The Inside the Council column with Labour Councillor Jane Scullion
It's always good to have the hope that things will get better and I think that is what we all feel at the start of January when we look ahead to the New Year and wish each other all the best for 2019.
There’s still time I think for me to be able to do just that through the columns of this paper to everyone who lives locally and is therefore part of our community.
There’s a strong human desire to make the future better than what’s been before, and that’s the hope which I would like to see us hold onto as we hit potentially turbulent political waters.
At the same time I’m very conscious that many people will struggle to find much to be optimistic about.
While as a society we have rewarded a tiny top elite in our country with eye-watering amounts of money (with some people taking home millions of pounds a year in bonuses) many other people have been treated shockingly. We seem no longer to understand that everyone benefits when we live in a fairer and more socially just society.
I hope that, like me, you want to have a council locally that looks after the most vulnerable and helps support strong communities but it’s really not easy to square the circle financially.
The current Government is deliberately limiting the supply of funds for councils and that means loading the financial burden more and more onto us locally. For example, the Government’s recently announced additional funding for police officers (which is, of course, very much needed) turns out to be just another amount which will be payable by local people rather than new money from central Government. You’ll be asked to pay it in the police part of the bill which comes with the Council Tax statement.
Why should we pay more locally when central Government are to blame?
Councils are really doing their best with the limited resources available to them and that means prioritising the statutory services (those we have, by law, to undertake), for example for children in care, vulnerable older people, the homeless and our young adults with disabilities.
That means that money for roads, libraries, parks or even the youth service has to come second.
It just seems unfair to me.
Nevertheless we are still trying in Calderdale to make public services as useful and helpful as possible. For example, it’s easy at this time of year to get into debt and I know that some people will already be struggling with their budgets. If you are finding it hard to manage to pay the Council Tax, contact the council or another advice agency but please don’t struggle on alone.
Some people will be facing mental health challenges in the coming year and once again I urge you, if you or your loved ones are affected, to seek help from the NHS or a relevant charity.
And if you are an older person who feels they can’t put the heating on because of costs – you may be eligible for grants to make a warm house more affordable.
Don’t be too proud to ask for help: it’s your right to live a decent life and make 2019 the very best possible for you.