New council leader meets with HS2 Woodlesford residents

Cllr Karen Bruce and Cllr David Nagle supporting local people campaigning against HS2 in Woodlesford

Cllr Karen Bruce and Cllr David Nagle supporting local people campaigning against the HS2 route in Woodlesford.

My Rothwell Labour ward colleague David Nagle and I arranged for the new leader of Leeds City Council, Cllr Judith Blake, and Keith Wakefield, the former council leader and now chair of the combined transport authority, to come and meet the local campaigning group of residents HS2SoWhat. The meeting took place on Saturday 12 September. This was Keith’s third meeting with the group at the request of us councillors and group members. We attended along with MP Alec Shelbrooke.

Cllr Blake sympathised with the plight of local people, her sister is in exactly the same position in another part of the country with the HS2 line proposed to run at the bottom of her garden.

Cllr Blake and Cllr Wakefield stressed throughout the meeting, they understood the frustrations of local people, but that this is a national government project and the decision on both the route and compensation will be made by government.

They confirmed that the council’s position is:

  • Not happy with the government and HS2’s preferred route coming through Woodlesford
  • The compensation package offered to residents is not good enough
  • The HS2 station should be as close and as integrated as possible to the existing station as engineering will allow

Cllr Blake asked Alec Shelbrooke if he had heard anything about either the re-route or his alternative plans for tunnelling, Alec said he had not.

Cllr Blake said it was the responsibility of local MP Alec Shelbrooke, along with other partners and the council to continue to push for a better deal for Woodlesford residents, including better compensation for local people, however ultimately it was the decision of the government.

It is hoped that there will be an announcement at the end of October regarding the route and compensation in the autumn spending review.

David and I really sympathise with residents, it is appalling how those impacted the most on the government’s preferred route have been treated by HS2 from the start. We put in our own submission on the route and the compensation demanding a better deal for residents in the consultation period, but with it being a government project it’s frustrating not being able to do more.

It’s terrible how residents continue to be in limbo and we hope that there will be an announcement soon as residents need to know where they stand. We are dearly hoping that the government has listened and will act on the needs and concerns of local residents.

Your verdict on how community money should be spent


PlaygroundMe and my Labour councillor colleague David Nagle  asked local people how £180,000 should be invested in Rothwell, Woodlesford and Oulton for green space in the community, and have  had a fantastic response.

The money comes from the developers of the sites in Royds Lane, Rothwell and Fleet Lane, Woodlesford. It is known as ‘Section 106′ money and is a legal requirement that developers have to pay when they build large developments. It is to help the local community make improvements to the community and improve the local infrastructure to cope with the additional people the new developments bring.

However, it’s not that simple as there are different types of 106 money and each type can only be spent on certain kinds of improvements. So for example Royds School is getting £300,000 that is allocated to increasing the amount of secondary education available.

There is also about £180,000 of ‘green space’ money. This is meant to be spent on providing green space or outdoor recreational facilities that can be used by the community. It’s not just for the people who eventually live in the new houses, but to benefit everyone in the wider community who is impacted by the new developments.

The money will become available in phases with the agreement being that a third becomes available in the first six months of the building work starting.

In the past council officers have asked councillors for their opinions on how the green space money should be spent, but it has largely been a decision by council officers and councillors. Me and my ward colleague Councillor David Nagle don’t think this is good enough and we think everyone in the community should be given an opportunity to have a say on the various ideas and options that are available.

Thank you to everyone who has responded since we opened out the conversation to give all local people a chance to have their say, I have asked people on my blog, on our Rothwell News Facebook page and we’ve asked people at our stall at Rothwell carnival to let us know what they think and share their ideas. As well as asking people about existing ideas we also asked for new ideas.

The most popular choice amongst local people is new playgrounds in Rothwell Springhead Park and Woodlesford Park.  There were lots of comments in support of new playgrounds with modern equipment such as a zip wire which is already available in newer playgrounds such as in Carlton and Swillington.

The 8010 group campaigning for a new skatepark in Springhead Park also has lots of local people backing it on Facebook. It is already applying for various pots of funding, but to succeed in getting a new skatepark needs a significant contribution from the 106 green space money. The group, along with Groundwork and the council, are applying for funds from other sources as they need a minimum of £100,000.

The other idea that was put to people was Royds School’s request for £100,000 towards its plans for a £600,000 3G sports pitch for use by the school and some local sports clubs. This idea has some support, but not as much as the other ideas. It also had a number of people against it. Some said it was asking for too big a share of the money, while others felt that it wasn’t real community use as access would be via the school and formal, organised sports group therefore it wouldn’t be as publicly accessible as the other ideas.

Visitors to the Labour councillors stall at the carnival and people commenting on the Rothwell News Facebook page also made some new suggestions. The most popular of these ideas was outdoor gym equipment in Springhead Park and Woodlesford Park.IMG_8240

This is the verdict of local people

We would like to thank local people who have given us feedback. Both me and David Nagle think it is better to support the skate park, new playgrounds and outdoor gym as they will benefit more people in the community than spending £100,000 on a 3G pitch at the school where the only community use will be via a few formal sports clubs.

Lib Dem councillor Stewart Golton wants to spend more than half of the 106 money on the 3G pitch for Royds school. Cllr Golton claims there was a ‘gentlemen’s agreement’ that the councillors would give £100,000 to Royds. That was never the case as we don’t believe in doing secret, back-room deals. That’s why we asked local people first.

The community has clearly called for the playgrounds, skatepark and outdoor gym equipment.

However, I’m aware Cllr Golton has put Royds School in a very difficult position by falsely leading the governors to believe they could have most of the community money. That’s not the governors’ fault so we want to offer £50,000, which is still a huge chunk of the money. This would still mean we can deliver most of the community schemes with the money, but not all the schemes like the outdoor gym equipment.

As your Labour councillors though, we’re determined to try to make all the schemes a reality. We very much want to try and get some adult gym equipment and will try to access funds from other sources to be able to do so, but even a reduced contribution to the 3G pitch at Royds makes this very difficult.

Time to end zero hour contracts

As a long-time Labour Party activist and councillor there are so many policies and issues that I care passionately about. But in the short process to select a Labour parliamentary candidate I realised I couldn’t do all of them justice so needed to focus on some of the policies that I feel are most important or where I can make the biggest difference.

I’ve already done this for the bedroom tax where I took a motion to our last Elmet and Rothwell Labour Party constituency meeting. I called on Liam Bryne, the shadow secretary of state for work and pensions, to make a clear commitment in Labour’s general election manifesto to repeal the bedroom tax.

Another policy that I’ve focused on is:

2) The need to end zero hour contracts. I will work with Leeds City Council, the Local Enterprise Partnership, Chamber of Commerce, businesses, voluntary sector and trade unions to ensure we have real local jobs and not just zero hour contracts.

Since I included this commitment in my list of policies zero hour contracts have been in the news a lot. First with the revelation that all of retailer Sports Direct’s part-time staff are on zero-hour contracts. That’s 90% of its entire workforce. And then the revelation that there are staff at Buckingham Palace on zero hour contracts.

Zero hour contracts are just like a return to the dark age of the pre-WWII depression when workers would have to turn up every morning to stand in a queue in the hope they might be chosen for work. Although at the Tories are seemingly relaxed about food banks to feed families on the breadline, they are probably even more relaxed at this return to this depression era oppression of working people.

Too often it is young people and women that are subject to zero hour contracts. But many young people and women have financial commitments that mean they need the same income security that people in jobs with real employment contracts enjoy.

A local mum told me that her son had put a lot of preparation in to a job interview, beat all the other candidates, was delighted to start work, then came off job seekers allowance and off the unemployment figures.  But her son is on a zero hour contract and he has already had a week where he had no work (and no pay).  He is in fact worse off than he was when he was unemployed and she feels this is grossly unfair.  The only flexibility I can see is to the employer and not to the employee. Another local person I spoke to who entered into a zero hour contract wasn’t offered work for weeks on end and then called up on a Friday night to work on Saturday (the next day).

However, I do recognise that some workers get the chance to choose a more flexible type of zero hour contract as it offers them more flexibility and some contracts will be better than others and indeed some employers will be better than others. The type of contract that also gives flexibility to the worker can be good while they balance other commitments such as study or childcare. But I believe it should be a choice and zero hour contracts should only be used when there are real benefits to both employee and employer. And it should be a real choice, with it made compulsory for employers to always offer the opportunity to sign a real employment contract that provides some job and income security.

Even before I am elected as an MP I will campaign to end zero hour contracts and as a candidate I will lobby to have a commitment about zero hour contracts included in the Labour general election manifesto.

Elmet and Rothwell nomination meetings

On Tuesday, July 16 (tomorrow evening) all five branches of Elmet and Rothwell constituency Labour Party will hold their nomination meetings where they will be able to nominate candidates to be considered by all members in the final vote.

I’m asking you to attend the meeting in Garforth and to please nominate me as Labour’s prospective Parliamentary candidate. This is very important as your nomination at your branch will ensure this important decision is made by local Labour Party members instead of it being imposed upon us from outside.

I believe – and many local members and councillors – believe that only a hardworking, local candidate with a real record of success can beat Alec Shelbrooke. Labour members from every ward have pledged their support, because they know I can beat the Tories.

I don’t just talk about challenging Alec Shelbrooke. I do it. Attacking him in the media, in leaflets and on the internet to challenge his government’s HS2 failures, the Bedroom Tax and privatising our NHS. Just in the last few days I’ve defended our historic link with trade unions where the subscriptions of millions of workers help fund the Labour Party, while attacking his Tories for preferring to take money from betting firms and bankers.

That’s why he in his last newsletter he attacked me for challenging his perverse ‘Benefit Card’ to stigmatise people on benefit.

Many in our party talk about using the internet to campaign, but I do it and have done for the last eight years – on my website, Facebook and Twitter.

I’m a working class woman who grew up in a council house and started work in a factory. I’ve worked in the public, private, voluntary sectors and am now self-employed. I’m exactly the sort of candidate that Labour needs as voters are fed up with politics as usual where MPs are remote from their constituencies and have spent their lives working in politics in London. I used to be a local councillor for Garforth, Swillington and Methley and I’ve lived in our constituency for 22 years.

I beat a Liberal Democrat to win my council seat in Rothwell and I will beat a Tory in Elmet and Rothwell to win a seat in Parliament for Labour.  

I love Elmet and Rothwell and want to serve its people. I already live here with my family. My husband works here and our daughter is at school here. Nominate me if you think there should be more real people in Parliament.

If you need to know anything about the nomination meeting then please get in touch.

Andy Burnham for Labour leader

Here’s why I’ve decided to back Andy Burnham in the Labour leadership contest, I want my daughter to grow up in a country that is fair and just, governed by a Labour Party that is connected to the people. Andy is a choice for the future, I believe that Andy can rebuild Labour for a future generation.

When you look around at who’s running the country now (the elite) it even makes me feel marginalised, and I’ve been a politico for many years as a Labour Party councillor and activist. I get the feeling that Andy understands what it’s like for working class people, a northerner, his dad was a telephone engineer and his mum was a receptionist – I can identify with that and I think a lot of people will.  One tweet this morning said Andy is “Evertonian not Etonian” and I think this sums it up.

As well as having a huge political talent and a natural with people, Andy has a lot to offer and a different persona to the others standing for the leadership.

We have a lot to thank Tony Blair for (winning three terms of a Labour government for a start), and Gordon Brown for leading the nation out of the financial crisis. For the future, re-connecting with the people is going to be the key.

We need to offer the people real choice, Andy is a complete contrast to David Cameron and Nick Clegg. Andy will bring a breath of fresh air to the campaign, the party as leader, and I am convinced -to the country as our future prime minister.

The Labour party is the people’s party and I believe that Andy is one who can take it back to its roots.

You can be part of of it at Andy’s website

Having said that, I think it’s essential that we have a good debate, the party needs it for renewal, I was pleased to hear that Diane Abbot is standing this morning. I would like to see as many candidates as possible go forward for consideration by the party and to promote debate on all the issues. Candidates only need 33 MPs to get on the ballot paper, candidates shouldn’t be greedy and rob the party of this opportunity for debate by taking so many nominations it prevents everyone standing. This is an exciting time for the party and the opportunity is there for the taking.