Community Committee put the world to rights (nearly)

The Inner South Community Committee – the panel made up of the nine sitting councillors for south Leeds – met last week (Wednesday 28 November 2018) at the Hillside Centre in Beeston Hill, dished out some funding, and chewed on some big local issues together.

Rough sleeping was one of many topics at the meeting (image: Steven Lilley, via Creative Commons)

The lion’s share of the meeting consisted of a lengthy and varied discussion with Police Inspector Ian O’Brien, who offered some disarmingly frank reflections on a range of local situations: read on. (Then see below for a summary of other discussion points.)

Insp O’Brien addressed the recent upsurge in rough sleeping locally: “Safer Leeds need to understand the impact (of driving rough sleepers out of the city centre) on our communities. We’re picking up the pieces – all just to make the city centre appear safer, or look nicer. There’s no long term strategy.”

On the Managed Zone in Holbeck, he talked about how he and his team were working hard on trying to contain the sex work within the agreed zone. To do so, they had tried and failed to persuade the Home Office to change policies on the prosecution of curb-crawlers. Instead they were now pressing ahead with stretching their procedures – so that fewer police staff (including PCSOs) could together corroborate evidence; this was enabling them to dish out more cautions than before. And he praised the local community: “The community intelligence has been fantastic. We couldn’t have done what we’ve done recently without it.”

He also spoke of recognising the value of deploying ‘bobbies on the beat’ when he had enough staff to do so, to build local confidence in the community – but stressed that they regularly didn’t have spare capacity. In response to queries from Cllr Mohammed Iqbal on blatant drug dealing, Insp O’Brien stressed the importance of community intelligence: “Just feed in the intelligence, and please keep it coming”. Cllr Kim Groves pressed for the police to get better at reporting positive results, to build local confidence in reporting. And finally, if it’s any consolation to readers, Insp O’Brien reported that – having worked across the city – he found south Leeds “not as bad as east or west Leeds”!

Other hot topics included:

  • The councillors unanimously shot down the recent decision to move the local Council Communities team from the Dewsbury Road Hub to the Reginald Centre in Chapeltown, without consulting any of the councillors themselves. Cllr Paul Wray stressed “There is an intrinsic value in these officers being based in the communities in which they’re working”.
  • The panel gave representatives from the Youth Service a reasonable grilling, on why they aren’t working with more marginalised youngsters, including those outside mainstream education.
  • And several of the councillors grumbled that money that should have come into the community from big new developments (via a mechanism known as Section 106) was being diverted elsewhere, for instance by the Council’s Highways department. Cllr Angela Gabriel named a 300+ flat development coming to Holbeck, from which none of the Section 106 money was coming into the local community. Cllr Kim Groves asked: “What are our people getting from all these big developments?” They unanimously agreed to press for as much Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) cash as possible from all the forthcoming South Bank developments – whilst recognising the ethical obligation for that funding to be spread across the city.

Finally, funding was agreed to a range of local events and projects, and budgets updated. Notable recipients of funding include all the local galas and festivals, all the local Christmas lights displays, the new Cottingley play area and Multi-Use Games Area, the Holbeck and Beeston Hill Priority Neighbourhood schemes, the Re:establish youth programme in Holbeck and Beeston, the Cross Flatts Park Christmas Lantern Festival, a youth summit, fencing and gates for Springfield Place in Hunslet Carr, a Little Free Library in Middleton, and South Leeds Life itself.

The Inner South Community Committee meet quarterly; their next meeting is due on Wednesday 6 March 2019, from 4.30pm at the Civic Hall. For further info on their meetings, including full notes, click here.