I am proud that our Labour-led council in Calderdale has made important decisions in the last few weeks about two of the most pressing issues of our time – poverty and climate change.
Sadly, there was the chance of cross-party consensus on both issues, but the conservatives declined to support either.
Our new Anti-Poverty Strategy tackles problems of the here and now in Calderdale brought on specifically by the deliberate implementation of a national austerity programme by governments since 2010.
The strategy will have a direct and immediate effect on residents across Calderdale, struggling to make ends meet.
Poverty is on the increase including child poverty which is a condemnation of our times. Shockingly 14 million people in our society are living below the bread line and this includes 4.5 million children.
Two thirds of these children are in households with at least one parent working.
Work simply does not pay for these families.
Across Calderdale nearly 9,000 children live in poverty and their families are struggling to pay for essentials.
We have seen an increase in demand upon food banks.
According to the Institute for Fiscal Studies, the rise of in work poverty is directly related to a decrease in benefits, especially Universal Credit, which means that households keep less of what they earn.
Despite on-going budget challenges, Calderdale’s Anti-Poverty Strategy – in conjunction with support for voluntary groups, offers some practical solutions.
These include improved early years intervention, funding for homelessness, better welfare assistance schemes and better training for our one-stop staff to offer advice and support when needed.
Looking to the future, the decision to declare a Climate Emergency in Calderdale, offers the chance to develop practical and workable local solutions to the impending crisis facing our planet and future generations.
Specifically setting up a climate change committee to respond to this problem across Calderdale is significant.
The new committee will meet in public, set new targets, develop an action plan to be carbon neutral and work with other local authorities on carbon reduction across West Yorkshire.
The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has warned that we have 12 years to make the necessary changes to limit a rise in global temperatures to 1.5 degrees centigrade.
12 years will pass in the blink of an eye. If we don’t all do our bit we will see a marked increase in sea levels, flooding, extreme changes to weather patterns, extinctions of plant, insect and animal species and global economic disruption and crisis.
This isn’t the world we want our children and grandchildren to inherit.
In Calderdale, we already have mitigating, resilience initiatives such as ‘slow the flow’ and ‘treesponsibility’ and large flood alleviation schemes such as in Mytholmroyd.
Now we will step up our lobby of central Government to provide resources and powers so that Calderdale can contribute better to the UK’s carbon reduction targets.
Anti-poverty and climate change – tackling day to day suffering and showing care and commitment to future generations and our planet – this is the commitment of our Labour-led council.