Impact of national financial crisis on Calderdale projects

Cllr Jane Scullion outside Halifax Town Hall

Calderdale Council faces severe financial pressures which will have an impact on delivery of proposed development projects across the borough.

The challenges of rapid inflation, loss of income, uncertainly about funding local authorities will receive from Government and increased demand for services have made it necessary for the Council to review financial requirements for delivering its major projects.

Unfortunately, following a thorough assessment, the Council has had to take the difficult decision to pause the development of the new Halifax Leisure Centre and Swimming Pool for a full review at this point in time. 

This decision has not been taken lightly, but the anticipated costs for the project have already increased significantly, with no guarantee that they will not rise further as the project progresses.

This position is unsustainable in the context of the multiple budget pressures facing the Council after years of austerity and following the impact of the pandemic. Having already made savings of £120 million by 2023/2024 compared to its 2010 budget, the Council is now forecasting that further savings of £10.2 million, £12.9 million and £18.4 million will be required in the financial years to 2025/2026.

This also comes as the cost of living crisis continues to impact local people and their spending habits, which in turn may affect their use of leisure centres.

Cllr Jane Scullion, Calderdale Council’s Deputy Leader, said:

“We are devastated to have to put the new Halifax Leisure Centre and Swimming Pool on hold. This has been an extremely difficult but necessary decision. The current level of risk to the Council’s financial position is incredibly serious, with the deficits we are facing being the worst since austerity began in 2011.

“The cost of living crisis, the surge in energy prices and inflationary pressures are affecting everyone nationwide. The Council is no exception, and we are seeing councils across the country having to make similar difficult decisions. Rapidly increasing costs in the construction industry are adding to our budget pressures, coupled with the continued uncertainty about Government funding.

“Pausing the leisure centre project for now gives us time to review the delivery strategy and reassess the procurement, design and inflationary impacts. We are still committed to the health and wellbeing of everyone in Calderdale, and to a thriving future for Halifax and the wider borough.”

Similar inflationary pressures have also required the West Yorkshire Combined Authority to review its programme of West Yorkshire transport projects.

On Wednesday 2 November 2022, the West Yorkshire Combined Authority published papers which will be discussed at its Finance, Resources and Corporate Committee meeting on Thursday 10 November 2022.

The ‘Inflation: Transport Programmes’ report outlines a number of possible changes to the programme of West Yorkshire transport projects within the funding currently available.

It follows a region-wide review, carried out by the Combined Authority and partner councils to address the nationwide inflation issues currently being experienced and to reduce overprogramming. Along with councils across the region, Calderdale Council was asked by the Combined Authority to consider where proposed projects could potentially be paused and added to a future funding pipeline. Alternative funding will be sought for programmes that are paused.  

The report being presented proposes a number of schemes across the West Yorkshire area which could be paused, with funding redistributed to allow other schemes to go ahead as planned. The list of projects which could be paused and pipelined includes two Calderdale schemes: the Halifax Station Gateway and A629 Phase 4.

If the recommendations are approved, it will be presented to the full Combined Authority in December.

Cllr Jane Scullion continued:

“It has been incredibly difficult to identify which proposed projects within the Calderdale programme could be included in this review. A key factor has been the existing timescale of delivery, with our priority being to ensure that projects well underway could continue as planned.

“It’s important to say that if the recommendations of this report are approved by the Combined Authority later this year, we see this very much as a pause in proceedings for any affected projects – not an end to them – and we are fully committed to seeking alternative funding sources.

“One thing is for certain; we remain aspirational for the future of Calderdale as part of our priority for thriving towns. The borough continues to benefit from a huge amount of investment and we’re in the process of delivering a wide portfolio of projects which will transform travel around the borough and deliver major economic benefits.”