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.

Sadly had to deliver letter to Rothwell Liberal Democrat candidate

I love election time and campaigning, another chance to communicate with voters and put forward the positive and hard work I’ve done for and with local people and hand over to them to decide on my record whether to re-elect me to continue to represent the Rothwell ward, my home. That’s why my election address is 100% positive. I know I’ve worked hard on behalf of our community and fought very hard when our ward is under any threat.

So it’s very upsetting when the Liberal Democrat candidate’s election address is full of personal attacks and untruths about me and the Rothwell Labour team.  This has meant I’ve had to break from both campaigning and working for the community in the Rothwell ward at this busy time to take a trip outside the ward to personally deliver this letter to the Liberal Democrat candidate at his home address.

I won’t let the bully boys win though, this Liberal Democrat nastiness won’t stop me putting my best foot forward and continuing to post some of my achievements regularly on our Rothwell News Facebook page so voters can judge for themselves.

 

Dear Ben

I was disappointed to read your election address as it contains many personal attacks and misleading statements about me and the Labour team. I am therefore giving you an opportunity to apologise publicly as you probably don’t realise you are potentially breaching Section 106 of the Representation of the People Act 1983 regarding false statements about candidates.

As your leaflet contains several lies about me I ask that you please cease distribution immediately and deliver an apology to every household that has received your previous communication.

The facts are these:

Incinerator – it is a lie to say I opposed an incinerator when I was elected in 2011

When Leeds City Council was run by a coalition led by Liberal Democrat and Conservative councillors I did campaign against an incinerator being built that would have a major adverse impact on the Rothwell ward. The councillor in charge of wanting an incinerator was your former Lib Dem council colleague Steve Smith. When I stood against and beat Steve Smith in 2011 I did NOT campaign against an incinerator as he and your Liberal Democrat colleagues had already made the decision to build one. It is therefore a lie to claim I was elected on “a ticket to oppose the incinerator”.

I therefore require an immediate public apology and for you to inform every elector that when elected in 2011 it was not on “a ticket to oppose an incinerator”.

Dolphin Manor – it is a lie to say I u-turned

I did not “u-turn” on Dolphin Manor as I opposed its closure from the very first instant I heard about it. I immediately informed the executive board member in charge of Dolphin Manor that I would campaign to save it and look for ways to keep it open. That is why when the option of moving it into community ownership was put forward I supported it.

It is therefore a lie to say I u-turned and I require an immediate public apology from you and for you to inform every elector that I in fact opposed the closure of Dolphin Manor and support community ownership.

Streetlights – I have not done a u-turn

Local Liberal Democrats have previously issued leaflets which falsely claim that streets in Rothwell face a ‘blackout’ such as one with the headline “Say NO to the BLACKOUT”. In fact not a single street in the ward is facing a blackout. Your Liberal Democrat colleague Cllr Stewart Golton was challenged to name one and was unable to do so.

My position has remained 100% consistent that I will oppose a blackout of streets in Rothwell or where there is actual evidence that partially switching off street lights pose a threat to public safety. There has been no ‘u-turn’ by me on streetlights. I think it is sensible to help save the environment, and save council tax payer’s money, by turning off lights that aren’t needed. Where inappropriate lights have been identified for part night time switch off I have alerted council officers and ensured that they stay on.

In your leaflet you quote several anecdotes from Cllr Golton about petty crime, but fail to point out that crime in Rothwell has actually fallen. Maybe that’s because Cllr Golton failed to inform you of the facts, as he frequently fails to inform his constituents of the truth.

I’m surprised that you would appear to prefer to help destroy the environment and waste council tax payer’s money.

Windmill – it is a lie to say “Community Committee Chairs had been discussing the community centre closure review since at least July last year”

The first mention of the community centre review on any of the minutes of the Community Chairs’ Forum was the 26 August 2014 meeting. This was in item 2.2 which was a reference back to item 2.3 on the minutes of the 1 July 2014 meeting. Item 2.3 of the 1 July meeting was about community centres, but not about the community centre review. In fact it was about internet broadband, ALMO community buildings, booking centres online and that a “report about amending the pricing and lettings policy will be going to the Exec Board”.

The first reference to the community centre review that I am aware of is in the minutes of the executive board on 16 July 2014. As you are aware I don’t sit on the council’s executive board, however your colleague Cllr Stewart Golton does.

Members of the management committee and trust will confirm that I was the first councillor to alert the group to Windmill being listed in the review.

I therefore require an apology to acknowledge that I was not aware of the community centre review in July and that the first Rothwell councillor to be officially aware of it was Cllr Golton.

HS2 – it is a lie to say I failed to “vote against party lines” at full council as there has been nothing relevant to vote against

The only votes to decide if the HS2 route goes through Woodlesford and the amount and criteria for compensation will be taken in the Westminster parliament.

Leeds City Council has no responsibility for determining the HS2 route or compensation paid to residents affected by it therefore there has been nothing relevant put forward at council to vote against. There has been no vote at Leeds City Council to determine either of these things. I am continuing to work with local residents on a change of route and improved compensation.

I therefore require an immediate apology to clarify that there has not been a vote.

Development

I am opposed to development on greenfield sites locally. I was the only Rothwell councillor to speak up for the community at the planning meeting to remove PAS at Royds Lane and Fleet Lane. The core strategy plan that you refer to is about housing and planning in the whole of Leeds and not just part of it.

I looked forward to receiving your reply by Monday 4 May 2015.

 

Yours sincerely

 

Cllr Karen Bruce

Support for HS2 SoWhat campaign for possible re-route and better compensation

SoWhat delegation to full council

It was great to see HS2 SoWhat, the residents’ group, that is campaigning for a better deal  bring a deputation to the September full council meeting. My ward colleague Cllr David Nagle and me were out to support them before the council meeting by joining their demonstration.

At the full council meeting SoWhat asked all 99 councillors to hear their plea to back a possible re-route and support a better compensation package. The councillors all voted that the matter be referred to the executive board for further consideration.

SoWhat delegation to full council

I did some media interviews in front of Leeds Civic Hall with the protestors and I stressed that my main concern is obviously for my constituents and that I’m totally in support of residents in their bid to get the line moved away from the village of Woodlesford and also to get a much improved compensation package.  I told how local people are currently trapped in unsalable homes.  I gave a re-assurance that the council is listening and if there proves to be a viable alternative route then it will back it.

SoWhat delegation to full council

Cllr David Nagle and me are meeting regularly with the leader of Council Keith Wakefield and Cllr James Lewis the chair of the Integrated Transport Authority to make sure that they continue to be informed of residents concerns so that we can support residents.

HS2 Ltd visit area to see devastation of planned route

 Alec Shelbrooke MP, Cllr David Nagle, HS2 Limited, Cllr Mark Dobson with SoWhat showing HS2 impact of proposed route in Woodlesford

On Friday I went on a tour around parts of the Elmet and Rothwell constituency to show senior HS2 officials the areas that will be affected by their proposed route from Birmingham to Leeds.

On the tour was my Rothwell ward colleague David Nagle, Garforth and Swillington councillor Mark Dobson, Rothwell Lib Dem councillor Stewart Golton, Alec Shelbrooke MP, Swillington parish councillor Ed Cartwright of Swillington Organic Farm and representatives of residents group HS2 SOWHAT.

The locations that we showed to the HS2 officials were chosen to show the devastating impact that their current route would have on local communities in Rothwell, Garforth and Swillington. The officials will have been left in no doubt that the current HS2 route will wreak havoc on the lives of local people and destroy some local businesses. I made sure that the officials understood that all three political parties – the Labour councillors in Rothwell, Garforth and Swillington; the remaining Liberal Democrat councillor in Rothwell and Elmet and Rothwell’s Conservative MP – are all united in opposing HS2’s impacting so seriously on local communities and want a better deal for local people including moving the route so it impacts negatively on less people. Cllr Karen Bruce, Alec Shelbrooke MP, Ed Cartwright and others with HS2 officials at Swillington Organic Farm

I also stressed that local people can’t afford to wait for answers and solutions. It might just be a job to HS2 officials, but it is the lives of local people and their families. The news of the potential route has already left some people trapped in homes they can no longer sell if they need to move to a new home because of larger families, new jobs or simply old age and retirement. I want to see immediate help for these people.

I’m also continuing talks with Cllr Keith Wakefield, Leader of Leeds City Council and Cllr James Lewis chair of the Integrated Transport Authority and am meeting with them again this week.

HS2 and Transport secretary show contempt for local people

The more I talk about HS2 to local people in Woodlesford the more angry I become. There is a legitimate debate to be had about the pros and cons of HS2. There is a legitimate debate to be had about the exact route it should take. There can be no debate about how the consultation and compensation process has been handled. It is a complete and utter disgrace.

It is more than two weeks since the government announced the proposed route for second phase of HS2 yet local people still haven’t been contacted by HS2 Ltd. Both HS2 Ltd and Tory secretary of state for transport Patrick McLoughlin have shown utter contempt for local people that they can’t even be bothered to send letters to the homes that will be immediately affected. David Nagle and I have already written to every home in the immediate area so we can start to collate a list of peoples’ concerns that we will present to HS2 and the secretary of state.

Last Saturday the three Rothwell councillors and Elmet and Rothwell MP Alec Shelbrooke met local residents from the Maltings and Locks estates at two open air meetings attended by more than 100 local people.

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Local MP refuses to speak up on behalf of local people

I’m also dismayed that Alec Shelbrooke doesn’t want to stand up in the House of Commons and ask the prime minister David Cameron and Patrick McLoughlin to answer questions. Local people quite rightly expect more of their MP and it’s not good enough for Alec to glibly dismiss asking questions in Parliament as “just pontificating” as he did on Saturday when I challenged him about this. He’s happy enough to pontificate on taking benefits off working families that need them, but not on behalf of his constituents! As all three political parties support the principle of HS2 I really thought that all local politicians could work together on this.

Alec is the only one of us that can stand up in Parliament and ask those questions. He’s the one we elected to send to Westminster. My colleagues and I would certainly be asking those questions.

The consultation process is so feeble that neither HS2 or the Department of Transport have even bothered to contact local councillors so that we can properly help our constituents. Both residents and ourselves are forced to rely on an inadequate website and residents who’ve emailed HS2 haven’t even had a reply.

The responsibility for this incompetent shambles lies directly Patrick McLoughlin. He might claim the plans for consultation were drawn up under his predecessors Justine Greening and Philip Hammond, but that’s no excuse for not improving them. I’m calling on McLoughlin to start treating local people with some respect and consideration. It is unacceptable that neither HS2 nor his department have yet been in direct contact with local homeowners and local councillors.

The Tory/Lib Dem government has already demonstrated its incompetence in managing transport with the fiasco of the west coast rail franchise so McLoughlin needs to get a grip on his department. I’m calling on him to instigate an immediate review of the consultation and communication for HS2 and to implement a new plan that truly listens to local people and lets them know what is happening.

The route into Leeds through Woodlesford is one of the most important sections of the HS2 line so I’m writing to Patrick McLoughlin to ask him to visit us and see for himself how it is affecting local people.