MP’s Notebook: Prostitution, exams, evictions and paint brushes

The independent review into the managed area in Holbeck recently published its report.

It’s worth reading, although I found parts of it rather frustrating. In particular, I was genuinely puzzled as to why there was such an apparently low response rate to the questionnaire that the independent review circulated to local residents. I originally proposed the review in part so that everyone who had very strong views on the issue could make them heard. Why didn’t this happen?

On the wider issue, I am only too aware that aspects of the scheme don’t work and that the changes in its management we have seen so far owe a great deal to the community’s efforts, but no-one has answered the question as to what we think would happen if the managed approach was abolished. The report describes the different ways of trying to deal with on-street sex work that have been tried in the past, including using powers of arrest, but they didn’t really work either. Hence the problem.

It’s now up to the Council and the Police to decide how they are going to respond to the report’s recommendations, but I would like to see much more effort put into preventing men from coming into the managed area as well as more support to help the women to leave this way of life, which in truth is no life at all.

We are all watching the changes in Covid infection rates in Leeds and across West Yorkshire, although overall the UK has not yet seen the kind of significant increase in cases we are witnessing in France and Spain, for example. There is, however, no room for complacency.

I would like to thank all the staff at the LGI and Jimmy’s, local GPs surgeries and the public health team who do lots of work, including contact tracing, for everything they have done over the past few months. It has been a sterling effort by all involved. This month marks the return to school with much debate about safety and masks. I think that if staff or pupils want to wear face coverings then they should be free to do so provided if doesn’t interfere with being able to to their job. The same should apply to people going back to work in offices.

Talking of schools, my heart goes out to all those students who contacted me in a state of panic and despair after their A-level grades were reduced by the infamous algorithm. It was crystal clear after what had happened in Scotland that there was going to be a major problem in England. I don’t understand why it took ministers so long to realise this and eventually make the only sensible decision – namely to allow students to use their predicted grades if they were better than those awarded by the computer.

Lots of people have fallen behind with the rent because of coronavirus. The ban on evictions was recently extended by a further month after a big campaign, but with unemployment set to rise further we simply cannot have people being put out on the streets through no fault of their own. The eviction ban needs to be extended further. We already have a housing crisis in Leeds and I see it in the rising number of people who come to seek my help either because where they are living at the moment isn’t suitable, or they are overcrowded or they can’t afford the rent or they are homeless.

Finally, I’m very fond of the colour green, but the shade chosen by the Highways Agency for the new sound barrier down Parnaby Road is an eyesore. It’s far too bright and dominates the eye whereas a different shade of green would have done the business much better. Come on Highways Agency, get your paint brushes out!


2 Replies to “MP’s Notebook: Prostitution, exams, evictions and paint brushes”

  1. It does me good to read common sense every now and again, and to see questions being raised that are not being answered sufficiently.
    I can offer my thoughts to one or two of these points:
    1. The possible reason there hasn’t been the type of feedback from local residents in Holbeck, via the questionnaire that was Allegedly sent out, is because households never received them (Mine included).
    2. Many people have been saying, while the ‘Managed Approach’ fiasco continues, that the best way to prevent prostitution in Holbeck is to prevent drug use and help those prostituting themselves to clean up their health and get their lives back on track. What is happening now is the authorities are supporting prostitution by making it safer for those involved to sell their bodies (Do the prostitutes of Holbeck now, allegedly, have unpaid pimps in the form of local authorities?).
    If prostitutes were given the choice of a custodial sentence which included substance and life rehabilitation or substance and life rehabilitation away from their old lifestyle with no custodial sentence, but a probation of sorts, perhaps this could be more useful.
    3. The Parnaby Road Green Wall. I too like green, but not vivid to a point of distraction. How about this: Put a call out to all artists in Leeds. Have them paint the boards to create the illusion of a park going into the distance or some other kind of scene in picture form (It looks like an excellent blank canvas opportunity). If at some point the boards needed to be removed, they could be re-displayed as a local attraction or auctioned off for charity
    One last thought.
    Perhaps if more people were to make constructive comments and suggestions in one place, like South Leeds Life, there voices would be heard. It’s very difficult to ignore or dismiss the printed word, and I know that local residents feel that this is sometimes the case.

  2. I will email Hillary in response to this article. In the meantime I will make some comments here. I am a landlady in Holbeck and know a lot of people there.
    I agree totally with what Paul has said . I may add that other reasons for the low response are as follows:

    1 There is a transient community in Holbeck . Amongst my tenants there are many Eastern Europeans who do not rent for long and whilst they are here work long hours. They would not bother with the survey.

    2. Over the last 3 years many residents have attended a lot of meetings , they have joined protests and most importantly over the last year have given statements at the several Listening Well Events . Those residents therefore probably thought that there was no need to complete this survey as they had already had their voices heard and put on record. The Listening Well report will be published soon.

    3. I have heard residents say “Whats the point ? Its been here 6 years. We have been complaining for the past 3 years and it’s still here. All they do is put some cameras up which have made little difference. They have a cleansing team but they are partly dependent on us reporting the sex litter and as soon as its cleaned up there is more to replace it next day. They will do nothing, they don’t listen to us, we are wasting our time “

    4. The survey did not cover a wide enough area. For example at the top of Beeston Hill there are often prostitutes soliciting there and regularly walk down Cemetery Road . There is also a lot of trouble in the problem houses there where some girls are housed.

    There are many families with children who have made permanent homes in Holbeck . These are the ones who are suffering most. Many talk of leaving the area which is sad. My own partner left 18 months ago due to the problem.

    It is heartening Hilary to read that you seem to agree with me and many others that the solution would be to change the approach.
    It cannot be managed any more and the cost has to be considered. The Managed Approach in its present form has been tried in other cities and has failed. It only increases the problems.

    I agree with Hilary that the punters should be prevented from coming. The police should not be heavy handed with them or visit their homes but warnings should be given at first. I think one warning would be enough for a married man! After that then prosecutions.

    During the initial stage extra help should be given to the prostituted women. This would be in the form of money or even heroin along with loads and loads of support .It can only work if all agencies work together. Attitudes would have to change. Managers would have to be employed who are passionate about helping the women instead of endorsing what they do by saying its “real work”.

    We all know that these women on the street do not want to do “this work”. Even the punters know that . There should be a rehab centre for them and a refuge to escape from their pimps. There has to be loads of counselling and help in life skills to enable them to exit drugs and prostitution and lead a normal life and get their children out of care.

    Initially this will cost more but eventually we will not have the huge cost of managing this approach.

    There will always be some women who escape the net or there will be new ones arrive on the scene but if all agencies work together then they can be approached and helped. There will be women that start working from home. These will be the ones that are not so “chaotic” .

    I do not believe in criminalisation of the women.

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