Bonfire night will be very different this year in Rothwell and everywhere, as it is on the same day as lockdown two begins in England. We are blessed in Rothwell to have a wonderful community bonfire in Springhead Park provided by Leeds City Council and supported by the Rothwell and District Lions and usually a sponsor. It’s certainly one of the highlights of the Rothwell calendar and is enjoyed by thousands. It’s a real shame we’ll miss it this year along with all the other community events that have had to be cancelled this year.
When it was announced and I shared on the Rothwell News Facebook page that the council bonfires would be cancelled due to coronavirus I wrote to Labour council executive member Cllr Mohammed Rafique, and Cllr Judith Blake, the council leader. Residents had expressed so much concern to me that safety could be compromised by more private bonfires taking place and that there could be more anti-social behaviour and misuse of fireworks from more individual people buying them. I asked what action could be taken and that a public information campaign would be useful.
But not everyone enjoys fireworks. Pets and other animals don’t understand what the loud bangs and bright flashes are and can be distressed and even injure themselves. Our dog shakes and he gets very frightened barking and running around unless we are holding him to try and keep him calm. Our late dog used to throw himself at the door out of terror, and our cat runs for cover she’s so scared.
It’s not just pets as fireworks are also a big problem for many older adults who can experience agitation, distress, anxiety and confusion.
Some people have asked why sale of fireworks to individuals can’t be banned. The answer is there was a huge online petition to parliament, there was an inquiry last year, but the government decided not to ban the sale of fireworks. The reasons given were the economic impact (the till effect we’ve become accustomed to), that it could have the opposite effect and drive the sale underground and that it would hamper the fundraising efforts of community groups. The first two sound like twaddle to me and the third could be solved by some sort of simple licensing system. The petition and the debate around fireworks continues.
I’m pleased that Leeds council has been granted an injunction to tackle misuse of fireworks and to take action against any individual or group that is found to be using fireworks in an anti-social or threatening manner. It was a great proactive move by the Labour council to do this, but we’ll have to see how effective it is as the police are woefully underresourced to enforce it.
We need our police funded properly to help protect us all not cutting them like this government has cut 20,000 police officers. First with the Lib Dem coalition from 2010 to 2015, and just the Conservatives alone since. I hope that local people will remember the part played by the Liberal Democrats in the devastation brought on us in Leeds. Councils in the north have been hit much harder than southern councils.