Last week the Community Reporters group interviewed Councillor Kim Groves, the Labour member for Middleton Park Ward.
This was the sixth week of the Community Reports course, the session was about learning how to conduct an interview and to help us get up to speed we watched an interview by the legendary Jeremy Paxman, the lead presenter of BBC2’s Newsnight programme. We watched the famous interview Mr Paxman conducted with Michael Howard who was the Conservative Home Secretary, between 1993–97. At the time, the Home Secretary was embroiled in controversy, over whether he was instrumental in the resignation of the governor of Parkhurst Prison. This came about as a result of a number of high profile escapes at the time. The interview Paxman conducted with the Home Secretary became infamous, as Michael Howard refused to answer a direct the question on 14 occasions – as to whether he was responsible for the resignation. After watching this interview, I was ready for anyone – who’s that guy in the White House? What’s he called? President Obama – bring it on!
Councillor Kim Groves is the Labour Councillor representing the Middleton Park Ward. Her interests involve sitting on the following committees – Aire Valley Homes, Extended Services Cluster for Beeston, Cottingley and Middleton, Community Links, Hunslet Hawks RLFC, Belle Isle Working Men’s Club, Middleton Elderly Aid and Touchstone.
Cllr Groves was asked a series of question on housing issues in south Leeds as this was something she has some knowledge on due to sitting on the boards of a number of housing providers in the area. She explained that there was a number of housing issues or issues impacting on housing in the South Leeds area and that there is no a quick fix. Many of the issues are complicated and with recent government changes in benefit payments, like the bedroom tax, which will only get worse – in south Leeds there are 500 people who are affected.
One of the problems identified by Cllr Groves was having people living next to one another i.e. young and old who have different lifestyles. This provides challenges for residents and impacts on social cohesion in neighbourhoods. Cllr Groves offered the idea of allowing residents to choose where they wanted to live in order to create environments where people of similar aged or family make up could live together to reduce some of the community tension that can exist between people. Cllr Groves highlighted the success of sheltered housing schemes offered to the elderly. She was quizzed about how this could create ghettos, but she suggested that at the end of the day it was about creating choices for residents.
Cllr Groves spoke about ‘stronger tenant management’ – where the housing providers had a responsibility to ensure that their tenants acted responsibly and did not allow negative environments for their neighbours to live in. That it was the responsibility of the housing providers to ensure that their tenants acted responsibly and for this to be backed up by sanctions. But Cllr Groves also spoke about the need for ’community responsibility’, whereby local residents have a part to play in creating harmonious communities and to report any one who acts against this wish.
Cllr Groves – spoke about the need reduce the 3,000 people who are unemployed locally, as this does impact in on the area in many ways. Those in search of work, she emphasised, need also to help themselves and be prepared to take up the opportunities that are being created locally. The local councillors are working with major employers to create an environment where there are employment opportunities for local unemployed people. There are at present 4,000 employers locally i.e. White Rose Shopping Centre is expanding, ASDA was creating another 225 jobs and the New Trinity Shopping Centre in the City Centre has just opened. In addition, in order to help support local people apply for the new jobs, she has been instrumental in setting up the new Job Centre in St.Goerge’s Centre, this has no financial backing behind it, but it does have a number of partners involved supporting it with staffing it: Aire Valley Homes and the Connexions Service. This will provide the right preparation for local people wanting to apply for the new jobs.
As the interview drew to an end, it became quite obvious about Councillor Groves commitment, enthusiasm and wide knowledge on the issues in her ward. I was particular taken by her honesty and realism, prepared to say there are limited resources, so some issues will not receive the support needed.
This article was written by St Clair Brown using our Community Reporters website