Labour councillors help fund ‘Miles of Smiles’ for older people in Rothwell, Woodlesford, Oulton and Carlton

Karen at FDM eventIt was fantastic to be able to help wonderful local Rothwell transport charity FDM to enable them to deliver a new initiative combating social isolation and loneliness.

A grant of £2,800 from the Council’s Outer South Community Committee, which I chair, and Cllr David Nagle also sits on, has been provided for the ‘Miles of Smiles’ project, which will provide trips out, both locally and further afield, for older and disabled local people living in Rothwell and its surrounding areas.

Through the project, For Disability Mobility (FDM) will provide a variety of opportunities for the elderly and disabled so they can continue to live life to the full and have an active role within their community. The organisation is aware through other initiatives, such as their social club, that by helping people form new friendships many people can feel they have a new lease of life.

The ambition of the project is to deliver 27 trips over nine months, helping at least 324 people get out and about and feel more independent, as well as improving their mental wellbeing. Another aim is to promote and communicate the service provided by FDM across the area to attract new service users.

The grant from the Outer South Community Committee supports the delivery of at least three trips a month using FDM’s two fully-equipped 16-seater mini-buses, which can also safely carry wheelchair users and wheeled walkers. The second mini bus became available in September 2016, when the organisation increased its capacity and improve comfort for their members.

FDM have recently celebrated their 20th anniversary and have therefore been serving the community and getting people out and about for over two dFDM eventecades.

It was great to attend FDM’s 20th anniversary celebrations, attended by the Lord Mayor of Leeds and FDM’s patrons Christine Talbot, Billy Pearce and Dicky Bird. There was a lot to celebrate, getting so many of our local older people out and about and meeting friends over a 20 year period is something to be applauded.

FDM provides an absolutely vital service to many people across our local area. my ward colleague Cllr David Nagle and I work very closely with them all-year round and I am delighted that we as the Community Committee could provide a grant to them to support the delivery of such a brilliant project.

Social isolation  and loneliness is a huge issue but one which can be hidden. We must do everything we can to prevent it and the ‘Miles of Smiles’ project is a fantastic way of getting people out of their homes and bringing them together. Our Community Committee is very happy to support such a worthwhile initiative and it is very fitting that following FDM’s 20th anniversary, we can fund this marvellous project to allow them to reach even more socially isolated and lonely older people than ever.

You can find out more about FDM at its website.

Fighting with former coal board estate residents to ‘Save our Homes’ from the bulldozer

Residents on the former coal board estate of Wordsworth Drive and Sugar Hill Close, near Rothwell sports centre in Oulton are sick with worry as Pemberstone (their private landlord) submitted its planning application to bulldoze the 70 homes on the estate and replace with 71 new private houses. Residents are happy there and many have lived there for decades including quite a few former miners, miners widows or grown up children of miners. There are a group of residents that have lived there for half a century when the estate was part of the mining community of the Rothwell district.

Image result for councillor karen bruce full councilThere are also a lot of residents who have lived on the estate for up to 15 or 20 years, who still be turfed out of their homes with only two months’ notice the same as those who have been there for a shorter times. Pemberstone says it will meet its legal responsibilities but as that gives no protection at all for most of the residents, it isn’t good enough.

Petition on Christmas stallMyself and my ward colleague Cllr David Nagle have been supporting residents in various ways since October see previous update. On our Labour councillors’ stall in Rothwell we collected signatures for the paper petition to ‘save our homes’ along with residents. This is being run in conjunction with the online petition which already has over 1300 signatures and you can sign at http://bit.ly/sohls26.  I also organised for a welfare solicitor to meet the group and he gave some useful advice to the tenants.  I also advised the residents of a phone in on 18 February on LBC radio with the Conservative housing secretary Sajid Javid where a resident got to speak with him and put the plight of the residents to him. He said he would receive their information and looImage may contain: 2 people, people on stage, people sitting and indoork into it for them, but he hasn’t got back to the residents as promised.

I raised the issue in the council chamber at full council speaking up for the plight of the residents of the estate and used the opportunity to also call for more social housing. I also assisted the group in being able to take a deputation to full council on the same day to put forward their case to all councillors and senior council officers.

This is the singImage may contain: 3 people, people sitting, table and indoorle biggest injustice I’ve seen in my time as a Rothwell councillor and it beggars belief that this could be allowed to happen. I’ve met lots of great local people in my time as a councillor and it is gutting that a whole community of our fantastic local people face losing their homes. They deserve so much better. I will continue to do my utmost for these residents.

We have met with the group on a regular basis and offering ongoing support with all the issues as they develop. We have arranged for Leeds Housing Options to visit residents to offer the appropriate advice on each individual family’s housing situations.

When the issue came to light I managed to secure BBC coverage on its Look North television news programme to highlight the plight of the residents http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-leeds-41650285.

We are lobbying the council to see to what extent it is possible that it could intervene to help the residents.

As a result, I’m pleased that Martin Farrington, the council’s director of city development will meet with Pemberstone, the owner of the homes, shortly so that the council has certainty about its intentions towards the tenants.

The planning department has told me that it will still accept comments on the planning application up until at least 16 February. If you want to help local families stop private investment company Pemberstone from bulldozing their homes to replace them with expensive executive homes please put your own comments in to object to the planning application. They are our neighbours and part of the Rothwell, Woodlesford and Oulton community and are relying on us all for support.

Here are some of the points you may consider including in your comments to planning application 17/06933/FU :

  • These plans would see 70 families losing their homes and it would be impossible to rehome them all.
  • The proposal will change the character of the former coal board estate neighbourhood and a key part of the local mining heritage beyond recognition.
  • The 70 existing properties on this former coal board estate are fully occupied by tenants, many of whom have lived there for many years. Residents are happy living there in their close community.
  • It is unfair that a whole community of people should lose their homes and community support because they can’t afford to buy or rent expensive new private housing
  • This type of affordable rented housing is badly needed in the area. To lose 70 affordable housing units would be devastating for the area.
  • It is important to have a good mix of properties and the type of private housing proposed to be built will just provide more of the same type of new development we have seen so much of in the Oulton area.
  • This proposal is harmful to community wellbeing and the health and wellbeing of individual people.
  • The proposal doesn’t add any housing to the area and isn’t an allocated site.
  • Residents see a lot of bats around the estate, especially at certain times of the year. There are reports of bats in residents’ lofts. Bats are protected by law and no bat survey has been done.

You can comment at http://publicaccess.leeds.gov.uk/online-applications/

The Rothwell Labour team 2018

Local Labour Party members who live in Rothwell, Woodlesford, Oulton and Carlton have chosen its three candidates for three candidatesnext year’s local council elections.

I’m delighted and honoured that they’ve chosen me (Karen Bruce) and David Nagle your existing councillors as well as a fantastic new candidate to contest the third Rothwell council seat.

At a meeting of local members on Friday 1 December we selected Sharon Burke. She told the meeting of her passion for giving local people the education, skills and employment they need to get on. Sharon spent many years working for the Job Centre and some may recognise Sharon from the seven years she spent working at the old job centre on Butcher Lane in Rothwell. She also worked as manager at Hunslet Job Centre. It says something when on leaving the job centre, 300 local people signed a petition to try to get her to stay!

Image may contain: 9 people, people smiling, people standingSharon impressed the local people at the meeting with her knowledge of many of the local issues Rothwell faces including her interest in the campaign by residents of the former coal board estate in Oulton, already coming up with ideas to help with the campaign before even being selected. Sharon also was well aware of the parking issue on Wood Lane and is keen to see progress with the situation. Sharon told the meeting that she doesn’t support HS2 and that she wants to help protect our local green fields.

Sharon is looking forward to working with us on the campaign and we are pleased to have her on the Rothwell Labour team.

Next year’s local election will be unusual in that all three council seats will be up for election at once. This means it is vitally important that you use all three of your votes to vote for Karen Bruce, Sharon Burke and David Nagle as it is essential we stop the Tories seizing control of Leeds council. If you vote for other candidates then there is a real risk the Tories will get in and impose even more brutal cuts in Rothwell, while protecting services in their own areas like Wetherby and Harewood. 

Save our homes plea from residents of Sugar Hill Close and Wordsworth Drive

Photo of residents of Sugar Hill Close and Wordsworth Drive with Cllr Karen Bruce and Cllr David Nagle

It’s a very worrying time for residents on one of our local estates, which is the former coal board estate near to Rothwell Leisure Centre, Sugar Hill Close and Wordsworth Drive. As it came to light in the last week or two that a whole community of 70 families is in danger of having their homes bulldozed as their private landlord prepares to put in a planning application for new housing in place of their homes.

This is a devastatingly worrying time for them and we as Rothwell councillors are doing all we can to support them. We have already spoken to many of the residents already and are continuing to knock on doors to try and visit all the residents. We have helped them to start a campaign this week for them to “Save our Homes”.

Many residents of the estate tell me they love where they live and want to stay as they have a great community. Many have paid enough in rent over the years to this private landlord that it would have been enough or even more than enough to buy their house.

Most residents only found out about this when a flyer arrived through their door. about a ‘public consultation’ event for “land at Sugar Hill Close and Wordsworth Drive”. Some didn’t see the leaflet as it was hidden in amongst takeaway menus that were delivered the same day.

Residents are rightly very upset and angry to be treated in such a horrible way. This is about the homes they live in and their close community which are far more important than the land.

A company called Pemberstone owns both the land and the homes. It is going to put in a planning application to build 72 new houses which we believe is likely to be sold as private housing.

David and I attended the drop-in session held by the agents and then demanded a meeting with the owner and its agents. The owner didn’t attend and the agents who attended on its behalf did not give satisfactory answers to our questions. The agents refused to make any guarantees to ensure that existing tenants would be protected and refused to give any guarantees to reassure tenants.

We as local Labour councillors will stand by the residents to fight this proposal and try to protect them and their families.

Poster in window Wordsworth DriveWe are already working with residents and have helped to set up a residents’ action group to fight this and stand up for people on Sugar Hill Close and Wordsworth Drive. A house meeting on Saturday saw volunteers come forward to help start the campaign. Over the weekend and using social media to keep in contact with the group, the campaign has already started and it’s great to see the posters in windows so quickly saying, “Save our Homes”.

Woodlesford community ignored by government over HS2

As the local councillor for Woodlesford I’m disappointed and furious that Chris Grayling, the government minister in charge of HS2, has ignored the wishes of local people and local Labour councillors and won’t change the HS2 route into Leeds.

This is a blow to Woodlesford residents who have been fighting hard to get the route changed. Not only has the government largely ignored the concerns of local people regarding the route through Woodlesford, but it has added insult to injury by refusing to improve the level of compensation for those affected.

I made my views very clear to HS2 early this year when I put together and submitted a response to the consultation from myself and my Labour ward colleague Cllr David Nagle. I made it clear that I can’t support HS2 whilst it is having such an adverse impact on the communities I represent in Oulton and Woodlesford.

Contrary to what Chris Grayling has said that he would continue to ensure affected communities get appropriate support and are treated with fairness, compassion and respect.

In fact, I believe the opposite is true as our communities have been from the very start and continue to be treated unfairly. They have been left in limbo without the appropriate communication or support. It makes me angry that this government claims that the community I represent has been treated with compassion, when in fact this government wouldn’t know the meaning of that word if it jumped up and bit it. To say that local people have been treated with respect by HS2 and the government beggars belief.

The whole consultation process has just an absolute sham from start to finish, residents have been ignored once again.

In a switch from previous plans, the government said it was now “minded” to build a new rolling stock depot on a former power station site next to junction 45 of the M1 to the east of Leeds instead of near the Wakefield village of Crofton. We are looking into what the implications of this could be for our area.

David and I have requested an urgent update and are looking at what more we can do as local councillors. We will continue to work with the local campaign group SoWhat HS2 to do all we can, even in the face of this decision. HS2 is of course a government scheme and the decisions on it are made in parliament not at council. I will continue to do my utmost to represent my constituents affected by the route. We must keep up the pressure.

Alec Shelbrooke seems very quiet on social media, let’s hope he is too busy standing up for local people and lobbying Chris Grayling, I’d like to think so but somehow that doesn’t fill me with any confidence

UPDATE

Several people have commented and been in touch to ask questions so I thought rather than responding individually and privately to people it would be helpful to update the original post.

I understand the frustrations that local people have. The fact is all the main parties are in support of HS2. However, it is the current Conservative government and the previous coalition government of Conservatives and Liberal Democrats that are responsible for the route, the compensation and the management of the consultation which has been abysmal.

The three main parties are supporting the scheme because of the benefits to the country as a whole and to the city of Leeds. That is why Leeds City Council is supporting HS2. My position is that I also support HS2 in principle, but initially expressed objections and concerns about the route and compensation, and therefore campaigned and lobbied for both to be improved.

That remained my position until it became clear that the Conservative government didn’t care about people in Woodlesford and Rothwell and were treating us with utter contempt by refusing to take meaningful action on our concerns. On the 14 March this year I, and Cllr David Nagle, issued a statement where we said: “We have made clear that we as local Labour councillors cannot support HS2 unless the huge blight on Woodlesford and Oulton is lifted.”

As your local representative I strongly feel that I cannot support HS2 whilst ever the route brings blight to our communities. I personally feel that HS3 will be the link that actually brings major benefit to the north and to our communities as opposed to HS2. But the government has betrayed the north on that as well with its announcement that it won’t be fully improving the trans-Pennine route to provide the vital boost to east west transport we need.

You can see some of my previous statements on HS2 here:

14 March 2017 | Karen Bruce and David Nagle can’t support HS2 blighting Woodlesford and Oulton

9 February 2016 | Listen to us call from village on HS2 line as floods warn of potential havoc

23 September 2015 | New council leader meets with HS2 Woodlesford residents

30 October 2014 | Letter to residents near government’s proposed HS2 route

22 October 2014 | Latest HS2 announcement shows government contempt for Rothwell, Woodlesford and Oulton

3 October 2013 | Support for HS2 SoWhat campaign for possible re-route and better compensation

24 July 2013 | HS2 Ltd visit area to see devastation of planned route

19 February 2013 | HS2 and Transport secretary show contempt for local people

16 February 2013 | HS2 route through Woodlesford comes as ‘bolt out of the blue’ for residents and councillors