My regular LS26 Local column – December general election

As always, December is a great issue of LS26 Local newszine which is full of pieces about the local area and free at local outlets. I’ve enjoyed writing a regular column since it first started in July 2018. I usually like to write about local issues and not too directly about politics, but for December I of course wrote about the general election as it’s such a huge decision which will impact massively on the whole LS26 area.

All the issues including this one and all the back issues can be read online here

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A bleak dark freezing day in December will see the first general election in December for almost 100 years. If people don’t vote for change though the outlook will be still bleaker!

Over the years people have often commented about politicians, saying “they are all the same!” That couldn’t be further from the truth in the current climate though, the differences between the parties is vast. The reality is that we end up with a Conservative led government or a Labour led government.

We saw in 2010 that the Lib Dems , including their current leader Jo Swinson were happy to join with the Conservatives in government and abandon their pledges including their broken promise on tuition fees and many young people have suffered through this over the last two decades, and will be paying back tuition fees for decades – they will not forget this in a hurry! Labour will scrap tuition fees for our young people.

The Lib Dems enabled Conservative cuts to disability payments which has seen vulnerable local people going through unnecessary stress. I had people coming to see me at my councillor’s surgeries in tears. I supported several cases and was pleased that some decisions were overturned but it’s been heartbreaking to hear in the news about cases of attempted suicide by disability benefit claimants over “fit for work” assessments where it has been too much for some people and the number of those in this situation attempting suicide has tragically doubled.

Neither should people forget that the Lib Dems enabled Conservative austerity which has seen council’s cut to the bone and Leeds has had funding from government cut in half, police officers massively cut by more than 21,000 in times when we need our police more than ever! We’ve seen the cancellation of school building programmes and we can see the impact locally. Our great new school buildings programme under the Labour government saw state of the art new scgphools built like Rodillian and Rothwell Primary but then saw an abrupt stop with no new buildings over the last decade since Conservatives and Liberal Democrat’s put a stop to it. Local children including Royds are suffering with old buildings which are no longer fit for purpose. We desperately need a new Royds school building, the children deserve it!  School funding was cut in the last decade by £7billion.

A decade of austerity has in my opinion changed Britain for the worse, there shouldn’t have been an explosion of food banks in one of the wealthiest countries. This country isn’t looking after its people any more. Britain’s biggest food bank network now has 425 food banks. I never thought I’d see places like Rothwell needing it’s own food bank. I helped to set up the food bank in Rothwell originally at Temple Lawn, John O’ Gaunts ,as locally people were starting to notice the need. The Rothwell food bank is now based at Rothwell fire station. It’s an absolute disgrace that some who are forced to use food banks are the working poor. With many not having proper guaranteed living wages and housing costs out of control. Is this really the mark of a government we want to see continue? We need a Labour government that will start working towards a future where we won’t need any food banks.

Over 15,000 NHS beds have been cut, hospitals are crumbling and the NHS is chronically short of nurses and family doctors. Labour has a 10 point plan to save the NHS and has pledged a £26bn yearly injection which would be funded by reversing corporation tax cuts and taxing the very richest more. Labour will ensure the NHS is protected from a post Brexit trade deal with Donald Trump.

I urge people to remember this election is not just about Brexit, if we have five more years of a Conservative government how much more suffering will local people have to endure?

The Labour position on Brexit is the only moderate position, one which has a chance of bringing people together. It takes into account those who support Brexit and those who support remain. It will give a choice in a referendum of a Labour negotiated Brexit deal with protections built in for working people and remaining in the EU. The Conservative policy takes no account of people who voted to remain and the Liberal Democrat position of remaining by revoking article 50 without even holding another referendum ignores those who voted to leave. Only Labour is even trying to bring this country that is split down the middle together by trying to listen to everyone.

However you might decide to vote I urge you to vote. Staying at home isn’t a protest, it says you’re happy with how things are. The parties aren’t all the same and if you look at the policies of the different parties you may find you like some of what one of them says. We can’t change things if we don’t vote. People have died for our right to vote, women and working class men had to fight to get a vote, so please use it.

David Nagle is Elmet and Rothwell Labour Party’s parliamentary candidate in the forthcoming general election. David and I have worked very closely together as Rothwell councillors and I know he is one of the nicest and most genuine people you could hope to meet. He is also a tirelessly hard worker for the party and the community.

Victory for local residents as Oulton estate saved

I’m so proud of Save Our Homes LS26 residents on their fantastic planning victory! The former coal board community in Oulton near the sports centre were delighted when they found out their homes have been saved. Well done to Leeds City Council for refusing to let the investment giant landlord Pemberstone flatten a whole working class community’s homes and replace with executive houses. I was very proud to tell my daughter our Labour council turned down the planning application. Well done everyone!

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After almost two years of worry and uncertainty, residents of Sugar Hill Close and Wordsworth Drive in Oulton are celebrating the news that their homes have been saved from demolition.

At Leeds City Council’s Plans Panel, councillors rejected an application from investment giant Pemberstone (owners of the whole estate) which would have seen the demolition of 70 existing homes, many of which have been home to their current residents for decades. Elmet and Rothwell Labour Party has campaigned alongside local residents who have fought tirelessly to save their homes and community.

Decision day was a good day for the people of Sugar Hill Close, who have fought so hard for so long to protect the homes and community they love. As a local Labour Party we have been proud to stand with them, together standing up to these absentee landlords and their damaging plans. We believe that had this application been allowed to pass, not only would it have led to a net reduction in affordable housing in the Rothwell area and our already stretched city but the personal cost to these local people would have been immeasurable too. After working closely with the residents on this campaign for over two years I’m so delighted that Leeds City Council has listened and made the right decision on this.

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Thank you Rothwell

Just to say a huge thank you to everyone in Rothwell for your support which has enabled me to make such a difference in our community in the eight years I’ve served as your councillor. I put my heart and soul into serving Rothwell, but couldn’t have done it without the unstinting passion of those who give up their time to work week in week out in our communities of Rothwell, Woodlesford, Oulton and Carlton.

It was a real challenge being up for election again just a year after being re-elected. Normally when a councillor is elected it is for a four year term. I was also now the sole Labour councillor, but I was more than up for the challenge and ready to stand again on my record of standing up for our local people.

But a lot of the electorate decided this election was about Brexit even though it was a local election which should be about local issues. Those of us who were out on the doorstep in Rothwell heard local people’s not just concern but real anger about Brexit. That anger and disappointment cost us hundreds of votes and because Rothwell is a marginal between Labour and the Liberal Democrats it also cost us the election. I don’t blame people for being angry at the mess that the Conservative government is making on Brexit and more clarity is rightly expected from Labour, even though as a councillor you don’t have a say in what happens at Westminster. We can only hope that the national mess will be resolved and then we can come back stronger.

I was gutted when the result came through. It was lovely to see the support throughout the ward though, particularly in certain areas as the boxes came in – on difficult issues that residents had stuck with us. On issues such as the Wood Lane parking issue where votes confirmed my conversations with residents who were more interested in solving the problem than in the petty blame game the Lib Dem councillors were playing. I sincerely hope that they will actually do some work to solve the problem, which they didn’t for the last 12 months.

It is all a bit unreal suddenly not being Rothwell’s councillor anymore. I have to keep reminding myself when I wake up on a morning not to go and do a surgery or not go to Civic Hall that day to discuss what needs doing in Rothwell.

Together we achieved a lot in Rothwell and whilst out and about I’m reminded of how I helped to make a difference. I feel proud when I look at our new fire station that would have been lost. When I see improvements like the new playgrounds in Springhead Park and Woodlesford Park and earlier ones on Wood Lane estate and Carlton. When I see the Windmill Youth Club we saved together. Road safety improvements like the speed indicating devices crossings and 20 mph zones. The Rothwell college re-opening. And lots more we’ve done together.

The Rothwell Liberal Democrats give the Tories an easy ride, blaming the council for things the government is responsible for. Things like HS2, local people suffering through austerity, the housing crisis and relaxation of planning laws. It’s easy for them to criticise, snipe and moan because they never have to take responsibility for any of the vital services we all depend on.

I’m proud that although the council budget has been cut in half by government, services which have been axed elsewhere such as Rothwell children’s centres have been kept open. Rothwell library has not only been kept open, but has extended hours in the new community hub while libraries elsewhere have shut. We still have regular youth clubs where they’ve been axed by other councils. Because these are priorities for the Labour council.

The people in Rothwell, Woodlesford, Oulton and Carlton are the best. Thank you to everyone for your kind messages of support. Your good wishes have meant so much to me. I’m sad not just for me, but far more for Rothwell not to have a Labour councillor who can work with the Labour council to get the best deal possible deal for our area. However you look at it, Lib Dems are a group of eight councillors on Leeds City Council, not important enough to be relevant or make a difference. Labour has 57 and the Conservatives have 23. Some local people have said it’s been great to have a mum like them with a school age child representing them as it’s reassuring to have someone who understood their issues better.  On that note I’d like to thank my husband Stuart and our daughter, their support has been invaluable enabling me to do what I love.  Also thanks to all the Rothwell Labour Party members for your support and hard work and to my agent David Miller.  Thank you all again, I’ve loved working with everyone in our communities.

All I can say is even a week is a long time in politics and that’s truer now than it ever was!

Welcome new Rothwell Springhead Park playground

The new playground for younger children has been
eagerly anticipated and it’s great to see it’s already started to be enjoyed with vigour by lots of our younger members of the community including these Easter holidays.

This is the first phase of the new Springhead Park playgrounds, with the second phase for older children to be the next step.

It’s wonderful that the playground is here and it’s fantastic to see the children enjoying their new play equipment. I’m so pleased it’s being enjoyed right from the start of spring. It’s great when a project I’ve worked hard on for so long to achieve finally happens and I can see the benefits to Rothwell’s youngest residents.”

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I would like to thank Groundwork for its help in pulling the scheme together, support from Rothwell Tenants and Residents Association and Springhead Park Volunteers, Large grants came from S106 monies which has to be paid by the developer towards greenspace projects from recent building at Rodewelle Green, and Veolia Environmental Trust and thanks to South Leeds Housing Advisory Panel and the Tea Cosy Memory Cafe for their contributions.

The new playground includes 6 swings, a toddler castle with slide unit,  2 towers multi-unit with slide and wackle bridge,- 8 lucky clover stepping pods,  3 spinner bowls, a fully inclusive roundabout and much more!

I talked to a lot of residents and it was clear this was a huge priority for young families and grandparents alike.

So many local children, including my daughter, have loved playing on the current playgrounds over the years and have fond memories, and I’m sure the new equipment will give many hours of happy memories to families with young children today.

I’m keen to see more dynamic and challenging pieces of equipment for older children, such as zip wire and other popular equipment. This will be the next phase in improving our park this summer, your ideas are welcome.

Outdoor play is great for children. Playing outside helps children to develop their learning abilities. Outdoor play is great for encouraging children’s creativity. There are numerous health benefits to playing outside. Other benefits to local children include social skills, well-being, independence and exploration.

New flashing speed warning signs for Woodlesford and Leadwell/Carlton Lane

A new speed indicating device SID (flashing speed indicator device) is now in place on Aberford Road in Woodlesford. 

I held a site meeting some months ago on Aberford Road, Woodlesford with residents and the council’s Highways officer to site a speed indicating device to slow down traffic coming into the village. We were able to have confirmation that the area is indeed suitable and to identify the best site to place a SID (this is the dynamic sign which gives a smiley face if you’re below 30 or tells you to slow down if needed). It was agreed to place the sign approaching the village before the railway bridge and just after Juniper Avenue (The Maltings estate).

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Checking out the new flashing speed warning sign in Woodlesford

It’s great to see the SID in place, I have been to have a look and seen that it is having an impact.  Having already earmarked funding as Rothwell councillor and chair of the Outer South Community Committee, I wanted to see the measure in place as soon as possible for the benefit of the community. So I’m delighted it’s now in here. 

I’ve worked to get another flashing speed sign SID as Leadwell Lane approaches Carlton Lane in Rothwell, to help slow down the traffic approaching a particularly bad bend. This will complement the one further up Leadwell Lane near the Chinese takeaway. This will be in place soon. 

I met with concerned residents at the end of last year at the junction of Carlton Lane with Stainton Lane on site with the Highways officer to look at what could be done to help make it safer.

As well as the speed indicating device, one of the immediate measures identified are improved bend warning signs (on yellow backing boards) which have been designed and manufactured and will be erected as soon as possible. This sign will highlight the hazard much more effectively than the existing signs do.

Speeding traffic is amongst the top issues I get contacted about, asked about whilst out and about, at surgeries, when knocking on doors, and on social media.  I want to do all I can to make all our roads safer, it is a top priority. I hope these actions will be a good addition to improving the safety of our roads.

Both devices are funded from the Outer South Community Committee funding, which I chair.