I’m at the full meeting of Leeds City Council. My new ward colleague David Nagle has just given his maiden speech about our fight to save the allotments in Rothwell.
I spoke on setting up the Rothwell Town Forum and this is gist of what I said:
I was elected last year as a Rothwell councillor and it was obvious to me that the town of Rothwell, like many other areas, is crying out for new life. Some of our shops are struggling and we need more footfall down Commercial Street. I’m passionate about helping to do this. Which is why I called a public meeting to start a Rothwell Town Forum.
We have a fantastic asset in our town centre with some great individual shops which I totally support, god forbid we should end up with our high streets being full of nothing but identical chain shops replacing our much loved individual local shops and no Olywn Fox providing true local service, but instead only Currys with its know nothing assistants; and no Brew tea rooms, but only Starbucks on every street.
We have to make the most of what we have in Rothwell and not only fight to keep our individuality but help our centre to realise its full potential and draw people here. I want to see us build on the unique character that Rothwell has whilst at the same time bringing it into the 21st century. We need to offer people something which cannot be matched by out of town shopping centres or the internet.
We also have other pockets throughout the district including in Woodlesford, Oulton and Carlton with fantastic shops which also have huge potential and also need our support.
There was a huge amount of enthusiasm at the first meeting for the need to do something, despite some of the challenges and setbacks traders have faced in the past. This will only work with the community coming together to help themselves and I’m sure that we can do it.
Some great ideas came out of the meeting like the need for improved signage, a directory and newsletter promoting all local businesses that could be distributed to every house in Rothwell, experimenting with late night opening for one night a week, looking at what could be done to improve the semi-pedestranisation of Commercial Street, how businesses could work together with joint promotions, perhaps creating a ‘Rothwell Pound’ – a special currency that can only be spent in Rothwell, a community notice board and better business support and advice.
And we’ve got our role to play. Keith did a great job chairing the “Commission on the Future of Local Government.” But we’ve got to ensure that it’s more than just words and truly embrace entrepreneurship. Too often our local traders face petty bureaucratic restrictions and as a council we aren’t flexible enough to meet the real needs of people.That has to change. And we here should be that change.
Just an update on the ongoing incinerator issue (the proposed waste treatment plant), the council have four bidders for the plant, three are proposing the use of ‘energy from waste’ whilst the fourth is proposing ‘mechanical biological treatment’. Three of the bidders are intending to use the former wholesale markets site on Pontefract Lane, whilst the fourth is opting for a site in the Aire Valley near the sewerage works.
A new bike link between Garforth and Temple Newsam is being proposed to encourage local people to ride their bikes more often as Garforth Today reports. Leeds Bike Week (from June 13) will see a range of schemes put forward. Let’s hope this means fewer people will use their cars and add to the congestion we see during the school run and people taking advantage of the sunshine this summer to improve their fitness and pumping out less fumes into the air too!
It’s a blow that bus company First has axed two Leeds night buses including the 921 Leeds – Swillington, especially as this could compromise public safety. The story is in tonight’s Yorkshire Evening Post. I would have thought that with the recession more people would be in need of public transport. I would be very interested to know how widely the service has been promoted to potential passengers before the axe fell?
When I was a councillor for Garforth and Swillington I always campaigned for improvements to public transport and was pleased to have fought for my constituents best interests for example a Swillington bus re-routed to serve sheltered housing, so older people didn’t have a long walk to get to a bus stop, and getting bus shelters as some of our older folk were being battered by wind, hail and rain.
Many of us feel that Leeds has been getting a raw deal on public transport under the Conservative and Lib Dem Leeds City Council who are not fighting our corner, and this is just another deterioration of our services!
One of the issues closest to my heart is equality and I’m proud that the Labour Party is continuing to do something about inequality. Labour has always stood up for equality which is one of the reasons why I’m in the party, more needed to be done and this will hopefully go some way towards addressing what needs to be done to end the many types of discrimination. It’s unbelievable that nearly 40 years after the equal pay act women are still paid less than men, having campaigned on this issue and organised a ‘no pay day’ event for Fawcett Society in Leeds I’m delighted that measures are being taken to make the difference in men and women’s pay more transparent.
The bill has two main purposes, to bring together current discrimination law and to strengthen the law to support progress on equality.
I have trawled through the bill and am happy that this is a leap forward in terms of equality and takes on many forms of discrimination. Once implemented it will be another good step forward for people in Elmet and Rothwell.