The FORCE is with us for community to take over our Rothwell Civic Buildings

Cllr Karen Bruce with FORCE volunteers in FORCE tshirts at Rothwell May Day festivalAnother good meeting of FORCE (friends of Rothwell civic enterprise) yesterday.  We talked about how we could bring the old civic buildings back into use and be run as a civic enterprise.  It is going to take a lot of money to bring it up to scratch to be able to attract interest from possible tenants, but has so much potential because it is part of Rothwell’s history and heritage.

Rothwell Councillors 1974

1974. A group photograph of Rothwell Councillors. From Left to Right, Cllr. Dora Hardwick Cllr. Joan De Carteret(Chairman of Council) Cllr. Arthur Benson Cllr. Rose Lund. Photo from Leodis website

I particularly love the old council chamber complete with the old photos of Rothwell’s Labour councillors from the Rothwell Urban District council days. I remember being told by the late Sheila McQuade, a good friend and Rothwell Labour Party and Rothwell Historical Society member, that Rothwell used to be known as ‘the petticoat council’ as it had lots of women councillors, which was still unusual back then.

As well as having the privilege of being re-elected by local people, thank you so much for allowing me to carry on doing what I love. I’ve also been re-elected by Outer South councillors in Rothwell, Ardsley & Robin Hood and Morley to continue as chair of the Outer South Community Committee.  One of the first thing I did when I found out was to ask the support officer to prepare a significant bid for community committee funding to go to FORCE to help in our bid to take control of the old civic buildings as it is so important. Last year I’m pleased to say we gave £10,000 towards the dementia friendly garden in Springhead Park, so I’m hoping to secure a similar amount for FORCE and the old council offices.

I also have a sum of money as a councillor called ward based initiative WBI (as do all councillors) to spend on a ward project of my choice. The amount I have available is about £20,000. I’d love to spend this to help local group FORCE try to keep the old council office building’s local heritage. Before the group started though, I’d already started to talk to local people about an outdoor gym for Springhead Park.

Whenever there is money to spend locally I like to ask what local people think rather than just putting it into what I think.

I was intending to use my £20,000 WBI for an outdoor gym for Springhead Park as I’ve had lots of people telling me they would welcome this. It would complement the work I’ve done on using greenspace money for a new playground and a path around the park, which would improve accessibility for people in wheelchairs and with prams or buggies, as well as enabling the park run to go ahead in wet weather without damaging the park. The greenspace money is money that developers have to give the council to invest in the local community and this pot comes largely from the developer of the Rodewelle Green new development off Royds Lane.

I put this to the two Liberal Democrat councillors at the meeting yesterday that I would be able to put my £20,000 towards the council offices project if they will back green space monies going to the outdoor gym, as well as the playground and park run path.  They wouldn’t agree to this at the meeting, but hopefully they will look into it and listen to local people. Ironically, the FORCE meeting was at the cafe in Springhead Park which highlights how important the park is to people throughout the whole Rothwell ward.

It would be a shame if they let party politics put a stop to either the fantastic work the volunteers at FORCE are doing, or if they stopped local people benefiting from the much needed improvements to Springhead Park.


Why I’m backing Yvette–she’s a proper Labour lass

Yvette Cooper MP and Cllr Karen Bruce campaigning in RothwellMy impression of Yvette Cooper is from what I know of her over a long period of time.

She has shown over many years that she supports us in Elmet and Rothwell. She’s regularly campaigned with us – year in, year out.

I’ve known Yvette a long time, but that’s not a good enough reason to vote for her.

I remember with gratitude Yvette encouraging me to speak at Labour Party conference some years ago, which really gave me the boost I needed.

I remember first hearing about Yvette after her selection in our neighbouring constituency, the then Pontefract and Castleford constituency and hearing how she’d wowed the members there and outflanked the great local candidate.

I remember Yvette was here in May to help us win the constituency (we didn’t) and help get me re-elected as a councillor after Labour’s defeat the year before (We won!) Andy Burnham has also put his money where his mouth is and worked with us here.

I’m voting for Yvette as my first preference though because I feel I can trust her to be at the helm of the party and also at the helm of the country.

I feel I could trust her to unite the party and that the economy would be in a safe, capable and caring pair of hands.

She’s a proper Labour lass who cares passionately about those in our country who need the Labour Party to win for them and be in a position to make a real difference.

The five year olds of today need us to vote for Yvette so they don’t languish under a continuous Tory government.

She is capable of being Prime Minister and she actually wants the job. She knew she was applying for the job of being future PM when she entered the contest. I’m also voting for Yvette because she is cautious, I see that as a positive.


Because she’s the best candidate I’m excited at the prospect of our first woman leader and Labour’s first female Prime Minister. Labour should not be run in this day and age by two white men, not when we have Yvette who outperforms them all!

A new era for Labour

I came away from Labour Party Conference renewed and refreshed and feeling that as a party we have entered a new era. I was pleased with the election of Ed Miliband as leader (my second preference after Andy Burnham.)

Ed’s speech was excellent, I was really impressed with his passion for the party and his vigour for ideas to make life better for people, such as the living wage. I was in the hall and know that many there said they had goose bumps and others were brought to tears. It was an emotional time and whilst it was hard not to feel for David Miliband, I feel the right Miliband has been chosen and it’s time to move forward. It strikes me that David’s decision to give Ed some space is the right one.

Labour can now move forward and reach out to a new generation. Ed has the ability to listen to people, it’s an important quality to be able to get along with people and be one of them (when Ed was first elected as an MP I remember him at  Labour Party Conference in the bar (I think it was The Grand in Brighton) playing the piano and leading a sing along at about one in the morning!)

I hope that this new era will be more inclusive and that the party will really listen to members and voters.  Labour did some great things in its 13 years in government but the government ended up distant from people and unable to listen. If we learn from past mistakes, as I believe we will, then we can not only win the next election because people don’t want to vote Tory, but because people really want to vote Labour again.

The highlights of this year’s conference for me were a) Ed being elected b) Ed’s speech c) my three year old daughter Esme sitting in the conference hall listening to Andy Burnham’s speech as shadow health secretary and clapping enthusiastically, when I asked her what she thought Andy was talking about she said, “making people better” d) various fringes and training sessions including a fringe on the future of social care and training sessions such as community organising and beating the Lib Dems.

Leeds loves Andy Burnham

On Monday event with Andy Burnham took place in Leeds. As Andy’s regional director I got to organise and host the event.

Andy Burnham in Leeds

Thanks to @pennyb for the photo.

Great feedback for Andy from Leeds with lots of twitter comments and this great email I thought I’d share:

I really enjoyed Andy Burnham’s presentation and questions last night. I am impressed. He came across as genuine. He has obviously thoroughly thought through his politics. He will definitely be getting my first preference. If only more MPs were like him. He is a breath of fresh air in a climate of career politicians. I will put a donation for his campaign in the post.

@laidbackian: Had a great night with @andyburnhammp in Leeds. He has a passion for the Labour Party unmatched by the other candidates. #andy4leader

@stephenjtowler: Andy Burnham excellent in Leeds tonight. Why would you not vote for him?

@khutchinsondean After event tonight finally getting off the fence and backing @andyburnhammp for leader; most authentic, credible and fresh thinking choice

@laidbackian: Great night with @andyburnhammp in Leeds. He has a passion for the Labour Party unmatched by other candidates. #andy4leader

@Emma_Hoddinott: Saw @andyburnhammp last night in Leeds. Was very impressed with his ideas on Labour Party reform.

@christophe_read: Spoke to @andyburnhammp last night about my Young Labour report -he’d seen it & was v much along same lines. Top bloke.

@LauraPony: Pleased @brianahaha is also putting @andyburnhammp as first preference following event in Leeds last night #andy4leader

@LauraPony: Excellent evening listening to @andyburnhammp then eating lovely Italian food with fantastic family

@MagsNews: Andy Burnham – great guy. Met him in Leeds yesterday evening. V genuine and cares passionately about the party… My second preference!

@KatRRose: Enjoyed meetng @andyburnhammp in Leeds, @ed_miliband‘s better civil liberties 1st pref, but Andy Burnham is cool prob 2nd pref

@alexsobel: RT @KatRRose: Enjoyed meeting @andyburnhammp in Leeds, @ed_miliband 1st pref but Andy Burnham cool prob 2nd pref -prob me too

What will the parties do for women?

I was sorry to miss being at the LSE’s ‘what about women’ election debate I was meant to be at this week. I have just watched it on video and it was a great debate. You can watch the debate between Harriet Harman, Lynne Featherstone and Theresa May here. It’s a disgrace though that women (apart from the leaders’ wives) haven’t had the chance to be more prominent and at the forefront of the general election campaign as they should be. You may not get the chance to see women from the three parties debate in a high profile TV debate such as the leaders’ debates, but it’s well worth watching it via the LSE website.

Ceri Goddard of the Fawcett Society chaired the debate and all the speakers agreed that we have come a long way, but there is still a very long way to go.

Harriet Harman QC spoke very well and was the only one to get up on her feet. She stressed that women now work and still do the lion’s share of childcare and caring for older relatives. She was in a very strong position compared to the other two as she was able to cite what the Labour Party has actually done (in fact some of it’s down to her) to further our cause. Some great examples of Labour achievements for women are SureStart centres, longer maternity leave and paternity leave. There is still an unequal division of labour in the home. There is sustained systematic discrimination that means that women earn 20% less than men. Labour has taken action and through the new equalities legislation employers will be banned from having secrecy clauses. Employers will also be able to take positive action to allow them to diversify their workforce.

There has also been massive progress on domestic violence and human trafficking but there is still a very long way to go. Harriet made no bones that all public authorities in every decision they take, will have to take into account equality between men and women. This is enshrined in the Equality Act that Harriet helped to bring about and this is vital, especially with the expected cuts in public services, which will have a huge impact on women who make up the largest part of the public sector workforce. Harriet said that we could expect that there would be rows about it and if there aren’t then we’re not making any progress!

She said that the Tories ‘big society’ is a big cop out as only wives of rich businessmen would have the time to devote to running schools, police and post offices.  Lynne Featherstone chipped in that busy single mothers would have no chance of being involved in anything and that big society would need to be supported by vital services. Theresa May said that their ‘big society’ would give people more control over their lives.

Harriet went on to say that the Tory tax break for married couples would send a message to children in one parent families or whose families are separating that there is something wrong with their family and that there must be something wrong with them too.

Next Thursday I’ll be casting my vote to keep Harriet and her colleagues in a position where they can keep up the good work already done for women, there’s a lot more to do and only the Labour Party will do it!