” he said.

“Nobody in the Labour party is saying we want to go back to the old style of council housing - it’s about saying that councils building houses for rent could make a contribution to a problem that is really serious in our community.”

Coun Scott Benton (Con, Brighouse), deputy council leader, told the meeting: “The introduction to Labour’s budget outlines a courageous and imaginative response to government funding plans.

“After such a grand introduction, you can imagine my disappointment to find a budget so inherently flawed that it was difficult to believe that this Labour group couldn’t have come up with anything better,” he said.
“It’s a budget full of undeliverable savings, of poorly conceived proposals and one which places the council in unnecessary risk in these challenging times.

“It’s a budget of higher taxes, more borrowing and one which shows the Labour party really hasn’t learnt anything whatsoever.”

The proposals were met with a deadlock of 25 votes for and 25 against meaning that the motion fell.


A budget amendment put forward by the Labour group to inject £35,000 into the Orangebox youth centre was given unanimous backing by the council.

The centre in Halifax town centre, which opened in 2013, has recently appointed a new director and is struggling financially to keep its doors open.

Coun Megan Swift (Lab, Town) told the meeting: “What they are planning on doing is closing the doors most of the time - where there is open access at the Orangebox at the moment, they are talking about perhaps opening for two nights during the week and on Saturdays.

“I don’t think when we talk about the Orangebox that’s what we want from it - I asked the new director what we need to give to keep the doors open,” she said.

“The Orangebox was supposed to be a standalone charity from this April, but unfortunately they’re nowhere near ready, so that has been put off until April 2016.”

Although the amendment was given cross-party backing, Coun Howard Blagbrough (Con, Brighouse) told the meeting: “I’d like to support this amendment, but I would suggest that the matter is taken to scrutiny to be discussed further.”

Coun Janet Battye (Lib Dem, Calder), leader of the Liberal Democrat group, agreed with Coun Blagbrough.

She said: “I’m disappointed that it has come to this. I think it’s important that the council supports it, but there must be no expectation that because we sign one cheque for £35,000 that next week there will be another and before we know where we are we’re into long-term subsidy with virtually a blank cheque.

“I think we should wish them well, but we should ask that their business plan to come to scrutiny as soon as it can,” she said.

Follow: HxCourierJon

Saturday, 21 February 2015

Features: With three daughters of his own, Lear is a perfect part for Barrie

King Lear is one of William Shakespeare’s most probing tales that burrows into the psyche of its eponymous lead as he is gripped by mental illness.

Barrie Rutter OBE is set to take the lead in a new production of the play by Halifax-based theatre company Northern Broadsides.

And as a 68-year-old man with three daughters, Barrie says he relates to Lear’s character more than ever.

“We last did King Lear as a company in 1999, but at that time in the planning of it I’d asked the late Brian Glover to do it,” says Barrie.

“I was going to play the fool, shave my head and take him off as I used to do quite readily.

“But then Brian got this awful brain cancer that killed him - you don’t get another Brian Glover - and it just made sense at the time for me to do it,” he says.

“I know I was too young, but there were things in the production in which I was particularly pleased - it’s good to now be older and have another go at it.”

Renowned theatre director Jonathan Miller - the man behind the critically-acclaimed Northern Broadsides production Rutherford & Son - has created the staging for the play.

“Two years ago we did Rutherford with Jonathan Miller directing and it was a big success,” says Barrie.

“He wanted to do another play with us - he was champing at the bit to do another one, bless him.

“I suggested that we did a Shakespeare and he suggested that we did King Lear because it’s the one he knew best having done it four or five times.

“The play’s also my favourite and he told me that he thought I’d make a very good Lear, so it was a no-brainer.”

And Miller’s flair for psychological insights will add an extra dimension to Lear’s distressing mental illness.

“Lear descends into hallucinatory dementia and sheer, sheer depression - he’s never been in this situation, ever,” says Barrie.

“He certainly didn’t envisage this, and he certainly didn’t envisage his eldest daughter saying ‘no’ to what seems to him a very simple request. And the consequences are that he finds himself without anything.

“So when he sees the nearly naked man, he says ‘that’s all man is - a poor, bare, forked animal’ and through his madness he realises what he hasn’t done as a king. Similiarly Gloucester, through his blindness, sees the light of day,” he says.

“The investigation of mental disorders are really in the spotlight in a big way now.

“And with Jonathan Miller’s forensic mind observing it, he pays Shakespeare great reward for spotting it,” he says.

“Shakespeare didn’t quite know what he was spotting, but he knew what it was in terms of people’s behaviour.”

The play continues Northern Broadsides’ no-nonsense approach to theatre, with simple set design, simple costumes and good, honest Yorkshire accents.

“It’s about capturing the sort of alacrity of speech and people talking to each other - sometimes angrily, sometimes lovingly - but nevertheless, people talking to each other,” says Barrie.

“That’s something that Jonathan has really encouraged us to do so that it’s not arch or super-poetic, as it were.

“The staging is very simple indeed. Don’t forget we’re the only big touring company that goes to so many different shaped theatres, so you can’t design for every single one and we’re forever chopping and changing.

“There is a hint of costume of 1605 without a fundamental, full-blown production of 1605 - everything hints towards it because the play was written at a time when the nation was about to get rid of king and indeed kill him.”

Barrie was awarded the OBE as part of this year’s New Year’s Honours List.

“As with anything like that, you can’t really say no to them - hopefully, I’ll be able to use it for the company,” he says. “For myself, well, you dine out on it now and again, don’t you?”

“I’m hoping to take my three daughters to the palace when I get the investiture - so it will be King Lear and his three daughters in the palace with Queen Elizabeth.”

Northern Broadsides’ production of King Lear will be performed at the Viaduct Theatre, Halifax, from February 27 to March 7, before embarking on a 16-week national tour.

Follow: HxCourierJon

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Health: People's Commission urges health reform

An extraordinary meeting of Calderdale Council saw the official unveiling of the People’s Commission on Healthcare’s report on local health and social care provision.

The 32-page document entitled Improving Healthcare Together offers 15 recommendations for local health providers and commissioners, including calls to restructure the debt at Calderdale Royal Hospital, for patients to be put before finances and for health bosses to work more closely with the council’s Health and Wellbeing Board.

The council meeting, held at Halifax Town Hall, heard from the Commission’s independent chair Professor Andrew Kerslake (pictured) of Oxford Brookes University who spoke to the full council and members of the public about the report’s findings.

Prof Kerslake told the meeting: “We always have a tendency to hark back to a golden age - however the days of a gruff but kindly GP as in Dr Finlay’s Casebook is about as close to the current health service as Dixon of Dock Green is to modern policing.

“We all know that times have changed - surgery, medicines, equipment and techniques have all advanced dramatically,” he said.

“The level of healthcare we have now wasn’t available 25 years ago, but of course all that comes with a pricetag.”

He told the meeting that we have a health service that is very good at keeping people alive, but that seriously ill patients’ quality of life has not seen much improvement for a long period of time.

He said that this is likely to get more pronounced as the number of elderly people living in Calderdale increases over the coming decades.

“Calderdale currently has 9,200 people aged 80 and over, by 2030 there will be 15,400 - that’s a 60 per cent increase in the number of people aged 80 and over,” he said.

“Emergency hospital admissions by people over 65 have increased year-on-year since 2001 by around 46 per cent.

“If the rate of growth continues, I can’t see any political party proposing to spend the amount of money that would take.

“At some point we’ll have to address how we can reduce demand rather than pretend we can always beat it.”

He said that the proposals presented by the Trust in its Outline Business Case “simply didn’t add up.”

“The financial modelling is unconvincing; it outlines problems at the start of the document, but does not show how it would resolve those issues; it says that planned care will require far fewer beds, but no data is presented extrapolating current planned care over how many bed-days are needed at that hospital,” he said.

“We agree with the Clinical Commissioning Group that other options need to be explored, they need to be evidenced and they need to be presented.”

He explained that many of the issues facing accident and emergency departments, both locally and nationally, are that there are too many gaps in out-of-hours health provision, or that patients are unaware of the services available to them locally.

“Up to a third of A&E patients could have been dealt with elsewhere, but the critical word here is ‘could’,” he said.

“Few people go to A&E because it makes a good outing.

“However, if you have a condition which you feel requires treatment now and other services are not available - or people believe the services are not available, which is equally important - then you will turn up at the one service that is 24 hours a day,” he said.

He recommended that elected councillors should take a leading role in bringing together the various organisations with a stake in local health and social care provision.

“The Health and Wellbeing Board is the right body to bring together all these organisations in the health and care sector and can ensure that any decisions made are evidence-based and take forward the recommendations of the Commission,” he said.


The recommendations put forward by the People’s Commission were debated by members of the three main political groups on Calderdale Council.

The debate focused chiefly on the £10 million annual debt generated by the Private Finance Initiative (PFI) deal drawn up to fund the building of Calderdale Royal Hospital which opened its doors to patients in April 2001.

When the debt is paid off in 2061, the hospital trust will have paid £770 million for a building which cost £64 million to build.

Coun James Baker (Lib Dem, Warley) told the meeting: “We’re going to pay about 12-times what that hospital cost to build - it is essentially the ‘pay-day loan’ of public finance.

“We need to examine ways which we as a council can work with the NHS to try and restructure that debt.

“That £10 million a year debt is eye-watering, and the hospital shouldn’t be placed under that burden,” he said.

Coun Jenny Lynn (Lab, Park) said: “It may very well be that the question of finance has taken an overbearing role in some of the decisions that have been made.
“We’re certainly against being locked into a PFI contract which has crippling interest charges.”
Coun Adam Wilkinson (Lab, Sowerby Bridge), told the meeting that he would have liked to have seen the role of community pharmacists highlighted more in the report’s recommendations.

“Pharmacists have a big role to play in public health initiatives and can help stop people smoking, cut down on alcohol and tackle obesity,” he said.

“I’d like to see the Health and Wellbeing Board do more to acknowledge the role of pharmacies - I think it’s time we gave community pharmacy a seat on the Health and Wellbeing Board.”

Coun Janet Battye (Lib Dem, Calder) praised the work of the People’s Commission as an example of how councillors across the political spectrum can work together and said she was pleased to see the work of the Health and Wellbeing Board being placed at the heart of the report’s recommendations.

She said: “It’s important that the health providers work with us - we’re the elected representatives of local people and together we need to do our best for local people.”

Coun Barry Collins (Lab, Illingworth and Mixenden) said: “When the NHS Trust brought forward its proposals, I think the response across Calderdale was partly disbelief and partly despair.

“We wanted to give a voice to the local people who just felt it was a done deal and we wanted to examine the Trust’s case,” he said.

“I think the report is quite unequivocal - there must be a local hospital, and there must be emergency services in some form or another.”

Coun Geraldine Carter (Con, Ryburn) reflected on the six month process of the People’s Commission which saw the panel members meeting health bosses, patients and campaigners over a series of meetings, public forums and on-site visits to hospitals and care homes.

“This was groundbreaking work - we started this process with absolutely no remit whatsoever - there’s nothing in law to say we were allowed to do what we were doing,” she said.

“There’s nothing in law that says the council can start investigating the Trust, the CCG, NHS England, the mental health trust and the ambulance service - I think it hit them with a bit of a shock that we had the audacity to do that.

“What struck me very much was the difficulty we were presented with when we were being fobbed-off about seeing the Trust’s Outline Business Case.

“We didn’t see this document until we’d actually finished seeing everybody, so we weren’t able to delve into it like we wanted to.”

The recommendations of the People’s Commission’s Improving Health Together report were passed unanimously by the council and will be used to inform the work of the council’s Health and Wellbeing Board.


*** Changes are necessary to the health and social care system, but these changes should be right for the people of Calderdale.
*** Calderdale Health and Wellbeing Board should ensure that local health commissioners and providers work in partnership.
*** The Health and Wellbeing Board should invite health providers to join the board as members.
*** People with urgent, life-threatening conditions should have access to the best possible care.
*** People with urgent, but not life-threatening conditions should have local access to advice and treatment.
*** The current proposals for hospital reconfiguration should be abandoned and alternative proposals drawn-up.
*** The Trust should work to restructure the Private Finance Initiative (PFI) debt related to the construction of Calderdale Royal Hospital.
*** The system for financing health services should be the servant of service delivery, not its master.
*** Any reconfiguration plans should include a realistic travel analysis drawn in partnership between the ambulance service and public transport operators.
*** Community health services should have time to ‘bed-in’ so their benefits can be fully assessed before other services are withdrawn.
*** NHS England and Calderdale CCG should work together to ensure a consistent and high-quality GP service across the borough.
*** GPs should sign up to community health arrangements and be fully consulted on any hospital reconfiguration.
*** The Adults Health and Social Care Scrutiny Panel should assess the benefits of the Better Care Fund at least once a year.
*** The Adults Health and Social Care Scrutiny Panel should assess how well the council is fulfilling its statutory duties on health at least once a year.
*** The CCG and partners should run a high-profile campaign so people can have a say on options for future changes to health provision.

Follow: HxCourierJon

Monday, 16 February 2015

Politics: Labour MP Linda Riordan to stand down at next election

Halifax MP Linda Riordan is expected to announce her decision to stand down at the General Election later today.

Mrs Riordan informed her local Labour Party colleagues of her decision last night and a formal announcement is expected to follow today.

Halifax is one of the battleground seats in May’s election with Labour defending a majority of just 1,472 from 2010.

Leaving her decision until so close to election day means that the party nationally will be able to exert more control over who is selected to stand in the town.

Mrs Riordan said: “It is, after much thought, that I will be standing down as the town’s MP and I will not be contesting the forthcoming General Election campaign.

“It has been an incredibly tough decision to make. Over recent weeks and months my health, particularly my long-standing rheumatoid arthritis, has made it increasingly difficult to carry out the job as effectively as I would like. I think this decision is the best one for the people of Halifax and the constituency.

“I don’t want to go into a vital General Election campaign knowing that I can’t give that campaign the energy and commitment it needs.

“I would like to thank Halifax residents for putting their trust in me to serve two terms as MP. I would also like to thank local Labour Party Members who have supported me over the last decade. Finally, I also want to say how grateful I have been for the hard work of my staff, past and present, who have been committed, loyal and dedicated.

“Over the next few weeks I will continue to represent constituents to the best of my ability. There are some big issues and challenges ahead for the town. Not least, the ongoing campaign to save Calderdale Royal Hospital A & E from closure. I will go on speaking out on that and other issues that matter for communities across Halifax.

“It has been a real honour to have been Labour MP for the town I was born, grew up in and have always lived in.

“I wish the Labour Party, Halifax Constituency Labour Party and the next Labour candidate for Halifax every success in the forthcoming General Election campaign. It is vital for Halifax that we have a Labour MP and a Labour Government elected in May. I will give whoever is selected Labour candidate for the election campaign my full backing and support.”

Coun Tim Swift, leader of the Labour group on Calderdale Council, said: “I was shocked and sad to hear that Linda had decided to stand down due to her health.

“Her many friends and colleagues in the party and beyond will know this will have been a tough decision for her to take.

“We are grateful for the way she has campaigned strongly against the coalition’s health and welfare policies locally, and we’ll all be working together to make sure Halifax continues to be a strong Labour seat.”

Martin Burton, secretary of Halifax Labour, said: “Linda has been a hard-working and diligent constituency MP for ten years.

“She has been a fantastic representative for Halifax.

“There are thousands of constituents across the town who will be grateful for the problems and issues she has sorted for them.”

Josh Fenton-Glynn, Labour PPC for Calder Valley, said: “She’s been a very good advocate, fighting for and campaigning for the things that matter to people in Halifax.

“From her key role in the A&E campaign, to defending Calderdale’s Sure Start centre - people are going to remember her very fondly for that.”

Coun Dave Draycott (Lab, Sowerby Bridge) said: “This is a sad day but I fully respect and understand Linda’s decision.

“She has always been a great campaigner on many issues, not least the ongoing fight to save the A&E from closure.

“She has been a strong, passionate and committed representative for Halifax.”

Jago Parker, chair of Halifax Labour, said: “Halifax Constituancy Labour Party is proud of Linda’s record as MP, in particular her commitment to peace, championing equality and a fairer society.

“She has been a tireless defender of the founding principles of the NHS, welfare state and trade union rights.

“Linda has been an excellent constituency MP and socialist campaigner.

“We wish her well for the future.”

Philip Allott, Conservative PPC for Halifax, said: “I wish Linda well in her life out of politics, she has done some good work for Halifax over the years, but I think it’s time for me to take up the sword and represent the people of Halifax.”

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

Follow: HxCourierJon

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Reportage: Work begins on primary building

Work has begun on a new primary school building to create Calderdale’s first through-school at Halifax Academy.

The official ground-breaking ceremony took place this week and keys to the site were handed over to contractors.

Lesley Bowyer, head teacher of the primary school, said: “We’re here for the groundbreaking ceremony for the new school - it’s a really important milestone for our school and the local community.

“The first cohort of students have reacted very well to being the first primary class in the school, and the secondary students have been very welcoming. They’re excited to have primary students here as well.

“The young students who were four-years-old when they started accept that it is a very special event and take pride in their school.”

The current reception class will move through the school until its students complete their final exams in 2026.

Coun Martin Burton (Lab, Warley) said: “I think it’s a good opportunity for the community - it’s providing much-needed primary school places.

“The project has been a great success when you consider that there was strong opposition to the establishment of a new school here.

“There were all these objections because of the heritage of the site - what we’ve got now is that the site is still here, it’s still got its historical perspective and you’ve got a well-established, successful secondary school.

“And now we’ve got a primary school being added to this, so it’s a win, win, win.”

Chris Duignan, project manager of the construction, said: “There will be a two-storey primary school with a sports hall, playground and fencing to keep the key stages separate.”

The school is due to be completed in December with the school opening to pupils in January 2016.

Follow: HxCourierJon

Saturday, 14 February 2015

Reportage: Todmorden Market roof repairs passed

Todmorden Market will get a share of a half-a-million-pound fund to repair historic buildings across Calderdale.

Initially, the council highlighted four buildings in Halifax in need of repairs - North Bridge Leisure Centre, Victoria Theatre, Halifax Borough Market and Bankfield Museum.

On Monday, however, Calderdale Council’s Cabinet voted to amend the proposals to give Todmorden Market a share of the cash - although how much cash has not yet been finalised.

The Conservative-led Cabinet’s budget proposals have been criticised by the Liberal Democrat group on Calderdale Council, who want to see the full £500,000 used to improve the borough’s markets.

Coun Janet Battye, leader of the Liberal Democrat group on the council, said: “We want to see £500,000 spent on Calderdale Council’s markets, rather than the vague ‘historic and cultural buildings’ mentioned in the Cabinet budget proposals.

“The Halifax Borough Market may be the jewel of our markets, but it’s in a sorry state, as is Todmorden market - Calderdale is a place of ‘market towns’ and we want to see investment in them.”

The Labour group has also put forward proposals to improve Todmorden Market through an Investment Fund.

Coun Tim Swift, leader of the Labour group on the council, said: “It will ensure that we are able to start tackling problems in some of our most important buildings and facilities.

“This means we can start on the work of protecting vital buildings such as the Victoria Theatre, and the Halifax Borough Market and Todmorden Market Hall,” he said.

Follow: HxCourierJon

Monday, 9 February 2015

Health: People’s Commission slams hospital deal

The “eye-watering” debt at Calderdale Royal Hospital has “driven decision-making”, an inquiry into local NHS services has concluded.

Among its 15 recommendations, the report by Calderdale Council’s People’s Commission into Healthcare has urged health bosses to restructure Calderdale Royal’s £10 million annual PFI debt which is set to continue for another 46 years.

The document recommends that “the system for financing health services should be the servant of service delivery not the master.”

The report recognises that “no change to the health and social care system is not an option”, but recommends that all changes “must be right for the people of Calderdale”.

The report recommends that Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust reconsider its plans for hospital reconfiguration which includes plans to downgrade our A&E department.

Linda Riordan, Labour MP for Halifax, said: “This is another powerful case for keeping the A&E as it is, where it is - I have always said there isn’t one clinical argument for closing the A&E.

“The report exposes the complete folly of even attempting to close the A&E. Sadly, this out of touch Government refuses to listen and is still ‘ruling nothing out’.

“Halifax residents want closure ruled out for good, not just ruled out for now.

“It’s time the decision-makers stopped lecturing and started listening.”

Alisdair Calder McGregor, Liberal Democrat PPC for Calder Valley, said: “Labour’s private finance deal, which costs the NHS Foundation Trust £10 million every year, will run until 2061 and has already cost twice the actual value of the hospital building.”

Philip Allott, Conservative PPC for Halifax. said: ”The Trust directors who drew up this collosal PFI should be called to account.”

Paul Rogan, UKIP PPC for Calder Valley, said: “Many will question if council taxpayers’ resources have been well spent trying to do somebody else’s job.

“If the council thinks it can do a better job of managing the NHS than the healthcare professionals, perhaps they should do a swap and let the NHS administer parking charges in Halifax?”

A spokesperson for Calderdale Clinical Commissioning Group said: “We welcome the recommendations from the Commission’s latest report, which we will consider in more detail as part of our own robust approach to ensuring local people have their say on the future of health services.”

Follow: HxCourierJon

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Politics: Nestlé jobs boost praised by Chancellor

The Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne was in town yesterday for the announcement of a jobs boost at Nestlé’s Halifax site.

The confectioners will be investing £5.2 million in the production of Butterfinger Peanut Butter Cups for exportation to the US market, creating 45 new jobs in the town.

Mr Osborne said that if the Conservatives were in Government following the General Election in May, 100,000 more jobs will be greated across the Yorkshire region by 2020.

He said that he wanted to “re-balance the economy” by investing in the region’s transport infrastructure.

Mr Osborne said Yorkshire was a vital part of his plans for a Northern powerhouse.
“We want a truly national economic recovery,” he added. “The evidence is that this is happening,” he said.
“Yorkshire is growing and creating jobs and on many measures doing so more quickly than the rest of the country. Now we need to sustain this and remove the decades old North and South divide.

“That is why the Prime Minister and I are here setting out how we will build a Northern powerhouse.”

Speaking at the Nestle factory Mr Osborne said: “This is a fantastic investment in Halifax and it is an example of a UK company producing products for export.”

Linda Riordan, Labour MP for Halifax, said:“I welcome this investment and the new jobs that will be created in the town.

“Nestlé has a hard-working and dedicated local workforce, which is extremely well represented by the Trade Unions.

“ It’s a welcome boost that Nestlé continue to invest and expand the Halifax site, which is a key part of our local economy.”

Mr Osborne was in Halifax as part of a tour of Yorkshire with the Prime Minister David Cameron.

Halifax is a key battleground seat for any party hoping to have a majority Government after the General Election.

Follow: HxCourierJon

Court: Mixenden man attacked girlfriend in the street

A 23-year-old man who assaulted his girlfriend on a Halifax street has been convicted at Calderdale Magistrate Court for assault by beating.

Joshua Jowett of Jumples Court, Mixenden, admitted grabbing his girlfriend around the throat outside The Barum Top Inn on Powell Street, Halifax, last July.

Prosecutor Lisa Beadle told the court that a doorman at the pub said the victim was “crying and distressed” and ran across the street to intervene. Ms Beadle told the court that Jowett had been convicted in 2012 and cautioned in 2013 for assaults against the same victim.

Chair of Magistrates John Bassinder told Jowett: “You completed a safer relationship programme last time you were before this court.

“If there are any further offences of this nature, the court will not take such a lenient view.”

He added: “Assaults like this always leave a mark on a partner - not just physically but mentally.”

Jowett was handed a 24-month community order and was ordered to pay a £50 fine, £85 costs and a £60 victim surchage.

Follow: HxCourierJon

Saturday, 7 February 2015

Reportage: Council sorry for delays in bin collection

Concerns have been raised that some residents across north Halifax and Todmorden have not had their rubbish collected in over three weeks.

Residents in areas of Illingworth, Mixenden, Ovenden and Todmorden have seen delays to their refuse collection following a backlog resulting from recent snow.

Coun Barry Collin (Lab, Illindworth and Mixenden), said: “Once the snow came last week, the waste collection service in large parts of north Halifax just seemed to collapse.

“Poor operational decisions were made, resulting in missed collections in Mixenden, Ovenden and, especially, Illingworth.

“It’s time the council’s Conservative leadership began holding its contractors to account.”
Mark Thompson, head of housing at the council, said: “Additional vehicles and crews have been working hard this week to catch up on refuse collections that were missed last week due to snow and ice.

“Any uncollected waste will continue to be taken throughout the remainder of this week, with crews working on Saturday. Any excess waste will be taken at the time of collection.

"All recycling materials will be collected on their next due collection day. We anticipate that all services will be back to schedule from Monday February 9.

“We apologise to residents affected by the disruption.”

Follow: HxCourierJon

Court: Man who spat in face of police officer convicted of assault

A 27-year-old man who spat in the face of a police officer has been convicted of assault at Calderdale Magistrates Court.

Tony Reynolds of Surrey Street, Halifax, admitted verbally abusing and spitting in the face of Sgt Daniel Watson in November last year.

Reynolds became agitated and committed the assault when he was arrested at his home for a charge that was later found to be a false allegation.

Prosecutor Lisa Beadle told the court that Reynolds had 41 previous convictions, including eight assaults, on his record.

Chair of Magistrates John Bassinder told Reynolds: “The actual assault of spitting is taken extremely seriously by the courts. Spitting is particularly distressing for victims - it’s a very nasty form of assault.”

Reynolds said: “I’ve messed up, I know I’ve messed and I’m really sorry.”

Mr Bassinder handed Reynolds a 12-month community order and ordered him to pay £100 compensation 
to the victim and £210 in costs.

Follow: HxCourierJon

Friday, 6 February 2015

Court: Christmas Day assault

A 52-year-old man who attacked and choked his partner on Christmas Day has been convicted of assault at Calderdale Magistrates Court.

Prosecutor Lisa Beadle told the court that Clinton Nicklin of Russell Street, Todmorden, attacked his partner after tensions escalated on December 25, 2014.

Ms Beadle said Nicklin pushed his partner to the floor and began kicking her on her left thigh. Nicklin punched her arm and pushed a cushion hard against her face, telling her he wanted her to die. He slapped her hard across the face and held her around the throat before their grown-up son intervened.

Ms Beadle added: “It happened very quickly and it was very violent.”

Chair of Magistrates John Bassinder told Nicklin: “This was a nasty assault - hopefully you will be able to see that nothing like this ever happens again.”

Nicklin was handed a 12 month supervision order and ordered to pay a £75 fine, £85 costs and a £60 victim surcharge.

Follow: HxCourierJon

Thursday, 5 February 2015

Politics: UKIP candidate kicks off valley tour in Brighouse

Paul Rogan, UKIP’s parliamentary candidate for Calder Valley, has kicked off his tour of pubs and clubs across the Calder Valley in Brighouse.

Mr Rogan will give speeches on different aspects of UKIP policy in the towns and villages throughout the Calder Valley.

In his first speech Mr Rogan addressed the Brighouse Forward Partnership in Clifton.

He drew parallels between Britain’s struggle against the Roman Empire in the First Century AD and Britain’s current relationship with the European Union.

He said: “If you want a referendum on the EU, vote UKIP. If you feel immigration is too high and must be addressed, vote UKIP.

“If you are not overly concerned about these two matters, UKIP is probably not the party for you.”

He added that UKIP is a party fighting for to take power away from career politicians.

He said: “It’s about taking power away from the Westminster elite and bringing democracy back to the man and woman in the street.

“The People’s Army is against cronyism, corruption and elitist politicians and that is another reason to support what UKIP is fighting for - a fairer and more democratic Britain.”

“All we ask is a ‘small step’ from the individual by putting your cross on a ballot paper for UKIP - this will make a ‘giant leap’ for Great Britain. Believe and it will happen,” he said.

Follow: HxCourierJon

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Politics: MPs slammed for 'fracking bill' vote

Anti-fracking campaigners have slammed local MPs for ignoring the council’s calls for a ‘frack-free Calderdale’.

This week MPs passed the contoversial Infrastructure Bill which strips land owners and local authorities of the right to have a say on the underground drilling of shale gas.

Last month the council passed a motion to keep the drillers out of Calderdale, but the new legislation will supercede this ruling.

The bill was backed by Conservative MP for Calder Valley Craig Whittaker, and Labour MP for Halifax Linda Riordan abstained from voting.

Alisdair McGregor, Lib Dem parliamentary candidate for Calder Valley said: “The public have a right to know why the Labour Party refused te back a complete moratorium on fracking.

“Their own motion had such minor concessions that the Tories readily accepted it - it isn’t a real safeguard against the environmental damage fracking will cause.”

Anti-fracking campaigner Helen Chuntso said: “Residents have now lost their right to prevent drilling and waste being dumped beneath their homes.

“The local MP has ignored the will of the elected representatives and we are now required by law to allow Calderdale to be used as a commodity for gas extraction.”

Follow: HxCourierJon

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Reportage: Calderdale schools best in West Yorkshire

The league tables for Calderdale’s high schools reveal a decline in pass rates and a huge disparity between the best and worst performers.

The majority of secondary schools in the district saw the level of pupils achieving five good GCSEs, including English and maths fall, after a major shake up of the examination system.

The level of students getting to the GCSE benchmark of five A* to C grades across Calderdale fell from 65.7 per cent in last year’s tables to 60 per cent.

Pass rates have fallen across Yorkshire and the country.

Despite falling five per cent Calderdale’s figure was still better than any other district across the West Yorkshire region.

Only two schools across Calderdale saw their GCSE pass rate improve on last year’s results.

The biggest improvement was at Rastrick High which went from 61 per cent of pupils achieving five good GCSEs including English and maths in the 2013 exams to 73 per cent in the latest figures.

It was the highest ranked comprehensive school in the district.

Steve Evans, headteacher at Rastrick High School, said: “It validates the incredible hard work that the staff have put in - certainly since my headship began in September 2013 - and also the dedication to learning of our fantastic students.

“We have an ethos which is built around having successes we can achieve and that competitive spirit is really bearing fruit now and I think it’s seen in those fantastic results.”

Halifax’s two selective grammar schools were again the highest ranked overall. The Crossley Heath School saw all of its 16-year-old pupils achieving five A* to C GCSEs including English and maths while North Halifax Grammar had 92 per cent of its students achieve this.

Crossley Heath in Halifax was second on the table for schools across the north of England and 36th across the rest of the country.

The biggest fall was at Park Lane Learning Trust at Exley which saw the number of pupils making the grade fall from 59 per cent to 29 per cent.

How your school fared

Crossley Heath : 100 per cent of 155 eligible students.
North Halifax Grammar: 92 per cent of 156 eligible students.
Rastrick High : 73 per cent of 230 eligible students.
Brighouse High : 68 per cent of 213 eligible students.
Hipperholme Grammar: 67 per cent of 45 eligible students.
Rastrick Independent School: 63 per cent of eight eligible students.
Ryburn Valley High : 59 per cent of 234 eligible students.
Trinity Academy: 59 per cent of 273 eligible students.
Brooksbank School: 57 per cent of 276 eligible students.
Rishworth School: 55 per cent of 65 eligible students.
Calder High: 52 per cent of 231 eligible students.
Todmorden High: 51 per cent of 129 eligible students.
Hipperholme and Lightcliffe: 48 per cent of 233 eligible students.
Halifax High: 48 per cent of 157 eligible students.
Sowerby Bridge High: 46 per cent of 175 eligible students.
Park Lane Learning Trust: 29 per cent of 108 eligible students.

*Table shows percentage of eligible students that achieved five or more A* to C grades including English and Maths.

Follow: HxCourierJon

Sunday, 1 February 2015

Health: Hospital trust told to balance its books by regulator

Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Trust must take urgent steps to improve its financial position and the performance of its board, following an investigation by Monitor.

The health sector regulator found that the Trust’s board of directors could have done more to prevent the financial problems from arising.

The Trust has agreed to appoint an independent turnaround director, develop a credible plan to improve its finances, and commission a review of how well the board leads the organisation.

Paul Chandler, regional director at Monitor, said: “The Trust’s financial position is very serious and projections show it could get worse over the coming months.

“We have acted on behalf of patients and the Trust will now take steps to balance its books and to improve how the Board provides leadership.

“We expect the Trust to make improvements quickly for its patients and we will be keeping a close eye on its performance to make sure these problems don’t happen again.”

The regulator will continue to scrutinise the trust’s performance as it takes the steps needed and will take further action if required.

Coun Tim Swift, leader of the Labour group on Calderdale Council, has criticised the move. He said: “We are very concerned about what this could mean for local services.

“This is precisely why we proposed a motion at the last full council calling for emergency financial help for the Trust from central Government, and warned that Monitor’s intervention must not be an excuse for pushing through changes to hospital reconfiguration which are not supported by evidence or backed by the public.”

Follow: HxCourierJon