A Liberal Democrat Approach
A Liberal Democrat approach to Bradford is of a place where Councillors work hard for the people they represent, giving local people a voice in deciding how their local neighbourhoods should be run, regularly reporting back and keeping in touch with the people who elected them.
Liberal Democrat Councillors will stand up for the vulnerable and tackle inequality, respond to climate change, champion learning, defend public services, and have a passion for helping people to help themselves.
As Liberal Democrats they share and live out the shared values that are found in the preamble to the Liberal Democrat party constitution;
The Liberal Democrats exist to build and safeguard a fair, free and open society, in which we seek to balance the fundamental values of liberty, equality and community, and in which no one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity.
We champion the freedom, dignity and well-being of individuals, we acknowledge and respect their right to freedom of conscience and their right to develop their talents to the full.
We aim to disperse power, to foster diversity and to nurture creativity. We believe that the role of the state is to enable all citizens to attain these ideals, to contribute fully to their communities and to take part in the decisions which affect their lives.
Liberal Democrat Councillors believe that the best solutions are found by people working together in stark contrast to the “we know best” attitude of Labour. The global pandemic and the economic crisis facing the country made it far too easy for Labour in Bradford to make huge cuts to public services, increase charges and then blame the Government.
We accept that the Council cannot be expected to spend money that it does not have but the Labour- run Council does have a say over what it chooses to spend your money on. Austerity is not solely to blame neither is the impact of the global pandemic. Labour Councillors have a choice over which services they invest in and which they cut back or close.
This document has been written by the Liberal Democrat Council group and represents the areas they will focus their work and campaigning on the Council. Each of these key priorities are under-pinned by our philosophy as Liberal Democrats and two key principles.
Firstly, to tackle inequality in everything the Council does and secondly we will take as an approach “Do no harm”. This takes as its starting point – let’s stop doing the things that cause harm both to our environment and by default its people. This way of working will underpin the key areas where Liberal Democrats will work to change both what the council does, how it works and spends its resources.
A Liberal Democrat Council will:
- Change the way we treat the next generation – raising attainment and achievement and tackling inequality so all our young people can be their best.
- Change the way we respond to the Climate Emergency.
- Change the places we live, work and play to support the vulnerable.
- Change the way the Council thinks to be the best for our District.
How Liberal Democrats will work to change our District
It is the truth that some people simply do not have the same opportunities or resources to succeed purely based on their local context. We believe that many of the factors driving these inequalities are within the reach of the Council. A Liberal Democrat Council would tackle these inequalities.
Economically inequalities are hugely costly. The burden of ill-health and lost opportunity caused by the failure of Children’s Services in Bradford and continuing poor educational achievement, low standards of housing and the quality of our environment leads to greater use of health and social care services, higher unemployment and lower productivity and economic performance. These challenges cannot be solved by the Council giving away cash or raising the bar to accessing services. This process simply cements inequality into the system leading to fewer high quality jobs, poorer quality housing, lower family incomes which perpetuate disadvantage and inequality.
A Liberal Democrat Council would use its powers and taxes to close the inequality gap right across the District seeking to fundamentally change the conditions into which people are born, live and work. This document is intended to highlight some of the ways the Liberal Democrats would use those powers and resources of the Council to change our District for the better.
Responding to the Climate Emergency
Covid-19 has changed the world, and its tragedy will be felt for years. Its disruption gives us an inkling of what a threat to our world comes from the climate change. A Liberal Democrat Council will put at its heart a green thread of urgent action to protect our natural environment and to increase and protect our access to green spaces for everyone. We were proud to support the Council to becoming one of the first in the country to declare a climate emergency but this has to be followed up by bold actions. Tackling the climate crisis will need significant structural change to improve the conditions in which we and born, live and work if we are not to be significantly disrupted by climate change.
In the light of the agreement on the urgency of tackling the climate emergency we are astonished to find a Labour Group running a consultation on the future of our District during a global pandemic and then an election period. At a time when meetings and discussions cannot take place, when large numbers of people are unable to access the plans electronically and everyone is struggling with their own response to the global pandemic. The reason for doing this is at best thoughtless and at worst a deliberate attempt to force through unacceptable changes to our futures and our planet.
We understand the risks to delaying the decision on the local plan, delays mean that opportunistic developers can force through unwanted developments such those at Simpson Green and Idle Moor, however the health of the planet is a public health issue too and as such we believe that all decisions should be framed by “Do no harm” and would review the whole of the plan making sure that high level aspirations for improving the natural health of our district are turned into real, enforceable plans for real action.
Changing the way we treat the next generation
Labour’s £300 million privatisation of Bradford’s Education system was a failure and set the raising of standards back ten years. Liberal Democrat Education Ministers as part of the Coalition Government increased schools’ budgets by 7% in real terms between 2010 and 2015 but the Conservatives in Government are now cutting school budgets year on year.
To their shame the Labour-run Council has decided to focus Government cuts to the Council on services to children in our most deprived families and children with special educational needs. We remain committed to supporting children and young people, and this is even more important given the disproportionate and inequitable impact of Covid-19 on their education and mental health. We will continue to campaign for every child to have a place in a good school near to their home. The failure to support Hanson School out of the failure of the “academisation process” is an action that a Labour-run Council and Labour portfolio holder should be ashamed of.
The Liberal Democrats in Government gave Bradford's schools millions of pounds in extra money called the ‘Pupil Premium’ to help children in our schools. We believe that the Council should similarly fund a Community Pupil Premium to support children in their communities too.
The Liberal Democrat team will:
- Liberal Democrats will provide an additional £3m per year into Children’s Services Base Budget funded from reserves for each of the following three years on an invest-to-save basis. This is to support service transformation leading to a reduction in demand and the reduction in the costs of agency staff and out of authority placements. This action is to make sure our Children’s Services can meet the needs of our most vulnerable children. Children’s Services in Bradford, under the leadership of Labour Councillors have been judged to be inadequate.
- Review the sufficiency of services to all young people against our preferred model of a base model of universal access for the District with a Development Plan to reach the Liberal Democrat standard in five years. The review will also include a look at the sufficiency of leisure opportunities and facilities to improve young people’s wellbeing.
- A Liberal Democrat model to support young people would be in community settings, making a basic level of contact with 80-85% of young people, providing regular weekly face-to-face opportunities for around 35-40% of young people and when required for the 10-15% of young people who need very targeted support. All levels will be staffed by professionally qualified and trained people. This will be funded initially for each of the next three years from the Covid-19 Recovery Fund.
- A Liberal Democrat run Council would create Community Involvement Partnerships to purposely support young people in transition between schools, schools and colleges or university, those young people on an apprenticeship and those entering the world of work. The remit of the Community Involvement Partnerships would also include support and mentoring; help with work placements and supporting young people not in school.
- Liberal Democrats would appoint an independent Children’s Commissioner for the District, with particular focus on monitoring the post Covid-19 education recovery plan, making sure it is maintained and gets to where it is needed. This would be funded by a £250k initial set-up costs to fund a new Office of a Children’s Commissioner for the District part funded (£100k per year) by a redirection of the Child Friendly District project with the balance to be met from reductions in Children’s Services costs made possible by the additional £3m growth provided. Further budget provision will be made in future years when the post is created and the costs of the Children’s Commissioner’s Office are known.
- A Liberal Democrat run Council will investigate a Community Pupil Premium to support children and young people in their communities. Giving support to community activities in the school holidays where a healthy meal is provided alongside physical and social activities to re-engage young people back into their communities. Children who are in transition between primary and secondary schools will all be offered additional support tapered across the school year.
- Continue to support the project to attract the best teachers to Bradford. We will look for partners to ensure that Bradford’s schools leadership is the best in the
- Ensure that all young people are given formal careers advice including advice about all options including
- Ensure parents know about access to free childcare and work with those families of children who would qualify for the Pupil Premium to ensure they make the best of opportunities available to them.
- Establish a specialist team to challenge the accepted way of delivering teaching and learning, including community based-learning and community nurture
- Create a network of community-based homework and literacy support for children and their parents or carers to ensure children
- Reintroduce librarians as ‘literacy champions’ into every community run library with a specific remit to develop community based reading hubs. We will return libraries to the management of the
- Create a network of community based social enterprises that offer different places and ways to learn, ensuring that all children experience different pathways to learning, physical and social activities and work experience.
- Provide every young person and their family with training outside of school to keep themselves safe on the internet.
- A Liberal Democrat run Council would review the way the Council scrutinises its own work. In the first instance we would increase the budget by 150k per year to fund additional support for Children’s Services Scrutiny to work to the Office of the Children’s Commissioner funded initially from the Risk and Transition Reserve and then from the Council’s base budget.
Changing the way we respond to the Climate Emergency
Liberal Democrats in Bradford will match our focus on green infrastructure, industry, transport and employment with a focus on cleaner streets, rejuvenated parks, green spaces and waterways. In streets and neighbourhoods across the district we want to see an end to the shame of fly tipping, vandalism, abandoned buildings and land.
The last years’ experience has highlighted the importance of the local environment and green space for recreation. It also revealed some of the problems with safe and equitable access which the Liberal Democrats see as key to supporting everyone to improve their physical and mental health.
Making Bradford District a Greener, Cleaner and Healthier place to live and Work
There are no arguments against the facts that vibrant, natural, healthy, and safe places are key to good health and wellbeing and key to reducing inequalities.
A Liberal Democrat run Council would put at its heart a green thread of urgent action to protect the planet and prevent irreversible climate change. Tackling the climate crisis will need significant structural change. We will need to change how we travel, how we build, and how we produce goods and services.
We believe Bradford should be leading the country when it comes to promoting cleaner technologies, building infrastructure and housing that is environmentally sustainable. With our manufacturing heritage we are well placed to adapt to sustainable manufacturing and recycling that will provide good quality employment across the district.
Travel and transport in our city should be greener too. With cleaner vehicles, tough air quality standards and an expansion of segregated routes for pedestrians and cyclists we will aim to contribute to significantly reducing carbon emissions by 2030 (falling by 75% compared to 1990 levels)and achieve net-zero emissions by 2045 at the latest. A Liberal Democrat government will prioritise making Britain a net-zero emission country.
Liberal Democrats in Bradford will match our focus on green infrastructure, industry, transport and employment with a focus on cleaner streets, rejuvenated parks, green spaces and waterways. In streets and neighbourhoods across the district we want to see an end to the shame of fly tipping, vandalism and abandoned buildings and land.
We will invest in environmental improvements in every part of the district. End the use of chemical weeding and enhance our becks and waterways improving the moors and farmland to reduce the risk of flooding and increase our districts bio diversity.
Bradford has a unique opportunity to become the gold-standard for recovering a post-industrial river. It is around 100 years ago when works at Esholt were commenced to improve the state of public health in Bradford much to the detriment of the River Aire. Today more than half of the site is redundant and must now play a much more important role not only in terms of the public health of our District but that of our planet.
The Liberal Democrat Team will:
- Introduce into the existing street cleaning and ward teams of an Environmental Warden and a Community Based Park Warden. These posts would be tasked alongside the Neighbourhood Wardens, Parking Enforcement Wardens and Cleansing staff to specifically develop the natural environment and access to green spaces.
- Produce and implement a Ward-based Environmental Action Plans which would include work to reduce the number of empty homes and derelict buildings, increase rates of recycling, work with schools and large employers to develop and implement active travel plans.
- Create a £1.5 million Environmental Action Budget funded from the Risk and Transition Reserve. This “green” fund would be administered by the Area Committee in conjunction with Ward Councillors. The Environmental Action Budget would be used to increase diversity in our green spaces and verges, support the development of Community Orchards and Community Growing projects, seek to end chemical spraying of weeds and move towards a planet friendly means of weed control.
- A Liberal Democrat run Council will create an Access for All budget of £500,000 from the Covid-19 Recovery budget to ensure that everyone can access public footpaths and bridleways.
- Develop the post of a public facing Energy Efficiency Officer to support residents who wish to reduce their energy consumption and carbon emissions. The post holder will establish a fund from the Risk and Transition reserve to purchase on a large scale, carbon reduction measures such as solar panels, using the Councils purchasing power and scale, and support residents through to installation. The scheme should include a £1 million budget for house-holders to borrow the costs and repay over time funded from the Risk and Transition budget.
- Create a devolved “Green” fund to be administered by the Area Committee and local Councillors aimed at improving the local environment.
- Support “PlantLife” to increase biodiversity amongst our verges and green spaces.
- Support the development of Community Orchards and Community Growing.
- Develop a network of Urban Nature Reserves and Country parks across the District so people do not have to travel to experience nature.
- Explore a separate collection for food waste.
Changing the places we live, play and work
A Liberal Democrat Team will:
- Require all new homes to be built to a lifetime home standard utilising green technologies such as Solar panels, rainwater harvesting, electrical charging points.
- All new developments to consider active travel within the development for example the creation of segregated Cycle Lanes and footpaths.
- Create a scheme to ensure that all new developments shall have a minimum % of new urban green space within the redline of the development. This allocation must not include private gardens, verges or footpaths.
- Recognise the importance of “Green” on people’s metal health and use its power to improve the quality of and increase the amount of green space and tree cover in existing communities and agree the implementation through the Ward based Environmental Action Plans.
- Work with Green companies to look at Electric bike/ Scooters for hire to encourage active travel and cycling for leisure.
- Carry out a full audit of Council-owned, orphan and unadopted land with a view to adding it to the stock of greenspace throughout the District.
- Create a pilot scheme with incentives for private owners and landlords to increase energy efficiency and upgrade their properties so they meet the life-time home standard.
- Support greening of public and community buildings to install solar panels, green walls and insulation.
- Support the creation of Country Parks linked across the District through multi agency public and private sector collaboration.
- Take action to remove all the dirty buses, moving towards greener models for all of the Councils fleet. Offer support to Community owned and based transport to do the same.
- Create Green Bus shelters and living walls to remove carbon from the highway network with priority given to sites outside Primary Schools on major traffic routes.
- Create a truly segregated cycle and walking routes across the district not just as part of the highway.
All of these measures should be focused on increasing the use of locally raised taxes to respond to the climate emergency and reduce the incidences of ill health in people.
A Liberal Democrat run Council would also take a lead in reducing water pollution at source. We see the Council as having the leading role in promoting good health through the prevention of water pollution.
Microplastics are present in our waterways and our wider environment due to the volume of plastics used in society today. They get into our water system both from direct and indirect sources – such as particles released from wear of car tyres on roads or microfibres released from synthetic clothes when washed – and from the breakdown of larger plastics such as litter washed into drains, and items such as sanitary products incorrectly flushed down toilets that subsequently break down into smaller particles.
Liberal Democrats will develop and implement a ‘Plastics Strategy’ to protect its residents and the environment from plastic pollution at the same time encourage innovation and growth in new businesses and technologies to reuse plastic and reduce its the impact.
Liberal Democrats want Bradford to become a leader in producing and using sustainable alternatives that avoid pollution and its impact on the planet.
The Liberal Democrat Team will:
- Investigate measures to control the causes of microplastic pollution at source.
- Liberal Democrats will increase the awareness of the danger to our planet from plastics by joining in the global Plastic-Free July campaign to as people to think about giving up using something made from a material that lasts forever which they are going to use once and throw away.
- We will invest in public toilets with drinking water facilities and hygienic disposal facilities for sanitary products.
- Liberal Democrats will improve the Councils end-of-life collection facilities for plastics instigate a zero-waste policy and invest in new technologies to re-use plastic in the District.
Reducing water pollution at source - Antibiotics
Research indicates that up to 90% of prescribed antibiotics taken by people pass through the body into the sewerage system, where about half the amount ends up in over rivers when the effluent is discharged. This is the first step in the development of superbugs as the drugs used to fight them will no longer work.
- Liberal Democrats will campaign to reduce the amount of antibiotics entering our rivers through Public Health campaigns to reduce inappropriate prescriptions.
- Encourage a greater uptake of vaccinations as preventative measures to reduce the levels of prescriptions.
- Promote greater hygiene controls in public places with the re-introduction of public toilet and hand-washing facilities.
Changing the way the Council thinks
Strategic Investment of Council Taxes
The Council has in recent years created a Strategic Investment budget though which it seeks to generate additional income through its Strategy for Growth. This has led to the purchasing and investment in commercial properties and activities which we believe do not specifically tackle inequality.
A Liberal Democrat run Council would stop investing in car parks, shopping centres and the like and re-direct the Strategic Investment Budget.
One thing that Covid-19 has taught us is the importance of open space, the natural environment and of nature and bio-diversity in itself. This is not just an issue of public health it is also vital to the very health of our planet.
Liberal Democrats would redirect the Strategic Investment Budget to fund investment in the rivers, waterways and water collection and cleaning processes (blue infrastructure) and the green infrastructure of the district and community based infrastructure as our response to tackling inequality and climate change.
Work in this area would, for the Liberal Democrats, include the development of a network of urban and rural nature reserves and parks. Creating new Country Parks to link residents across the adjoining green infrastructure (for example to the Leeds West Country Park and the Yorkshire Dales) creating opportunities for everyone to experience nature on their doorsteps, work places and easy access to the wider countryside for leisure activities.
As Liberal Democrats we will use the Strategic Investment Fund to protect, improve and enhance access to the natural environment in the Aire Valley to reduce health inequalities in the District.
A Liberal Democrat run Council will invest in a Country Park stretching from the City centre out along the Aire Valley with a river free of pollution as a step-change in the health of both people and our planet.
To do this Liberal Democrats will convene a summit of people who have an interest in the future of the land, its people, its plants, and animals all those with an interest in the quality of the water, the air, and the land. The purpose of the summit would be to agree a common purpose of outcome. Liberal Democrats want to see synergy and action on a real long-term vision for the Aire and Wharfe Valleys that will make a real difference to our public and planetary health.
Liberal Democrats would also invest in houses to rent. Bradford has by an insufficient number of homes to rent demand for which cannot be met by private landlords alone. Labours failure to register landlords has also seen insufficient progress with improving the private rented housing stock. Liberal Democrats believe that investment in building more accessible, environmentally sound social housing is necessary to tackle inequality and climate change. We would redirect Labours programme of investing in commercial property to investment in social housing.
Liberal Democrats investment in Community buildings and spaces
The importance of local support services and the inequity of their availability throughout the pandemic is notable. Many community assets have suffered loss of income and will struggle to re-open with increased expenses. The Liberal Democrats would provide a Community Assets Fund to enable Community Buildings to re-open, re-start services and open space for community-based activity on an invest to save basis.
Recovering City and Urban village centre post Covid-19
During the lockdown many people have worked from home. People have got used to shopping online or in local centres. These habits will and probably should continue after lockdown. This will have a significant impact on current plans for the city centre and transport which need reassessing.
The Liberal Democrat Team will:
- Establish an all-party review of current plans for the City centre in the light of reduced footfall from office based staff in the centre and reduced demand for retail. The group would investigate and report on opportunities to prevent ‘white elephant’ office space for example, prevent the slow disintegration of heritage buildings and any further investment in poorer quality city centre flats. The aim of the review would be to: create more green-space and spaces for nature in the city and other urban spaces, reduce the number of empty and derelict buildings and increase the number of accessible homes with gardens.
- Create extra spaces in local communities to support activities on the High Street such as performance spaces, additional seating to create the opportunities for other activities to draw people to local high streets to use local shops.
- Create “Heritage Improvement Funds” to support the owners of heritage buildings to improve them to improve the visual amenity and attractiveness of our heritage village centres to encourage people to use local shops and businesses.
- Conduct “Environmental, Sight and Sound” audits of businesses to create a star-rating scheme to identify those business that have a 5-star rating (Low negative impact on the environment and 0-star for those with high negative impacts (noise, little, poor state of repair, failure to recycle etc). This will enable consumers to decide on spending choices with a wider range of determinants.
Our focus on using environmental improvements and increasing access to green spaces both improves our natural environment and leads to healthier lives. This generates an economic return that outweighs the public health investment and improves physical resilience leading to longer, healthier lives opening the way for everyone to achieve their full potential.
Changing the way the Council works
This election will see one of the biggest changes in way local government works ever. We are almost, just the delivery arm of government. It already feels too locally elected Councillors that we are the delivery arm for the West Yorkshire Combined authority. With election of a Mayor, if Bradford Council continues with its out-dated ways of working where favours and friends count for more than election manifestos and hard work by local Councillors, we are shortly to only find out about the work of the elected Mayor by press release and newsletter.
Local democracy in Bradford must not be allowed to only be on the receiving end of all of these plans, policies and press releases. The Council must restructure to ensure that how we create and inform policies is routed in the needs, aspirations and democratic demands of its people and those they elect. If not the local democracy becomes an elaborate charade for the few pretending to work for the many. Local democracy in Bradford must be seen as a joint endeavour between the people and those they elect to represent them.
The public don’t believe that one political party or indeed one politician has all the answers to the twin threats of a global pandemic and climate change to say nothing of recovering the economy and people’s health.
However even though the District is faced with these enormous challenges we currently work with a set of process, practices and procedures, rules and regulations that need a one party state rule to function. A structure reliant on friends and favours, hidden from view and pretending to be democratic.
Amongst Councillors and Council Officers there is much talk of returning to a new normal however If Bradford is to return to something that is not the old normal, then the Council has to change too.
A Liberal Democrat run Council will:
- Create a new set of standing orders, systems and processes and ways of working, not destined to control, attack or silence opposing views but ones that value the alternative points of view and accept differences.
- Remove the fear from people in local organisations worried that they are going to have their funding cut if they disagree with the controlling group.
- Encourage a whole new way of thinking where elected members across the spectrum are involved in discussion and debate alongside interested parties and citizens’ assemblies.
- Take all decisions in public not decisions hidden from view in private meetings but open and enabling for people to participate.
- Liberal Democrats would make everything public unless restricted under the law.
- Explore different models of organising the Council and its structures and choose a new model that encourages debate, does not have secret decision-making or predetermined answers. The review would cover how we involve others, how many of Councillors should there be and how should they be supported, how can Councillors work across party and return power to ward Councillors.
Bradford Councillors have the power to make Community Leadership matter, not which family or secret society or club or religious institution you belong to. Those systems fail the whole District.
If we are to become a delivery arm for regional and national governance structures then we must rearrange ourselves to make sure that our collective voice is strong, well-researched and well-resourced to get our message through. The Council must not continue to under-resource difference and encourage a single line of thought. And we certainly need to come out from behind closed doors.
A Liberal Democrat run Council will not return to the comfort of the current ways of working. We will lead the district to a more open, dynamic and thoughtful Democratic District. A Liberal Democrat run district will be one where democracy, real community leadership, openness and the contributions of everyone will matter.