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[First published on South Leeds Life, 07 February 2016 http://www.southleedslife.com/managed-area-is-not-working/]

There's been a lot of debate in Holbeck recently about the ‘managed area’ for prostitution.

The story goes as follows. There's long been prostitution in the area and it has caused nuisance and distress to local residents. The police have tried their normal approach although according to research by York University it has “made very little difference to local residents and to the numbers of complaints” and there are groups, like the Joanna project and the Basis Sex Work Project, that support the sex workers and, in some cases, help them to leave behind prostitution as a way of life.

In the light of all this, the Council and the police decided to try something different. They announced a trial in which the women could work in a specified area away from people's homes - the ‘managed area’ - but only between the hours of 7pm and 7am to try to limit the problems to local residents and businesses.

The police and the Council say that this trial scheme has resulted in greater safety for the women concerned as it has enabled police officers to build up trust with the sex workers, which has had positive results, including two convictions of men for violent sex offences last year. They also say that there have been fewer complaints from members of the public. However, businesses in the managed area have complained strongly to me that they have to step over used condoms and other public health hazards on their way to work in the morning, and both businesses and residents say that some of the women are not adhering either to the boundaries of the area or the 'working hours'. There have also been complaints of men in cars trying to solicit sex from women who are walking home or to and from work both inside and outside the area and, of course, there was the recent tragic murder of a sex worker in Holbeck.

The current flurry of publicity has been the result of the Council deciding to make the trial scheme permanent, which has come as a surprise to people locally. I've made representations about this lack of consultation and there will shortly be a meeting with local businesses to discuss the scheme.

My view on all this is as follows. Not for nothing is prostitution described as the oldest profession in the world and it has always been present in the city, including in Holbeck. Because of this and the evidence that a change of approach might be helpful, it was thought worth trying out the idea of a managed area. The safety of women must be taken seriously and for too long often quite vulnerable women have been the unseen and unheard victims of sexual crimes. But the area can only work if both the hours and the boundaries are properly enforced and judging by the complaints I have been receiving from local residents and businesses alike, this is simply not happening well enough at the moment. That needs to change if the community is to have confidence in the scheme. In addition, proper arrangements need to be put into place by the Council to clean up every morning so that people working in local businesses don't have to confront the results of the previous night's activities.

It’s an issue that divides opinion and provokes strong reactions, but it’s also a social problem in which we need to balance the concerns of residents and businesses with the safety of the women working on the street. What do you think?

To change tack completely, in recent weeks there have been two lobbies in Parliament about the scrapping of grants for students from low income backgrounds and student nurses and midwives and replacing them with loans. The fear is that this will force students from low-income backgrounds to take out additional loans which they will eventually need to repay.

I am opposed to both changes because we need to do all we can to encourage young people from South Leeds who want to go to university to be able to do so. Although the proportion of young people going into higher education from the Leeds Central constituency has risen quite a bit in the last 20 years, the difference nationally in participation rates between young people living in the most advantaged and most disadvantaged communities remains far too high. We need to change that and turning grants into loans is not going to help.

Hilary Benn
MP for Leeds Central

Hilary's Article for South Leeds Life - February 2016

[First published on South Leeds Life, 07 February 2016 http://www.southleedslife.com/managed-area-is-not-working/] There's been a lot of debate in Holbeck recently about the ‘managed area’ for prostitution. The story goes as follows....

The introduction of the New State Pension in April 2016 by the Government unfairly affects women born in the 1950s, and I fully share the concerns many people have about the new legislation. A debate was held on Monday 1st February about the issue, prompted by an online petition signed by thousands of people calling for fair transitional state pension arrangements. Women Against State Pension Inequality believe that there has been too little notice of the government’s changes to pensions, and that these changes happened faster than promised, leaving little time for women to plan for retirement.

Many of my constituents will have been affected by the state pension equalisation on women born in the 1950s. Labour has repeatedly called on the Government to look at transitional arrangements for women born in the 1950s who have been hit hardest by the changes to the state pension age. However time and time again the Government has refused to listen to this group of women, and has failed to appreciate how these decisions will affect their lives, and their ability to plan for the future.

The Tories’ attitude towards the new pension scheme is evidenced by one work and pensions minister who described unemployment benefit as a possible source of income for the women affected.

The Labour Party believes that older people deserve to have a secure retirement. The Labour Party campaigned on a manifesto of a fair and sustainable pensions system, ensuring that the state pension increased by inflation, average earnings or 2.5%, whichever is highest. We would also ensure that there would be no additional changes to Winter Fuel Payments (beyond restricting them for the richest 5% of pensioners), free TV licenses or bus passes. As can be seen, the Conservatives’ new legislation has not provided the hope of a secure retirement for millions of women in the UK

Angela Rayner MP, Shadow Pensions Minister made a statement on the matter, saying that “Labour has been pushing the Tories to make clear who will lose out as a result of the new pension arrangements and now the cat is out of the bag…millions of women approaching retirement have been let down by the Government’s mishandling of the rising of the state pension age. It’s become increasingly clear that the Tories are making life ever more difficult for people who are saving for later life.”


Hilary Benn
MP for Leeds Central

State Pension Equalisation for Women

The introduction of the New State Pension in April 2016 by the Government unfairly affects women born in the 1950s, and I fully share the concerns many people have about the...

I strongly support extending the franchise to 16 and 17-year olds. Scotland has given us a glimpse of what enfranchising 16 and 17-year-olds can mean. Over 80% registered to vote in the referendum in 2014 and they brought energy and vitality to the debate. And all of us who already have the right to vote and who value the opportunity it gives us to decide how we are governed should be hugely proud that young Scots voters showed that they had thought long and hard about the world they want to inherit.

By the end of 2017 the British people will make a hugely important decision about the future of Britain's relationship with the European Union which has given us jobs, growth, investment, security and influence in the world. Labour tried to amend the Referendum Bill in Parliament to give 16 and 17-year-olds a say in that decision, but sadly we were unsuccessful as it was opposed by the Government

The Labour Party is committed to giving 16 and 17 year olds the right to vote in all UK elections. We will also improve the curriculum for citizenship education so that our young people have the knowledge they need to play a full part in British society. And to those who argue that young people aren't capable of making a decision of this importance, it is my view that the law allows 16 or 17-year-olds to give full consent to medical treatment, leave school, enter work or training, join a trade union, pay income tax and national insurance, obtain tax credits and welfare benefits, consent to sexual relationships, get married, change their name by deed poll, become a director of a company and join the armed forces. If they can do all these things, then we really ought to be able to trust them to participate in democratic decisions that will determine their future as much as it will ours.


Rt Hon Hilary Benn
MP for Leeds Central

Votes at 16

I strongly support extending the franchise to 16 and 17-year olds. Scotland has given us a glimpse of what enfranchising 16 and 17-year-olds can mean. Over 80% registered to vote...

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