The media is full of articles reviewing the last year and looking ahead to what might happen in 2013. I think this is in part because January is a slow news month – not much seems to happen. And who am I to buck such a strong trend? This week I will be looking at what we might expect in the coming year.
There is no doubt that we face tough times in South Leeds. As I mentioned last year the cuts to local government are falling disproportionally on northern cities like Leeds. That inevitably means fewer services, whether they are key services like bin collections and care of the elderly or the services that just make life better like arts funding or youth clubs.
We face big cuts in benefits starting with a “bedroom tax” which discriminates against tenants who dare to have a spare bedroom. It’s funny, but they never apply this sanction to home owners. More worryingly, it is very difficult to move once you are in a Council or housing association tenancy, largely because the Tories sold off the Council houses and wouldn’t let Council’s build new ones. They are allowed to now, but of course there’s no money. It’s reported this week that if you’re looking to move to a one bedroom flat, you’ll be joining nearly a million already on the waiting list.
What will people caught by this rule do? I expect most will turn down the heating, or get cut off when the bill comes, or perhaps start going without meals. I notice from the back of every other bus that Aire Valley Homes is kindly reminding people that they could lose their house if they don’t pay their rent. So cold or hungry it is then.
The Leader of Liverpool Council has written to David Cameron warning of civil unrest. Certainly it will lead to greater pressure on families, which in turn will lead to more mental illness, domestic violence and anti-social behaviour.
Surely there must be more than doom and gloom to look forward to in 2013?
I think there will be, or at least there can be. When there is a crisis, things can’t go on the same way. In other words there must be change. This is often negative, but it also presents opportunities. Opportunities to do things differently. Possibly cheaper, possibly fairer or more democratically. The community take over of Bramley Baths this week is a great example.
I’m not arguing for Cameron’s “Big Society”. That’s just a smokescreen for the cuts. I met Lord Wei, Cameron’s Big Society Czar. He came to Leeds and told us about talking to neighbours and working with businesses. We told him we’d been doing that for years in South Leeds. He resigned the next day – although I don’t think we can take all the credit for his resignation.
So who’s up for a community managed Middleton Park Golf Course? How about a Friends of Stanks Hall Barn? Both projects will need committed people to see them through. Or maybe you would prefer to volunteer at one of our community sports clubs? Or at the Supporters-owned Hunslet Hawks. Or get involved one of the area’s Festivals and Galas?
I’ll be back next Friday with more views from South of the River.