Councillor Andrew Cooper –Annual Report 2011
This has been my twelfth year as one of your local Councillors and almost certainly one of the busiest I can remember. Much of the beginning of 2011 was dedicated to the Kirklees Council budget as we grappled with the £80 million of cuts imposed on Kirklees by the Coalition Government. I spent hours in budget meetings going over proposals to come up with a solution which did not result in huge cuts to adult social care. In the end I and my Green Party colleagues were not prepared to vote for the Kirklees budget as a matter of conscience and principle. We could not vote for a budget which saw care for older people reduced from £52 million to around £40 million over the next 4 years and Day Care Services to drop from £5.3 million to £1.5 million and all this at a time when the demand for these services is likely to rise. All this is happening at a time when the banks are seemingly unscathed, benefits are being cut and services are disappearing all around us.
Planning was also a major item for me in this Council year. I was the only Councillor, not on the Planning Committee to speak against the proposed Tesco development to be built on the site of the current Sports Centre. Bizarrely many of the Councillors on the Planning Committee had huge reservations but ended up voting for it. Could it have been anything to do with the ‘bung’ Kirklees were getting from Tesco to build a new Sports Centre at Springwood? Also last month I attended and spoke at the Public Enquiry into the Tesco Planning Decision along with Barry Sheerman MP who spoke in favour of the Planning Decision being overturned.
Another key big issue this year was changes to planning policy both at the national and local level. The Coalition Government has introduced a new National Planning Policy Framework which in a nutshell makes it easier for developers to build on greenfield sites. I have spoke out regarding this issue at a number of meetings including a well attended one at Hall Bower Chapel. I have also used links with the Local Government Association to get some direct input into the Conservative Minister responsible Eric Pickles MP. As things stand I don’t anticipate much change. At the Kirklees level we have the Local Development Framework which will contain the policies which guide where housing will and will not be developed working with Julie and Graham we are continuing to press hard on the Labour led Council not to allocate greenfield land for development we have particularly mentioned land adjacent to New Laithe Hill and Jackroyd Lane on a number of occasions. We’ll keep people updated with developments.
I was particularly pleased this year to welcome Green Party leader Caroline Lucas MP to Huddersfield. She spoke at a meeting in February in the Hudawi Centre about her work as an MP and the impact of government cuts.
The Newsome Ward continues to be a national beacon for renewable energy and I was able to help Newsome South Methodist Church with sourcing funding to get solar panels installed on their roof. The Church did a lot of fund raising itself and the panels will help them save electricity costs and provide funds to keep this well used community building going.
When I first started knocking on doors in Newsome in 1993 I took up the issue of traffic calming on Hangingstone Road Berry Brow. This year we finally got the funding sorted out. I asked the Highways Engineer leading the project how old he was in 1993 and he told me he was just 5! In the end the real success of this was local people getting together to put their case strongly to Kirklees with me as local councillor providing help and guidance.
I continue to be a strong supporter of the Growing Newsome project and I share an allotment in Primrose Hill where I’ve grown food now for the last couple of years. I‘m especially pleased that the Stirley Farm project is up and running to support local food initiatives and it now has its own cattle in addition to its vegetable and fruit growing activities. It is important that the green land around the area is worked and useful to protect it from those would see it as ripe development land but it is also a great project in its own right and lots of local people are getting involved.
One issue which has affected a great number of people in the Ward has been Labour’s proposed £30 charge for permit parking. Many people in Aspley, Highfields and Springwood are on low or fixed incomes and even though many don’t have, or can’t afford, a car they are able to offer visitors, carers and relatives a car parking space. This proposed charge is effectively a £30 increase on the Council Tax for people who are generally on lower incomes. I have been very vocal on this issue in Council and have asked for an equalities impact assessment to be carried out on this decision.
I was originally a sceptic but now have a ‘blog’ www.greeningkirklees.blogspot.com which is basically an online diary of my views and opinions on things affecting the Newsome Ward and Kirklees in general. Again I was sceptical about Twitter but now I am an avid user of it. If you want to ‘follow’ me I’m at @clrandrewcooper
My New Year will begin as it did last year driving Newsome’s New Years Day Bus Service. This is now in it’s 19th year and thanks to everyone who helps with and uses this service.
I wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.