Hilary Benn - Member of Parliament for Leeds Central
Boundary changes, Huntingdon’s disease and Holbeck Together
The BBC is planning to make cuts to local radio which will mean that we lose distinctive Leeds content for significant parts of the day.
Although BBC Radio Leeds will continue to have its own dedicated local programmes from 6am to 2pm on weekdays, after that time programmes will be shared with Sheffield, York, Lincoln and Humberside. I expressed my opposition to this in the House of Commons, as did many other MPs, and we hope that the BBC will listen. Local radio is really important to our communities and people want local news, stories and content.
Changes to parliamentary boundaries are naturally of huge interest to MPs but are probably only generally noticed when people discover that they’ve lost their former MP and acquired a new one (depending on the outcome of the election). The Boundary Commission recently published its revised proposals and they have altered their original plans for Leeds Central. Little London and Woodhouse ward will now move into a new Headingley constituency, and a part of Temple Newsam ward will come into Leeds Central, including Halton Moor which I used to represent.
The truth is that MPs don’t like boundary changes (unless they make their seats much safer!) because they disrupt relationships that have been built up over time with people and voluntary organisations in an area.
I am lucky, however, that most of Leeds Central will be staying the same, but one of the other lessons you learn in politics is never to take anything for granted. As ever, the outcome of the next election will be in the hands of the good voters including readers of South Leeds Life!
I recently held a debate in Parliament on Huntington’s Disease. My interest is because I know someone who is suffering from this terrible disease. Huntington’s is a rare, genetic neuro-degenerative disorder which over time stops the brain from working properly. It affects around 8,000 people in the UK, but around 32,000 people are living at risk of developing it for the simple but deadly reason that Huntington’s can be passed from generation to generation.
What this means is that a diagnosis of Huntington’s doesn’t just affect the person who has it, but also their children who have a one in two chance of carrying it. For all these reasons, it is a devastating diagnosis. There is no cure and only limited palliative treatment.
Huntington’s affects people both physically and mentally. Families have to watch their loved one change and decline. In many ways this is probably the most difficult thing to cope with because you are losing the person you love not just physically but emotionally as well. This horrible disease makes them no longer the person they once were and there is nothing you can do about it. It is hard fully to convey what this all means but this is how one Huntington’s family member put it to me:
“Huntington’s is a thief that slowly steals your body, energy, health, family, friends and the person you used to be.”
We need better help for families, backed up by new guidelines to improve provision in parts of the country where it’s patchy, and above all more research to find a cure. It cannot come soon enough.
I visited Leeds Citizens Advice recently to hear about the increase in the number of people coming to them for help because of the cost of living crisis and the huge rise in energy bills. Such are the difficulties that some people are facing, that Citizens Advice is having to give out emergency energy and supermarket vouchers. In other cases, they hear how energy companies are putting up monthly direct debit payments by more than the cost of energy being consumed, or are putting customers onto prepayment, meters, which results in families having to disconnect themselves because they simply don’t have enough money to put in the meter.
The staff and volunteers at Citizens Advice work really hard to offer help and assistance, but the big increase in the number of cases they are having to deal with is a sign of the hard times in which we are living. If you ever need their assistance, you can contact them on 0808 278 7878.
And finally I much enjoyed attending the Holbeck Together 30th anniversary event at St Matthew’s in Holbeck. This community organisation has done so much over the years in providing a helping hand, advice and support and as well as their brilliant staff they have a team of dedicated volunteers. They all want to make a difference for the local community. There was a huge turnout and much seasonal festivity.
On which subject, may I take this opportunity to wish you and all your loved ones a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
First published in the December 2022 edition of South Leeds Life – available online here https://southleedslife.com/mps-notebook-boundary-changes-huntingdons-disease-holbeck-together/