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

Funding for spring trips to support tea cosy memory cafe Rothwell

 

Tea Cosy Karen and David with PeterI was pleased to be able to give a donation from my councillor’s MICE money to Tea Cosy Memory Café in Rothwell. I’ve worked closely with the community group since it began in October 2011, and pledged £300 from my MICE fund to support the work the café undertakes in the local area. The money will be used specifically to fund day trips for those who attend the Café, which allows those in need to feel able to leave the local area in the knowledge that they will be safe and secure.

I remember when Tea Cosy cafe first started there were literally a handful of people attending so it’s wonderful now to see the parish centre packed on a Saturday morning attracting 100 to 150 people. It’s lovely to see everyone with a smile on their faces in a welcoming, friendly and safe environment.

The Café offers a range of activities, largely for those affected by dementia, and is working to counteract the impact of social isolation within the local community. The day trips which will be put on this year will include visits to Skipton and Bridlington and they will be invaluable to those taking part in them, as many feel unable to leave their local community during the year without such support.

The founder of Tea Cosy memory cafe is Rothwell man Peter Smith who has used his passion and personal and work experience to launch both this dementia cafe and dementia friendly Rothwell.Thanks to Peter Rothwell has led the way with both the tea cosy dementia cafe and dementia friendly Rothwell. Peter has also provided vital support to other areas of the city and farther afield to set up their own similar initiatives.

The Tea Cosy Memory Café is a fantastic organisation that offers much-needed opportunities for people in Rothwell. However, as a non-profit making community group they rely on their own fantastic fundraising efforts and the goodwill of others to ensure they can continue doing the brilliant work they do.

I am so pleased to be able to make a contribution to them and to help them to continue to provide such a wide range of activities for some of the most vulnerable people in my ward. I am extremely proud of what the Café has achieved to date, so long may it continue.

The Tea Cosy Memory Café opened in October 2011 and is the major contributor – and originator – of Dementia Friendly Rothwell. The Café is held on the first Saturday of every month at Rothwell Parish Centre and the next one is this coming Saturday, if you know anyone who would benefit then come along, we look forward to seeing everyone!. Tea Cosy is for all those in need of support, but specifically for those affected by dementia.

Dementia Friendly Rothwell is a campaign to make Rothwell the first dementia-friendly community in Leeds. It has inspired a number of other similar campaigns across the city.

Rothwell FDM bus and Rothwell Rollers’ cars for older people to get blue badges back

 

FDM bus RothwellOur locally based groups which provide transport for older people and those with a disability in Rothwell, Woodlesford, Oulton and Carlton and the surrounding area, will be pleased to know that they will get their blue badges again. FDM bus charity (For Disability Mobility) will use its badge once again on its specially adapted bus. The charity operates from the grounds of Dolphin Manor care home.

I’ve previously raised this issue on behalf of our local groups including Rothwell Rollers, a charity which has been running for 20 years, funded solely by donations, has volunteer drivers who use their own cars to take members on trips to the shops, hospital appointments and even for days out, and it was sorely hit by the blue badge refusal, which isn’t right when it’s doing such a grand job for those who need it. I arranged a meeting with officers some time ago to raise objection and question the decision.

More recently Ron Frost of FDM (For Disability Mobility) and I had a chat about this at the International Older People’s day event held at Blackburn Hall, which spurred me to try to do something about the situation again. Local groups had been told by adult social care that the decision couldn’t be changed as it was the guidance from government. Ron explained that FDM have had a Blue Badge for 17 years, but its renewal was declined by Leeds City Council. The organisation, which arranges trips out and transport for older and disabled people in the local area, and which has a special lift fitted to the bus, was forced to ask its members to bring their own blue badges to use on FDM’s bus when they were taken out on trips, which was a major inconvenience to FDM which provides a fantastic service for our communities.

The move by the council followed changes to guidance/regulations from central government, and this is what council officers said they were basing their decision on to turn down FDM and similar organisations for a blue badge, although it seemed that there was an element of interpretation in the decision making.

I intervened and asked Cllr Adam Ogilvie, the Executive Member responsible for adult social care, to meet with Ron Frost so Ron could explain how the decision was impacting on the work of the charity as well as other local transport charities and groups, this meeting took place last week.

After meeting with Ron, Cllr Ogilvie then this week asked officers to look at the issue again including the guidance/regulations. Having taken legal advice from the council and speaking to Tom Riordan, the council’s chief executive, Adam instructed officers in Adult Social Care to revise the council’s policy so that such organisations will be eligible for an organisational blue badge. Officers will be devising the new policy and it will require a delegated decision and a clear process for organisations to follow.FDM, Rothwell Rollers and others locally are helping vulnerable people to get out of their homes into the wider community, which they enjoy enormously, and helping to prevent social isolation – something that is central to our health and wellbeing strategy in the city. I believe this change in policy is a victory for common sense.

People who are working for the good of Rothwell, Woodlesford, Oulton and Carlton should be helped wherever possible and I was pleased to be able to assist in getting the right decision for everyone concerned.

A day in the life of a Rothwell councillor

Brew Tea Rooms, Commercial Street, Rothwell

Rothwell councillors’ surgeries: Brew Tea Rooms 1st Friday of each month from 10.30 am. Morrisons 3rd Saturday of each month from 10.30 am.

Many people don’t know very much about what a councillor actually does, so I thought it would be useful to share a day in the life of a Rothwell councillor.

My day started with a coffee and a quick check of email, Facebook and Twitter to see if anything had cropped up overnight that might need my urgent attention that day. After that it was breakfast and getting my daughter ready for school.

Then the day started in earnest with a morning spent sorting out issues for local people who’ve contacted me by phone, email, Twitter, Facebook or attending my councillor’s surgery at Brew Tea Rooms or Morrisons. These tend to split into two sorts of case work. First there are the individual issues such as helping people with housing problems or social services and generally picking up on things where people are unhappy about the services they’ve received from the council. Secondly there are the issues that people raise with me that are applicable to the wider community such as road safety, street cleaning, parks and playgrounds, cars on Rothwell Commercial Street etc.

But in reality there is no predicting what issues will be raised as people come to you with all sorts of things. Some are things that I can sort easily (such as getting the drain on John O’Gaunts fixed). Others that are more challenging such as housing where much as I want to help it is hard as there simply isn’t enough affordable and social housing and policies like the Conservative/Lib Dem bedroom tax make it even worse. Often people will come to you with issues that really aren’t things that a councillor can help with.

I also made time to write a blog post and update Twitter and Facebook to make sure people knew about the latest on the lack of progress in building new homes on the site of the old Rothwell primary school (I updated people on the new Rothwell fire station on Tuesday).

Before heading out for an afternoon and evening of meetings I just had time to record a video message for my daughter so Stuart could play it to her as I wouldn’t be back from my meetings before she went to bed.

In the afternoon, I chaired the outer south area environmental committee (which includes Rothwell, Ardsley & Robin Hood, Morley North and Morley South)  where issues discussed included updates on various parks projects and how the fortnightly bin collections are working on the ground. We also discussed food waste collection, which was rolled out to include the whole of the Rothwell ward last year so now includes Carlton. It is proving very popular with local residents, despite our local Liberal Democrat councillor moaning about it. We also discussed how improvements can be made to local street cleaning, dog fouling and fly tipping. It was a good meeting and I was there as Rothwell councillor representative and the other councillor who was present was Cllr Karen Renshaw representing neighbouring Ardsley and Robin Hood ward.

I then went with ward colleague Cllr David Nagle to visit two long standing Rothwell Labour party members who are old friends. The visit was long overdue and it was good to see old friends who although suffering through illness, looked really well, it was lovely to see them.

Then David and I went on to the Rothwell Tenants and Residents Association meeting which was reasonably well attended with lots of familiar faces along with a few new ones which is nice to see. The meeting was chaired by vice chair Angela Kellett, as our chair Ronnie Hammill is unwell. Get well soon Ronnie!

The meeting started with a report and discussion on PACT – Police and Communities Together. Sergeant Paul Dennison from Rothwell neighbourhood police team talked about local crimes and stressed how although there is some crime, it feels like a very safe place to live in Rothwell, Woodlesford, Oulton and Carlton compared to other areas. He also explained to the residents present about the changes taking place within the police, which as a result of cuts to the police budget, will see a new Neighbourhood Policing Team which includes all of Outer South Leeds which also takes in Morley. As one older resident pointed out, Rothwell is going back in with Morley like it used to be. Rothwell police station will be kept open with staff still working out of there.

We then went on to the councillors’ part of the meeting where there were a lot of issues raised, some individual and more which affect the community. I came away from the meeting with lots of casework to take up on many different topics, but the most popular subject and in various locations, was trees, shrubs and bushes which are encroaching in some way.

And finally at about 9:00pm I got home for dinner.

And now it all starts again as I’ve got to get on with sorting out the caseload from last night! Luckily today I don’t have any meetings, but there is lots of case work, phone calls and emails to do today as I’ve got several meetings tomorrow.

Latest news on Dolphin Manor

Dolphin Manor, Rothwell

Yesterday I had a busy day of council activity. I spent the morning catching up on paperwork and case work to help local residents and then in the afternoon was out and about with lots of meetings.

First I went into Leeds to the Civic Hall where I had yet another meeting with Councillor Lucinda Yeadon, the executive member for Adult Social Care to further discuss the possibility of how Dolphin Manor in Rothwell could be saved. I’m really enthusiastic about the proposals to run the home as a charitable trust – put to Lucinda last month by James Normington (another Rothwell Labour Party member) and myself. I’ve also had meetings with Councillor Keith Wakefield, the leader of the council and other executive board members to ensure they understand the importance of Dolphin Manor and seriously consider the proposals put forward by James.

After that I dashed back to Rothwell for a wonderful visit to Dolphin Manor where I’d been invited to enjoy afternoon tea. Some delicious scones were served and I had another lovely chat with residents and staff – it was lovely to see them all again. Visiting her gran there was Tracey McAndrew (better known as Nell McAndrew) so I also had a good chat with her, she is very supportive and offered to help in our efforts to try to save Dolphin Manor.

As a newly appointed member to the board of Aire Valley Homes I also had a good meeting with Simon Costigan, the chief executive. It was interesting to catch up with what’s happening with the ALMO and to find out a bit more ahead of the board meetings.