Area Committee: PFI, unemployment, well being and more

Steve Williamson has sent through this report of the Area Committee meeting:

Last Wednesday evening I thought I’d drop in at the Civic Hall and attend a meeting of the the Council’s Inner South Area Committee – that’s where councillors from City & Hunslet, Beeston & Holbeck and Middleton Park wards meet to consider issues facing the relevant part of the city.

The Committee meets every couple of months.  There’s an interesting bit of each meeting called ‘Open Forum’ where, with the agreement of the Committee’s chair, a member of the public can make representations or ask questions on relevant issues.

A local resident asked what was happening about the Housing PFI (Private Finance Initiative) for Holbeck and Beeston Hill.  This question was treated like an extremely hot potato being passed from one councillor to another until a promise was made to let the questioner know the position when the councillors had found out!  Given the many delays on the project and its importance to local residents it was very surprising that no councillor seemed to know what the position was or be in a position to provide an answer.

Later in the meeting there was an interesting discussion  on measures being taken to help local people  improve their skills and get jobs. Unemployment in inner south Leeds is much worse than the city average with over 4,000 looking for work – over 1,000 of these are under 25.  An interesting new  partnership development is ‘The Point’ based at the White Rose Shopping Center which aims to help both young people and adults get opportunities to learn new skills and get jobs in retail at White Rose and elsewhere.  It will be good to hear how successful the initiatives under way are in reducing unemployment locally and how local people get access to local jobs from new developments.

The Committee also considered a report on  the money for which it is directly responsible: the ‘Wellbeing budget‘   This money is used to fund a wide range of local activities in the area, including help local community and voluntary groups, to make  the quality of life better for residents.   Nearly 40% (over £125,000) of the budget has yet to be  allocated and it all has to be committed by 31 March 2013. It’s very concerning that at a time of severe reductions in public funding and the  high level of needs in inner south Leeds that this money has not yet been committed or spent.  In response to a query from a local resident, it was confirmed that a decision to make sure all the money was committed this year would be made at the next Committee meeting (6 January 2013).  If this doesn’t happen then the money could be lost to the area.

Finally, there was a report on key work being carried out in the area which included updates on work with children and young people, crime, health, housing, the Neighbourhood Improvement Boards  and neighbourhood planning.  More information is available on the Council’s website here.

The role of an Area Committee includes to:-

  •  improve, co-ordinate and influence services at a local level;
  •  act as a focal point for community involvement;
  •  provide for accountability at a local level;
  •  help Elected Members (councillors) to listen to and represent their communities;
  •  help Elected Members to understand the specific needs of the community in their area.

So it would great to see  many more local residents at the next meeting on 6 January 2013 as what’s being decided affects where we live.

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