Discussion Forum
Credit Crunch Hits Calderdale

From Jonathan Timbers
Tuesday, 10 February 2009

I just wanted to alert people to this report in the FT alerting readers to the fact that Calderdale is the 6th most financially vulnerable local authority in Great Britain to the economic downturn.

I could find very little analysis to explain why but I presume that the reason is because of the reliance of the local economy on HBOS.

It would be helpful if local politicians could spell out what this might mean and what the options to deal with this threat are - rather than the trying to engage us with the usual trivia, rhetoric and vacuity.

From Jason Elliott
Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Yes there's a credit crunch... But it's not all doom and gloom.

For example, we're recruiting...

From Graham Barker
Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Agreed, Jonathan - but it would also be helpful if some local politicians could just spell.

From Jonathan Timbers
Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Thanks, Graham. FYI (apologies if I misunderestimate you)

vacuity (plural vacuities)

  1. emptiness
    1748. David Hume. Enquiry concerning Human Understanding. Section 3. § 13. to find so sensible a breach or vacuity in the course of the passions, by means of this breach in the connexion of ideas;
  2. vacuum
  3. idleness
  4. a pointless or inane remark

Also, I am not a local politician. Instead, I am free to say exactly what I think without fear of losing votes and relish the liberty.

I am pleased that Jason, who works so tirelessly for the town, can point out there is a new part-time job available. However, our area is imho much bigger than just Hebden Bridge. It's the whole Calder Valley and Halifax - for starters anyway - and the credit crunch will cause pain and hardship both here and in other places which we should care about, outside the parish.

From Jason Elliott
Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Thank you Jonathan. It is true that I can be tiresomely parochial at times, (and sometimes it is useful to have that pointed out!)

From Graham Barker
Wednesday, 11 February 2009

I didn't mean you, Jonathan...

From Paul D
Sunday, 15 February 2009

We're vulnerable because our inept authority has through either total inaction or via 'regeneration' encouraged an economic model based on tourism, consumption and other forms of attracting discretionary spending (a coffee shop culture)and because many of those who don't commute out of town to work in local government do so to work in financial services. So it's very sad and was also very predictable that service sector businesses were going to fall like flies and that dual income families are going to become one.

We've been sold a pup. People have come here on the basis of a rather bad joke, the house prices and cost of living locally requires many of them to travel stupid distances and both partners to keep their noses to the grindstone just to earn a living. Others are left with low paid insecure jobs servicing the needs of cake scoffers, or niche activities servicing the wealthy. There is some industry and commercial activty, but it's been hard for all concerned. Yes we've attracted entrepeneurs, we have attracted and retained some amazing and talented individuals who may in fact be the solution and were not (and are not) the problem.

Calderdale LA in my view a joke. We got reduced business rates years after everywhere else. Regeneration budgets were squandered in HX1. Our infrastructure was pretty much left to rot, industry almost discouraged, agriculture ignored. We've spent goodness knows how much sending people the wrong way around town, choked our main road routes in, scared local shoppers with aggressive parking enforcement and seen business rents that'd be high in a city centre. All chasing the same stupid dream - growth based on coffee and cakes. We'll get poundland and maybe we deserve it. So many people are going to be out of work this year. Families will move to be nearer their place of work (not a bad thing long term - but if it becomes and exodus this is not so healthy). Local government spending will be cut by the next conservative government, many in HBOS, pensions, and insurance are pretty much screwed. So there's a good reason we're so vulnerable - psycho government amplified at a local level.

From Howard T
Monday, 16 February 2009

Paul, as I was reading your words, the thought occurred that most of what you are saying can also be seen to be the case at a national level.

There has been little or no regard for that which adds value and now there ain't much left to which value can be added.

But I've always fancied the idea that Britland could be developed into some sort of Medieval theme park for American tourists and those from emerging economies. All those castles, rain and fog can really contribute to the atmosphere. A nice cuppa Yorkshire tea and a Bobby Charlton cake (icing wrap-over), attractively priced because of the weak but prudent pound.

From Jonathan Timbers
Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Firstly, apologies to Graham for being over-sensitive. Secondly, I am disappointed that no politician has contributed to the debate.

I appreciate that the issues raised are outside of most people's comfort zones. Reports say that a 2.5% recession this year will cause 28,500 banking and finance sector jobs to be lost in the 'Leeds City Area', which includes Calderdale. We know now that the recession is likely to be deeper than that. Other reports speculate that up to 40,000 jobs will be lost in HBOS.

Revenue losses to the government as a result of job losses and reduced business activity in the banking sector are likely to be in the region of £50 billion. Since the majority of money available to local authorities comes in the form of grant funding from Whitehall, this will mean significant cuts which are likely to have huge implications for council services and jobs (Calderdale is, I think, either the biggest or second biggest employer in Calderdale - the other one of course is HBOS). Couple this with a reduced council tax base and it is difficult not to foresee a downward spiral.

Local businesses will suffer because they rely on the trade from people in employment. I suspect that ethical businesses (including Green Businesses) will suffer because their products are often significantly more expensive (if arguably better value for money and better for the environment and others in the supply chain).

The question is what local politicians intend to do about this except go 'yaa boo' at one another. I suppose the question breaks down into a series of mini-questions about the available options and priorities. Is there anything we can do except point the finger? Answers on an email please to this forum.

From Graham Barker
Sunday, 22 February 2009

It needn’t be all doom and gloom. Life has to go on even in a recession, and people adjust. Almost anything can be an opportunity, even if a less well paid one. Redundancy and company down-sizing tends to mean an increase in people working from home, going self-employed or starting small businesses. With a broadband connection, most desk jobs can be done anywhere. Saving daily commute costs and travel time can be the equivalent of a wage in itself if your job is (or was) in Leeds or Manchester. At least some of those who now commute will discover the advantages of not having to, and that will benefit both them and the Hebden Bridge economy.

As for what local politicians can do - forget them, or at least forget the current CMBC cabinet dictatorship. Their influence is limited anyway, and if they can’t get it right in the good times, they’ll be no help in the bad.

From Jason Elliott
Wednesday, 25 February 2009

I have to agree with Graham in that there are some very good reasons to be optimistic about Hebden Bridge's economic health in the current downturn. (Apologies in advance to Jonathan for being so "micro" local and ignoring the rest of Calderdale who, admittedly, are a different case.)

Firstly, for all of the accuracy of Paul's comments about the vulnerability of much of the local economy being based on tourism and discretionary spending, is it not conceivable that some of the British people will still want to take a break or two this year and, rather than taking a flight abroad where sterling is worth a great deal less than it was last year, they will be considerably more likely to spend what money they have in British "tourist destinations" like here?

This is certainly the opinion of a long-time friend of mine who analyses the Spanish tourist industry at a strategic level professionally. She said that she thought that the southwest of England would do particularly well because of the sun, but that all established "rural" destinations (like here and the Lakes) would see increased visitor numbers, particularly those that had a good choice of "activities", like us, as the general tendancy toward activity-based breaks is set to continue.

To this end, I would hope that initiatives like the "Walkers are Welcome" project continue to be actively promoted.

It won't keep the whole town in a job but it could certainly remain a strong and thriving sector.

On the point that Jonathan raised about his fears for the ethical/green quarter, I would like to point out that the Credit Crunch actually presents some great opportunities. With the American stimulus package having a total of $78.61bn directly earmarked for green projects, and proportionally similar investment being proposed by all parties here, this is another area in which we have more than our fair share of skilled practioners.

Whilst it has historically been true that many products that are better for the environment have also been more expensive initially, this imbalance has been rapidly correcting itself as demand has increased. Much of this increase has been driven by legislation, rather than trend, so I feel that the green technology sector is actually pretty stable and can give us great cause for optimism.

Organisations like the Alternative Technology Centre and the Transition Towns project, together with events like the Big Green Weekend, continue to keep a spotlight on Hebden Bridge as a centre of forward-looking "green excellence."

This part of the world is extremely blessed with talented, entrepreneurial, innovative and hard-working people, not to mention some stunning countryside. As a town we have a huge amount to offer still, so don't be too despondent!

From Paul D
Sunday, 15 February 2009

I don’t think tourism is the answer, the opposite in fact. And massive funding for green technology in the US is mostly going to prop up bankrupt Detroit car manufacturers; it’s just subsidies for big business, not any green conversion.

Locally, Calderdale MBC are up to their necks in the failure to promote our town as anything other than an outdoor version of Aunt Betty’s tea room, so I don’t expect we’ll get much discussion or any sensible solutions from them. They really are inept at everything except creating well paid posts and squandering resources. Although it could be quite interesting to see where they spend the recession ‘fighting fund’ of £2million. My guess is that it’ll cost £1.5 million to manage and 500K to distribute, the usual consultancy fees will lead to a net loss of a few hundred grand – but hey it sounds like they’ve got a clue!

From Jason Elliott
Friday, 13 March 2009

I would be very interested to see any evidence Paul D has for the sweeping suggestion that the cash injection I referred to in the Green Stimulus package being mainly for Detroit car-makers.

There is money for them, it's true, but it doesn't come from the Green pot.

The truth of the matter is that to qualify for money from this particular fund, projects must be green, shovel-ready, short-term, and job-producing. For example, more than 7 million jobs are likely to be created from a $171 billion investment to improve the energy efficiency of buildings and homes. (See http://tinyurl.com/7az8rq for source.)

So? What does this have to do with Hebden?

Well, you may remember that the part-time "Hebden Bridge green sector" job I advertised last month? It has now become a full-time job and I am now recruiting again for another person, as you will see in the Hebweb small ads.

From my particular viewpoint, the green sector in the Upper Calder Valley looks as healthy as ever.

British Recycled Products took a stand at Ecobuild at Earls Court earlier this month and, oddly enough, we ended up being located almost opposite the Todmorden strawbale builders, Amazonails. Both our stand and theirs had a solid stream of visitors and enquiries for three days, virtually without a break.

Anyway Paul, what are your answers and suggestions? Do we always have to look for leadership and support from Calderdale MBC? Is this not a situation that we can try and do something about ourselves?

You, me, and many others on these pages have regularly voiced our doubts about the competancy and vision of the people steering the CMBC ship, so surely we shouldn't be relying on them to dig us out of this particular hole?

I appreciate that my relentless optimism can be rather grating at times, but it bears repeating that this part of the world has far, far more than its fair share of innovators and is well capable of using these "interesting times" to actually boost our local economy.

From Paul D
Tuesday, 17 March 2009

I think this thread is really about HB, but yes apologies for the too broad a brush, if you check out the Economist (November or December I think), or keep up with republican debates, you'll see ample evidence that this stimulus package is mostly 'greenwash'. Like LDV and the new engine - green is the new black for bust companies.

As for locally, and again not wishing to pee on your chips, but I don't even think the 'green economy' as conceived is the answer. It simply replicates (in many cases) the worst excesses of before, encouraging consumption, creating new wants, marketing, hype, ignoring inconvenient effects. Often providing a less effective/more expensive product (service) - factor in the true 'cost' of the stupid batteries and convoluted global production techniques in the green icon from toyota - green my arse (as Jim Royle might say).

We maybe come together on a realisation that current political representation has failed and proposed solutions will possibly make things worse. The Liberal local income tax is a runner, but only with reconstituted local democracy and oversight that ignores our bust 'cabinet'. A bonfire of quangos to get things moving regionally? A move away from what we term economic growth? I think we can trust ourselves to navigate the course, so I'm optimistic too. The price is the issue, we'll all have to pay to travel in a direction that might look 'backwards' to many. I don't think we're ready for that yet. So well done on the work creation - all this is good in the short and medium term, but turnover is vanity, as any decent accountant will tell you. We even need to reconsider what 'work' actually is and could be. Destroying meaningless and unrewarding work to create meaningful and rewarding jobs is interesting - that'd be good. We could maybe agree on that.

See also:

Hebweb News: Laughing Gravy and Hebden House close