A blog by Green Party Councillor Andrew Cooper about Kirklees Council and our activity to improve the local and global environment (and also anything that I fancy talking about)
Wednesday, 21 December 2011
Councillor Derek Hardcastle – 2011 Annual Report to Kirkburton Residents
Councillor Derek Hardcastle – 2011 Annual Report
This year has been one of the most challenging in my time as one of your local Councillors. We have had one of the toughest budget settlements the Council has ever had to face with central government slashing £80 million from Kirklees Council services over the next 4 years with no reduction in the Council Tax we have to pay. We have had the Local Development Framework which threatens green fields and spaces (and not just greenbelt) right across the district. It is against this background that the Green Party team have been continuing to take up issues at the Kirklees and Parish level.
In February this year the Green Party leader and MP for Brighton Pavillion visited Huddersfield and we held a well attended public meeting the evening before Kirklees Councils budget decision. I must say she is a real asset to our Party and has impressed many people with her insights into the actions of the government and the impacts of the cuts on ordinary families up and down the country.
In the Council Budget meeting the Green Party stood alone in opposing Council cuts to services for elderly and vulnerable people. The majority of the cuts fell on those in the greatest need. The budget for care for older people was slashed from £52 million to £40 million. Daycare services were cut from £5.3million to £1.5million. We believed as a matter of principle that to cut services for those who are in the direst circumstances is morally wrong particularly when the bankers who got us into this economic crisis seem to be able to continue to reap the same rewards as before. You don’t have to be a ‘socialist’ to see that this is wrong. The Green Party made these points strongly in the Kirklees Budget meeting in February and received a lot of abuse from the other Parties on the Council for making that stand. We still believe it was right that we spoke for those in most need. As it turned out some of the proposed cuts to day care services were withdrawn following a legal challenge which has at least brought respite for some people. What really annoys me is when cuts are characterised as ‘improvements’ to services. If we have to make cuts the least the Council can do is be upfront with people about the impacts on heir everyday lives.
This year was the end of my first 4 years as one of your Councillors and so I was up re-election in May. What I really enjoyed was getting round to seeing so many people in the run up to the election. It is a huge ward that stretches from Farnley Tyas to Flockton so we had a big area to get round. As usual it was a nail biting election count and I was re-elected by 82 votes but then I‘ve lost by 5 in the past so I was very pleased. I still can’t get used to the misinformation and half truths from my local opponents that I get during local campaigns. There were some very misleading statements about my attendance at meetings and dodgy montages of a wind turbine at Grange Moor (which I actually opposed at Planning Committee). All I can really say to people is that if you see some criticism of us in our opponents please don’t take it at face value please ring me or one of my colleagues and we’ll give you a straight story. Having said all that I found my Conservative opponent Amanda Shaw to be a pleasant and capable candidate and I’m sure she wasn’t responsible for much of the material in her leaflets.
The other elections that were held this year were those for the Parish Council and I was really pleased that the Green Party got the most votes and Parish seats of all the parties and that every village in the Kirkburton Ward has a Green representative. We are the only party that can make that claim. Our candidates topped the poll in Kirkburton/Highburton, Shepley, Grange Moor and Farnley Tyas and Thurstonland. Thank you to everyone who voted for us.
Of course the day to day role of a Councillor is taking up local issues. Here’s a small selection of the issues we’ve taken up this year:-
• Getting Moor Top Avenue resurfaced at Thurstonland
• Helping get funding for ‘The Hub’ at Kirkburton
• Helping get a new bench for Stocksmoor (then getting Kirklees to turn it round to face the right way!)
• Helping householders with planning advice for installing solar panels on their roofs
• New street lighting for Grange Moor on Bedford Avenue
There are issues which continue to frustrate me such as the need to get the footpath at Paddock Road in Kirkburton resurfaced. I must confess that it has been difficult to get this issue resolved been one voice among three local Councillors who don’t share my view on this. The other issue I really want to see progressed is traffic calming in Stocksmoor. We successfully worked with local people in Farnley Tyas and Thurstonland on their schemes now we need to get some impetus behind resolving issues in Stocksmoor. My Parish Colleagues Robert Barraclough and Andrew Cooper are helping me and liaising with the village association.
Wind turbines continues to be a concern for some householders and I and my Green Party colleagues have taken a balance approaching where we have opposed those that are poorly sited and intrusive and supported those that aren’t. I have opposed new turbines at Shelley and Grange Moor but supported 2 small turbines on farmland at Thurstonland. Sadly there was a rather political letter produced at Kirklees expense distributed in Thurstonland by the 2 Conservative Councillors on the subject of the wind turbines and the Green Party response to this. I have no objection to people putting their opinions in a leaflet and letter but no funded by the Council Tax. We have always taken the trouble to speak to the Thurstonland Village Association about local concerns and we had in this instance and I think actually talking through some of the issues we managed to address a number of concerns people had which were associated with much larger turbines.
My year will end very much like the last one. I will be driving a minibus on Boxing Day from Flockton to Grange Moor through Lepton and on to town. We have been running this free service for local people for 4 years now and I really enjoy it.
I am a Green Party Councillor on Kirklees Council and have been since May 1999. I was the Green Party Candidate for the General Election in the Huddersfield Parliamentary Constituency. I work in the energy efficiency/microgeneration sector and have done for the last 20 years or so.