Hilary Benn - Member of Parliament for Leeds Central
Managed Area, 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!
First published in the September 2020 edition of South Leeds Life, available online here https://southleedslife.com/mps-notebook-prostitution-exams-evictions-and-paint-brushes/