Hilary reading South Leeds Life
Hilary reading South Leeds Life

Vaccinations, Cladding and Decluttering

Cllr Judith Blake is stepping down as the Leader of Leeds City Council following her appointment to the House of Lords. I have had the privilege of working with Judith over many years in her roles both as a Middleton Ward councillor and as Council Leader and I just want to thank her – as I know many people will want to do – for all of her service and commitment to the people of South Leeds and to our great city. Being an elected representative is not the easiest job in the world, but Judith has always represented the very best of public service. So, thank you Judith and all the best in your new role.

Someone contacted me recently to draw my attention to a leaflet that had been posted through their door in Holbeck. It said, among other things, ‘there is no pandemic’, ‘take off your mask’ and ‘refuse the vaccine.’ Apart from being dangerous nonsense, this is such a terrible insult to all the NHS staff, volunteers and others who have been working so hard these last few weeks to make sure that as many people in Leeds as possible get vaccinated. They are true heroes.

This type of fake news is, however, very serious because anyone who is persuaded not to have the vaccine because of it could be putting themselves and others at greater risk. And we also know that vaccine take-up is lower in some sections of our community – eg people from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds – even though the evidence is that they are at greater risk of getting seriously ill with Covid. The reasons behind this are quite complex, but we must leave no stone unturned to ensure that every part of our community get the vaccine so that all of us can be protected.

I’ve now had my first jab and it was really uplifting to see the NHS at its best. The staff were welcoming, organised and jabbed away as if there was no tomorrow! A quarter of the population in Yorkshire have had their first dose and the vaccination centre at Elland Road is now up and running.

The cladding crisis continues to cause great suffering to a lot of people in Leeds. Even though the Government announced additional help recently, this is only going to cover the removal of unsafe cladding and does nothing about other fire safety risks like flammable insulation, missing fire breaks and wooden balconies. Ministers are also proposing to treat leaseholders differently depending on the height of their building, with payment to cover the cost of removing only unsafe cladding on buildings over 18 metres but loans forced on to leaseholders in blocks below that height to do the same. So, all leaseholders will still be left with huge costs they simply cannot afford. The Leeds Cladding Scandal group is continuing to campaign, along with all of the other leaseholder organisations up and down the country, for a fair outcome in which leaseholders do not have to pay to fix a problem they did not create. The cost should be met by those who did create the problem – namely the developers and builders.

It’s great to see that the Middleton Railway is taking the opportunity of the lockdown to do some work at their museum, including installing a mezzanine floor to provide more exhibition space. We are all feeling the effects of being locked down, so when we can eventually get out and about do take the opportunity to see this remarkable piece of Leeds history which has been preserved thanks to the determination, passion and care of all those who work so hard at the Middleton Railway Trust.

And finally, a lot of people have spent a lot of time at home in the last 12 months and one of the consequences is seeing things that need doing. My other half has been encouraging me to get on with decluttering on the basis that it’s really unfair to leave throwing out rubbish to your children when you’ve gone, so we might as well get on with it now. I must confess that while I understand the theory, as a self-confessed keeper of stuff I find the practice quite painful. However, as well as discovering things that you really can’t think of any use for, we have also come across children’s books that were put away when ours grew up but are now going to make a newly-dusted reappearance for our grandchildren when we get to see them again. Now, are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin.

First published in the March 2021 edition of South Leeds Life, available online here https://southleedslife.com/author/hilary-benn-mp/

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