The new leader of Calderdale Council has promised to ditch the unpopular policies which were behind a dramatic town hall coup “as soon as possible.”

Tory chief Clr Stephen Baines ousted the Labour Cabinet after a late-night vote of no confidence in leader Clr Tim Swift on Wednesday.

Clr Baines and the Tories joined forces with the Liberal Democrats to dump Labour out of power.

Clr Baines told the Examiner there was no pre-planning involved and the Tory group only backed the vote shortly before the start of the meeting.

The two controversial policies behind the coup – £2 million plans for improvements at Hipperholme crossroads and car parking charges in town and village shopping centres – would be changed “as soon as possible”, Clr Baines pledged.

The Hipperholme road improvement plan had proved unpopular with the public while evening parking charges, particularly in Halifax town centre, had badly hit trade.

Clr Baines said the full council had agreed changes at a budget meeting but the Cabinet was stalling on a decision.

As late as Tuesday Clr Baines had been against a no confidence vote but he said it became clear at a meeting later that the Cabinet would not remove the 6pm-8pm parking charges.

That meant he decided to sound out other parties about a no confidence vote.

“It was only about 3.30pm on Wednesday that we agreed what we would do,” said Clr Baines. “And then that had to be agreed by my group, which meets before the council meeting at 5pm.

“Labour are trying to pedal the story that this was pre-planned and opportunistic but it wasn’t.”

Three Labour councillors missed the meeting which meant that the opposition could win the vote 24-22.

“Had all councillors been in attendance the vote would have been tied and it would have come down to the casting vote of the mayor (Lib Dem Pat Allen), had she wanted to exercise that vote,” said Clr Baines.

After the vote a new Cabinet was selected and Clr Baines has cancelled the next Cabinet meeting, set for Monday week, and will fix another as soon as possible.

At that meeting he pledged to stop compulsory purchase orders for the Hipperholme crossroads scheme and ask council officers to look at alternative proposals.

He also said the evening parking charges would be abolished.

“The vast majority of the work done by the council should be done by cross-party consensus,” he added.

Clr Swift described what happened as a “cynical coup” and “proves once and for all that the Lib Dems and the Tories are two sides of the same coin.

Clr Tim Swift outside Halifax Town Hall
Clr Tim Swift outside Halifax Town Hall
 

“In Westminster for four years they have been in cahoots and now they are going to do the same here in Calderdale.

“It shows that if you vote Lib Dem you get Tory. The chaos and hours of deliberations which followed their power-grab showed they didn’t have a clue what to do next.

“If that is a sign of how Calderdale Council is to be run for the next nine months I worry for the people of the borough. They deserve better than this.”

Clr Swift said the fact that Hipperholme crossroads and parking charges were taken off the agenda after the coup proved those issues were a mere smokescreen.

The Cabinet will be made up of Tories and one independent.

In a joint statement, Clr Baines, Clr Janet Battye, Lib Dem leader, and Independent Clr Colin Raistrick said: “The Labour Cabinet are ignoring the views of the public of Calderdale and the wishes of the council that were clearly set out at its budget-setting meeting in February.

“All the current opposition groups on the council believe that the attitude and actions of the Labour Cabinet are totally unacceptable, and that the public of Calderdale deserve better.

“After serious consideration, we have resolved to work collectively over the next nine months to ensure that the Council better serves the local community.”

Calderdale has 51 councillors, 25 of them Labour, 19 Conservative, six Liberal Democrats and the one Independent.

Clr Swift was asked if, in hindsight, he would have done anything different he said: “I’m an ordinary person and can’t get everything right all of the time.”