Senior Calderdale councillors will be asked to approve plans which will cut services in order to save almost £2 million a year from the authority’s budget.
The cost-cutting plan will affect waste and recycling services, subsidised school buses, libraries, museums and public buildings, and consultation on possible job losses or redeployments.
Proposals – described as “difficult” choices and decisions – include options to close two of Calderdale Council’s five household waste recycling centres or reduce opening hours, to move to a three-weekly refuse collection and fortnightly recycling, and to increase concessionary fares on subsidised school buses.
If approved by Cabinet next Monday (October 5), phase one of delivering The Future Council, plans developed through the summer to combat budget deficits exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic, will be implemented.
The report also proposes closing community libraries at Greetland, Hipperholme, Mytholmroyd, Skircoat and Southowram and integrating Mixenden library into the new Mixenden hub.
In order to retain Ripponden Library improved usage of the building should be explored with Ripponden Parish Council, a similar situation applying at Stainland library with the community and parish council and Shelf’s library to be considered alongside plans for the future of the village hall which houses it.
Halifax Central Library and hub libraries at Brighouse, Elland, Hebden Bridge, Sowerby Bridge and Todmorden will be retained and are likely to house more services, for example the council’s Customer First advice service.
Moving Customer First services to hub libraries for face-to-face appointments will mean the main Horton Street, Halifax, Customer First centre will remain closed, with online or telephone services developed during the pandemic continuing.
Savings will affect public buildings – although Grade I listed Todmorden Town Hall will be retained as a key cultural and civic asset which will play a part in driving regeneration, the futures of Clay House at Greetland, Brighouse Civic Hall and Shelf Village Hall are less clear cut.
The plan recommends the latter buildings be offered for communities and voluntary organisations to be responsible for their use and upkeep, but if this is not forthcoming they will remain closed after the pandemic and ultimately their sale considered.
Although Shibden Hall, Halifax, and Bankfield Museum, Halifax, are recommended for retention, Heptonstall Museum is not likely to re-open in the short term, according to the report.
The council’s Deputy Leader, Clr Jane Scullion (Lab, Luddenden Foot), said the council was facing its worst ever financial position due to Covid-19 on top of pre-existing budget pressures from before the pandemic.
“The compensation coming from the government does not match the real costs of tackling the consequences of the virus.
“This is forcing us to make extremely tough decisions.
“However, we have also learned many valuable lessons about how we can deliver services more efficiently and effectively, and how people are changing the way they access services.
“We now have an opportunity to use that learning, and the talent and enterprise of our staff and communities, to build our resilience as we move towards a redesigned Future Council.
“Some services will be no doubt be different, but this will be vital to reach a sustainable financial position for the council as part of the Covid-19 recovery process, and to ensure we can keep supporting those most in need,” she said.
Like many councils up and down the country, Calderdale Council has been struggling to balance its books as funding from national
Government has decreased over the past decade and reserves used to support services rather than cutting them have dwindled.
The Covid-19 pandemic has led to loss of income from key money-makers including sports and leisure and parking, while both Council
Tax and Business Rate receipts are also seriously impacted.
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After stripping out Government support which has been given to combat some losses caused by the pandemic, the council is likely to have to find around £15 million of savings in 2021-22, with many of them likely to save money on an ongoing annual basis, according to the report to Cabinet members asked to approve the plans.
Services which are affected are ones which the council does not have to provide by law – but are also ones which many of the public will use.
Further reports on further phases of The Future Council operating model will be considered by Cabinet in the months ahead, starting in November, and Cabinet members have been told that to get the benefit of a full first year of savings some of these changes need to be implemented before the full council sets next year’s budget at the end of February.
Cabinet’s meeting next Monday, October 5, will be held virtually via the council’s YouTube channel from 6pm.