Since publicly announcing that I’m seeking selection as Labour’s candidate for Elmet and Rothwell in the 2015 general election I’ve been honoured and humbled at the number of people who are pledging their support and offering their endorsements.
Labour Party members from across the constituency as well as councillors are all pledging their support and stressing how important it is that we have a local candidate that has the experience and expertise to take on Alec Shelbrooke and win Elmet and Rothwell back for Labour.
We shouldn’t be surprised, but I’m still disappointed that my local MP Alec Shelbrooke voted for the bedroom tax. In doing so he will cause misery for many of his constituents who will lose the essential money they need to live just because the Tory government thinks they have too many rooms. I don’t see Alec Shelbrooke complaining about the spare rooms in the mansions of millionaires.
Before the last election the Conservative Party fooled voters into thinking it was no longer the ‘Nasty Party’, but cruel and unfair policies like the bedroom tax show it’s just the same as it always was.
As a Rothwell councillor my postbag and advice surgeries are always full of local people desperate for social housing. We should be looking at what we can do to improve the quality and availability of homes for everyone and not penalising those in need.
People won’t forget the Tory government’s cruelty and won’t forgive Alec for his part in it when it comes to the general election and they vote him out.
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.
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.
It’s been a very busy couple of weeks as not only have I been dealing with all of the normal duties of a councillor, but both David Nagle and me have been inundated by people contacting us about the proposal that the new HS2 high speed railway line should come through Woodlesford.
The news came as a bolt out of the blue both for residents and councillors – I found out about when I saw local people talking about it on Twitter and Facebook. Understandably some Woodlesford residents have been absolutely devastated to find out that their quiet, picturesque and peaceful canal side community will potentially be fundamentally changed with a viaduct to carry a high speed train.
Tory transport minister shows staggering contempt for local people
The news came as a shock to us all, but I’m also angry about the way it has been handled so far. As an elected councillor I’m shocked at the incompetence of the so called consultation as there has been no attempt by the government or HS2 Ltd to contact us directly, simply leaving us to find things out for ourselves and hindering our ability to help and support local residents. Neither have local residents been contacted directly. It shows a staggering contempt for the views and needs of local people and makes me question just how genuine the consultation actually is.
I’d like to praise those residents who have already started to work together and I think that it is essential that myself and Councillor David Nagle, Rothwell’s two Labour councillors, and Liberal Democrat councillor Stewart Golton work together to support local people. All three of us attended the Woodlesford and Oulton Action Group meeting on Wednesday Tuesday which was packed with worried local people. David and me met Andrew Hall, from the Leeds City council transport department on Tuesday Monday for our first briefing on HS2 and despite the short notice I persuaded Andrew to come to the action group meeting the following evening.
So far I haven’t heard anything directly from Alec Shelbrooke our local Elmet and Rothwell Tory MP. If we are to get the best result for local people then it’s important that local politicians put aside their political differences and work together.
I am writing to HS2 Limited and Patrick McLoughlin, the Conservative secretary of state for transport, to ask that they come to Woodlesford to see and hear for themselves how local people will be effected. We’ve had far too little information about the consultation process and we especially need to know far more about proposals to provide compensation to those affected. One of my concerns is that people living just outside the 60m distance from the centre of the track will lose out.