Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Andrew Cooper - Budget Speech to Kirklees Council

This is not a fantasy amendment. There are no bridges striding majestically across the Colne Valley as in the Lib Dem Amendment. There is no ‘make believe’ building where Huddersfield Library will move into as in the Conservative Amendment.

What all the amendments cannot do is fix the impact that Government cuts will have on Adult Social care. We can seek to limit the impact of cuts. What we need from Central Government is funding for free adult social care as a right in the UK. It should be a human right and the mark of a civilized society in the 5th or 6th richest country in the world.

What our amendment does is recognise the cards we have been dealt with by the Lib Dem/ Conservative Coalition Government and seeks to find to find positive actions that we can take using the power we have.

We have spoken to the Administration about our proposals because if we didn’t then these amendments that we have submitted would be nothing more than posturing. Posturing amendments put forward with no expectation of implementation. The Lib Dem and Conservative Amendments are put forward by parties that cower away from responsibility. These are Parties that, I guess want votes but don’t want to do anything with power if they are given it.

Greens and Valley Independents have already put real time and effort into protecting our Libraries. Not though a fantasy fix. Not an  attempt to hoodwink voters like the Tories with a non-existent magic bullet but concrete proposals built on time and effort and I have tremendous respect for my colleagues who have worked so hard and with real commitment working towards a more secure future for our local libraries.

We are proposing a workable alternative to food banks. So food banks will be there for immediate and emergency cases but for ongoing support low income householders will be able to get food at a third the retail price for a 6 month period to help them get back on their feet. Not only that but they will receive a package of advice and support to help them improve their lives. This is not fantasy. This is reality. Myself and Councillor Julie Stewart-Turner went with Cabinet Members to ‘Community Shop’ in Goldthorpe near Barnsley. They take surplus food that would otherwise go to landfill and use it to help feed households who have some very difficult choices to make on a limited budget. The fact that they will be paying for it even at a discounted rate gives people back their dignity. It is not charity. To the Council this is a one off cost not an ongoing one but the benefits are numerous.

Building Services provide gas servicing and boiler replacements to tens of thousands of Council properties. There is nothing in law that would stop them operating in the private sector. So if you or I or any citizen of Kirklees wanted our boiler fixing or servicing why should we go to a company that is associated with one of the Big 6 Energy Suppliers for instance when Kirklees Council could provide that service for the same cost or better and use that money to support local services such as Adult Social Care.  This need not be at the expense of local SMEs. It could well be that Kirklees Building Services works in partnership with local companies to deliver services. We believe the indicated income figures are probably unduly conservative and no one wants to be unduly conservative.

The Coalition Government has caved in to the big housebuilders and as a result homes built will not be ‘Zero carbon homes’ as they are described but still cost over£1000/year to run in energy costs. Question is how do we deal with that lack of ambition from the ‘Greenest Government Ever’. We can set our own standards for homes built on Kirklees land that we own or as a condition of sale on land we sell. That is why the we propose using the internationally recognised ‘passivhaus’ standard for homes on Kirklees land Such homes would have energy bills of less than £100/ year. This would only mean that there was less money going to energy utilities but it would also mean more money going into the local economy.

We think there is merit in reviewing our electoral arrangements at Kirklees. We have General Elections every 5 years, Parish Council Elections every 4 years yet Kirklees Elections 3 out of 4 years. Other principal councils elect every 4 years such as London boroughs. This Council is in a constant state of warfare due to the practically constant electoral cycle operating. That isn’t good for the governance of this Council. It needs reviewing. My own view is that we should aim for an election in 2018 when all seats are up for elections and seek to bring forward the Parish Council elections so we begin working on a common cycle of local elections. There is a financial saving identified here but the benefits to the Council, its governance and the people we serve goes far beyond that.

There are acres of Kirklees owned disused and derelict land and also roofspace on Kirklees owned buildings. This is a resource which can generate not only energy from solar panels we propose a partnership with both companies and communities sharing the benefits of this funding with the Council. The revenue raised will help support local services.

Moving Kirklees mileage rates to HMRC rates was something I was lead to believe happened years ago and I was shocked when it hadn’t. So I am pleased to be able to move this amendment today.

So this is our amendment. We would like to do more. When we proposed an ‘All Party Shared Administration’ for Kirklees Cllr Palfreeman quoted the Fantasy author of Game of Thrones, George R R Martin. The quote he used was ‘Most men would rather deny a hard truth than face it.’  The Fantasy here is not mine it is yours. Closing and relocating Huddersfield Library – somewhere? Fantasy. Another famous quote from George R R Martin is ‘Winter is coming’ meaning hard times ahead. Hard times are coming for Kirklees and for many local councils and the people that we serve.  The hard truth is for the Tories is that if you don’t want the responsibility in these times then don’t ask for the votes.

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