Women and Austerity in Leeds

Jane Aitchison is Labour’s Parliamentary Candidate for Pudsey and on International Women’s Day writes about how the Conservative’s ideological austerity is hitting women in Leeds.

You’ve probably seen the statistics that show women have borne the brunt of austerity. Women have suffered cuts of £79 billion since 2010 compared to £13 billion for men. The cold statistics are scandalous, but the actual impact on real women’s lives are truly heart wrenching.

Take Margaret.  I met her in Pudsey market. She saw my red rosette and came over to tell me she hoped Labour would win. She told me she was a 79yearold widow. Her daughter has severe mental health problems and her benefits had been stopped because she had missed an assessment. Shed been to the Citizens Advice Bureau who said she had a good case. She was waiting for a tribunal date, which could take months. In the meantime she was giving her daughter half her pension every week. Margaret looked terribly thin and worried.

Under austerity British women now have the lowest life expectancy of the 20 leading countries. It is a year lower than that for Leeds women.

I met Chloe at the foodbank. She had left her abusive partner and fled with 3 small children. She had claimed Universal Credit but had been forced to take out a loan to bridge the fiveweek waiting timeand of course she would have to pay this back. She was anxious because she didn’t have enough to live on, and was beside herself because her toddler had lost a shoe while she was pushing him in his pram. She did not have enough money to buy him another pair of shoes.

Food bank use has more than doubled in Leeds since Universal Credit was rolled out.

I met Julie while out campaigning in Horsforth. She and her husband are both very hardworking public sector workers in Leeds. They have a lovely family including a child with profound disabilities. The cuts mean Julie has had to fight for every bit of support her child needs. And because of the continuing cuts her battles are endless. The public sector pay freeze means they haven’t had a holiday for a couple of years. They need a new car and a new three-piece suite but that isn’t happening. She feels drained. Julie says she cant wait for a Labour government and a tear rolls down her cheek.

73% of those affected by the public sector pay cap are women. On average everyones pay is £24 a week lower today than it was in 2008.

Austerity is a political choice.

To choose to continue austerity in the 6th richest country in the world is a conscious act of cruelty.

I’ve changed these women’s names to protect their identities, but they are real Leeds women and sadly their stories are real too. I’m standing to be Pudsey’s next Labour MP to change these women’s lives and give their families the support, security, dignity and opportunities they need and deserve.


You can find out more about Jane’s campaign to be the next MP for Pudsey on Facebook at “Jane Aitchison for Pudsey Labour”


Letter to the Secretary of State for Education from Cllr Jonathan Pryor regarding the lack of funding for school repair.

Today the Executive Member for Learning, Skills and Employment, Cllr Jonathan Pryor, has again written to the Secretary of State for Education, Damian Hinds MP, to raise the issue of the underfunding of school repair in Leeds.

The utter lack of investment from the Government in Leeds schools is reaching breaking point, and the Government must act now.

Click here to open a pdf of the letter.

Leeds Labour Manifesto 2018

Manifesto cover2.jpg


  • Foreward – Councillor Judith Blake
  • 100 years since some women got the vote
  • A more equal society
  • Cleaning our air
  • Cleaning our streets
  • Defending our city from flooding
  • Healthcare for all
  • Improving our transport
  • Jobs for the future
  • Looked after children
  • Looking after our more vulnerable
  • Our heritage, culture & sport
  • Preventing homelessness
  • Promoting communities
  • Protecting our environment
  • Providing an education
  • Reducing health inequalities
  • Repairing our infrastructure
  • Safer communities
  • Secure homes for all
  • Tackling poverty and exploitation
  • FAQs


Foreward – Councillor Judith Blake

These elections are the largest Leeds has had in over a decade. On Thursday May 3rd, all of us will have the chance to send an unmistakable message to this Conservative Government that enough is enough.

Enough of cuts to vital services that hurt our communities; enough of cuts to schools, hospitals and local policing; enough of library and youth centres closures, enough of leaving elderly and disabled people without essential care; and enough of failed privatisations that drain funds out of public services so a few can make a profit.

Austerity is a political choice. Here in Leeds we have seen the devastating impact of that choice – and we as the Labour-run Leeds City Council are fighting back. Building a strong economy and compassionate city – despite the Conservatives’ agenda.

Theresa May has had her say. Thursday May 3rd is the time to have your say. Use all 3 votes for Labour to ensure we can continue our fight for the people of Leeds.

Councillor Judith Blake

Labour Leader of Leeds City Council


100 years since some women got the vote

2018 marks the centenary of the Representation of the People Act, which extended the right to vote in parliamentary elections to some women, but not all. It was 1928 before Britain saw universal suffrage, which meant everyone over the age of 21 could vote.

1918 also saw the Parliament (Qualification of Women) Act that allowed women to stand for election to parliament for the first time.

To mark this political milestone, Leeds has been named one of 7 Centenary Cities, and will host a range of exciting projects to celebrate and also remember those women who helped make it happen.

Leeds women like Isabella Ford, Mary Gawthorpe, Alice Cliff Scatcherd were all Suffragists, instrumental in gaining the vote for women.

In 1832 a Leeds woman, Mary Smith, Petitioned the House of Commons for women to have the vote-and it was laughed out of Parliament!

From 1870 women could be elected to the School Board, and Catherine Buckton, was the first woman to be elected in Leeds. 1894 saw another change in the Law, that meant rate payers of either sex-men or married women-could vote in local elections and serve on parish councils. This was the first time the working class, and working women, had a voice.

Leonora Cohen was another Leeds suffragette and trade unionist. . She was a member of the Leeds Women’s social and political union (WSPU). Amongst other action, she was famous for throwing an iron bar through a glass display case in the Tower of London in 1913. Wrapped around the iron bar was a piece of paper stating “ this is my protest against the Governments treachery to the working women of Great Britain”.

Full gender equality for women across the world has still not been realised. The gender pay gap persists and women are still not represented in equal numbers in business or politics. It is ironic that, despite the Equal Pay Act being passed in

1970, latest figures show it will take until 2069, 99 years after the Act was passed, for women in Britain to achieve equal pay with men.

Part of the Centenary Cities project is an outreach programme, reaching out to those women and girls furthest away from mainstream involvement in our democratic process.

All this means that it is more important than ever that we ensure women are registered to vote, and go out and cast their vote on Thursday May 3rd 2018 in the Leeds local elections. We need to encourage women, young and old, to have their say in this democratic process and shape the women’s agenda in Leeds for the coming years.


A More Equal Society

Women are bearing the brunt of this Conservative Government’s failed austerity agenda – with 86% of cuts hitting women.

‘Women against state pension inequality’ have run a fantastic campaign. Now Labour are calling on the Government to publish analysis of the true impact of their cuts on women.

A Labour government would assess all policy for its impact on women and black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) communities.

To tackle discrimination in employment Labour would increase ethnic diversity on the boards of Britain’s biggest companies and launch an enquiry into name- based employment discrimination.

For disabled people especially, it is no secret how shambolic the introduction of Universal Credit has been.

Leeds Labour opposes Universal Credit and is working hard to mitigate it’s worst excesses on our city’s most vulnerable people.


Cleaning Our Air

Air pollution has serious implications for our health. Spending time in areas with high levels of air pollution can worsen asthma symptoms and prevent development in children. It is linked with an estimated 40,000 premature deaths in the UK every year.

The Government is abdicating their responsibility on clean air, so Leeds Labour is leading the way for change.

Our Council’s fleet of vehicles is moving to ultra-low or zero emissions vehicles. Leeds City Council has more low emission vehicles than any other council in England.

We are investing in public transport and cycling infrastructure to make it easier to use less polluting ways to travel.

Under Labour, Leeds is also the first city in the UK to announce detailed proposals for a Clean Air Zone. This will not affect private vehicles, only commercial.

Leeds Labour also are encouraging individual drivers to switch to ultra-low emissions vehicles by offering residents free parking for ULEVS and installing a network of more charge points for electric vehicles.

Leeds Labour will encourage taxi and private hire vehicles to be converted to be more environmentally friendly and are lobbying for a diesel scrappage scheme.


Cleaning Our Streets

The Conservatives have almost halved the amount of money Leeds has to spend. These cuts have affected the services which Leeds City Council deliver.

If Labour in Government were to end austerity and fund local authorities properly, we would be able to do things like increase the amount we recycle and have more regular street cleaning.

Councillors receive complaints about things such as dog fouling and waste management more than other issues. This is an example of how national decisions by the Conservatives are affecting us in the most visual way.

Under Labour, here in Leeds we are expanding brown bin collections, refurbished our household waste recycling site in Kirkstall and opened a reuse shop and have reduced the amount of waste sent to landfill by 92%.

Leeds Labour will continue to find innovative ways to reduce the amount we send to landfill even further, and to make our city a cleaner and more pleasant place to live.


Defending Our City From Flooding

The best example of how the cuts neither work nor even save money is the Leeds floods in 2015.

Before the floods, the then Conservative & Liberal Democrat Coalition Government cut a flood defence programme. Not only did the flood damage cost more than the money cut, but Labour-run Leeds City Council has now acquired funding for an extensive food defence programme for the future.

The first stage of flood defences along the Aire and through the city are now installed. We will continue to work on flood alleviation schemes with other local Councils further up the river with an extensive tree planting programme.

Our flood defences are the first of their kind in the UK – investing in innovation to save money and protect our city. The Government must learn from Leeds’ example.

The Government cut the flood defence scheme. The Boxing Day floods were a preventable disaster. Leeds Labour will do all it can to prevent future floods.


Healthcare For All

Labour created the National Health Service – our proudest achievement, providing universal healthcare for all on the basis of need, free at the point of use. Labour will scrap the NHS pay cap and put pay decisions back into the hands of the independent pay review body. Labour will protect patients and legislate to ensure safe staffing levels in the NHS.

In Government, Labour will halt and review the NHS ‘Sustainability and Transformation Plans’, which threaten the closure of health services across England.

Leeds Labour were proud to march alongside Junior Doctors at protests through Leeds City Centre.

Labour will repeal the Health and Social Care Act which puts profits before patient, and we would always make the NHS the preferred provider. We will reinstate the powers of the Secretary of State for Health, giving them overall responsibility for the NHS, and reverse the privatisation of our NHS.

The Conservatives moved responsibility for public health to Councils, and promised to increase that funding. They have instead cut the funding significantly.

Leeds Labour will improve sexual-health services, such as reducing the rates of undiagnosed and late- diagnosed HIV, and promoting the increased availability of testing and treatment. Leeds Labour has pushed for the availability of pre-exposure prophylaxis, and has been proud to support Leeds Skyline.

Leeds Labour is committed to helping people with complex needs like dementia. We’ve launched the complex needs service in three centres across the city, offering valuable support to family carers and helping people remain at home for as long as possible. Under Labour, our ambition to be the best city for Health and Wellbeing has had Leeds named the best city for health and wellbeing based on the Office of National Statistics. Leeds Labour has also developed a number of extra care facilities in our city.

Nationally it’s now time to start treating mental health on a par with physical health. Leeds Labour is committed to increasing mental health services. Here in Leeds we opened the first ‘Time to Change’ hub in the North, demonstrating Leeds Labour’s commitment to reducing the stigma of mental health.

Leeds Labour will specifically invest extra funding into mental health services, particularly for those at risk of suicide. This is a priority for us.


Improving Our Transport

Transport is vital to quality of life and for accessing jobs.

We are now moving forward with a number of projects to improve the public transport network across the city.

Leeds Labour wants to see a re-regulated bus service, to ensure that profits are put back into the buses rather than to private companies, to reduce congestion and pollution.

There will be improvements on the A61, A58 and A660. Park and ride schemes are planned at Stourton and in the north of the city while growing the existing site at Elland Road and another at Temple Green.

There will be new railway stations at White Rose, Thorpe Park and a Leeds Bradford Airport parkway station, which will act as an additional park & ride scheme.

We are introducing new technology on buses, such as contactless payments, smart ticketing and wi-fi – and are launching a short-term bike hire scheme this year.

The ever increasing number of vehicles in our city is making our roads slower and slower. Leeds Labour wants to make our public transport integrated, efficient, reliable and clean to offer an alternative.


Jobs For The Future

At a time when technology, demands for different skills, and changing work patterns mean that people are likely to pursue several careers during their working lives, it is crucial that our education system enables people to upskill and retrain.

As part of our dynamic industrial strategy Leeds Labour delivers lifelong learning to increase productivity and growth to the whole economy while transforming the lives of individuals and communities.

Employer-led training is an effective way of meeting our growing skills gap. Labour supports the apprenticeship levy, but will take steps to ensure that every apprenticeship is of a high quality.

Leeds Labour steadfastly supports our Trade Unions.

Leeds Labour is committed to keeping as many jobs in house as possible rather than outsourcing. Leeds City Council is currently recruiting 100 staff for our in-house building service.

We are proud that Labour- run Leeds City Council employs over 280 apprentices, has made no compulsory redundancies and pays the Living Wage Foundation’s National Living Wage. Leeds Labour will continue to pay the National Living Wage, and will work with employers across the city to encourage this further.


Looked After Children

Under the Conservative Government, Leeds has lost around £43million in funding for Children’s Services. Leeds Labour has stood by our commitment to children and continue to invest in frontline services.

By investing in supporting families we have made fantastic progress by safely reducing by 12% the numbers of looked after children, bucking the national trend of a 9.4% increase. Not only has this saved approximately £13m a year, it has immeasurably improved children’s lives along with their families.

By 2020 there will be a national funding gap of £2bn for Children’s Services. This is a national scandal, and even harder to accept when £1bn was so easily found to keep Theresa May in Downing Street last year. It will place children at risk as overstretched Councils like Leeds are forced to make cuts everywhere else to ensure that vulnerable children are kept safe.

The Government needs to accept that by investing now in early intervention and prevention programmes, not only will savings be achieved in the long term, but most importantly our children and young people will have better outcomes.

Leeds Labour will always have children as a priority as we continue to make Leeds a Child Friendly City.


Looking After Our Most Vulnerable

Our social care sector is in crisis, with severe consequences for the quality of care, public finances, personal assets, pressures on unpaid carers of family, and delays to discharging patients from hospitals.

Care services have been slowly but relentlessly privatised. In recent years, one in ten people reaching the age of 65 has faced lifetime care costs of over £100,000, with some homeowners paying the entire value of their homes.

The Conservatives’ cuts have led to £4.6 billion lost from social care budgets, despite rising demand. Around 1.2 million older people have care needs that are going unmet.

Leeds Labour will strive to improve the quality of social care as a vital part of providing dignity in older age and independence and support for people who are vulnerable or have a disability or a mental health issue.


Our Heritage, Culture And Sport

The whole city was disappointed when Leeds was banned from competing to be European Capital of Culture 2023 – but we move forward!

We are committed to celebrating the incredible culture we have here in Leeds.

From Chapeltown’s West Indian Carnival, Leeds Pride, and Opera North to Leeds United at Elland Road – our culture is vital to what defines us and makes our lives more than just work. Events like Light Night, The Leeds Triathlon, and the MOBO awards open up our city centre to everyone and help make Leeds a place for all.

Leeds Labour will support all cultural activities, professional and amateur. We have ensured reduced rates are available for amateur cultural groups hiring council property.

We shall ensure that sports facilities are accessible to all communities, for people of all ages.

We’ve also invested £14m in Kirkgate Market, and are holding new events to bring more and more people back shopping there.

Leeds Labour will continue to work hard to protect and promote our heritage and culture.


Preventing Homelessness

Homelessness is not inevitable in a country as privileged and well off as ours. However, since 2010 nationally the number of people sleeping rough has more than doubled. There can be no excuses – it must end.

A future Labour Government would set out a new national plan to end rough sleeping altogether, starting by making available 4,000 additional homes reserved for people with a history of rough sleeping. We will also take action to tackle the root causes of homelessness, including safeguarding homeless hostels and other supported housing from crude Conservative cuts to housing benefit.

Here in Leeds, Leeds Labour have begun some of this work already. We have prioritised the issue, supporting over 60 rough sleepers given tenancies in the past 6 months. We always have more beds available than there are rough sleepers.

There are complex reasons why some still choose to sleep rough, but we will continue to offer all the support we can.

Leeds has the lowest number of rough sleepers out of all the major cities in the UK because of this work.

Under Leeds Labour, nobody need ever sleep rough on the streets.


Promoting Communities

Libraries are cornerstones of their communities and are part of the fabric of our society, so it’s devastating that across the UK over 450 libraries have been forced to close, with 8000 jobs gone, because of unnecessary Conservative cuts.

Here in Leeds, Leeds Labour is finding innovative ways that communities can still be served and facilities still accessed for all. We are rolling out the new Community Hub network across the City. The Hubs deliver essential services to local residents and we have seen significant increases in the number of people accessing services such as advice around housing and what help and support is available.

While Leeds Labour increases the use of these facilities, the Conservatives have forced a quarter of the UKs libraries to close. Leeds Labour will continue to find practical ways to keep vital services going.


Protecting Our Environment

Investing in our environment is investing in our future. Once in power nationally, Labour will defend and extend existing environmental protections. We will champion sustainable farming, food and fishing by investing in and promoting skills, technology, market access and innovation.

The Conservatives broke their promise to be the greenest government ever. They have allowed fracking in national parks, evaded their responsibilities on air quality and cut the funding for flood defences

Leeds Labour is against fracking.

Labour aims to set guiding targets for plastic bottle deposit schemes, and work with food manufacturers to reduce waste.

We will protect our bees by prohibiting neonicotinoids.

Unlike the Conservatives who attempted to privatise our forests, Labour will keep them in public hands.

In our own buildings, Leeds City Council has cut CO2 emissions by 16% since 2010. Under Leeds Labour we will continue to make our city more energy efficient.


Providing An Education

Across Leeds we are facing a schools places crisis. The Conservative Government is preventing Leeds City Council from opening much needed new schools, only allowing free schools to be built. At the same time, the Government is cutting money to existing schools, meaning class sizes are getting bigger and there are fewer teachers and teaching assistants.

Funding cuts from government mean we can no longer maintain the fabric of our school buildings as we did under a Labour Government. We have a £71.7m shortfall between what it will cost to maintain school buildings and the funding we will receive from Government.

The Government is preventing Leeds City Council from opening new schools and is forcing existing schools to become academies, essentially privatising our education. Leeds Labour believe that Schools should be run for children, not for profit.

We need the Government to properly fund our schools, halt forced academisation, and allow us to build and open new schools where we need them.

When we invest in people to develop their skills and capabilities, we all benefit from a stronger economy and society.

Early years development is so key – this is why Leeds Labour has not shut a single children’s centre, despite imposed austerity. We are protecting to maintaining this service as much as we possibly can.


Reducing Health Inequalities

A child born in Hunslet can expect to live ten years fewer than a child born in Harewood. The reasons behind this are complex but ultimately preventable as they often revolve around wealth.

Nationally, the Conservative Government’s austerity is keeping the poor poor and making the rich richer. Social mobility is fast becoming a thing of the past. Austerity must end.

Leeds Labour is working to invest in our communities which are suffering most from Conservative austerity to do our part in helping people live longer, healthier lives.

On Leeds City Council, a scrutiny inquiry has begun on Men’s Health – looking deeper into why mental health is so much more prevalent among men, and why suicide rates are so much higher.

This is an area needing national intervention and a change of Government, but Leeds Labour are committed to changing what we can here locally.


Repairing Our Infrastructure

Austerity hits Leeds in so many ways. From the devastating individual impact of things such as Universal Credit, to the far more day to day impact that affects everyone.

Since 2010, the Conservatives (and Liberal Democrats when in Coalition) have nearly halved the amount of money we have. This has massively reduced the council’s ability to even complete basic repairs such as filling in potholes quickly, cleaning graffiti and cleaning out gullies as often as we would like.

Leeds Labour is campaigning for an end to the Conservatives’s unnecessary austerity policies so that the services that Leeds residents rely on can be performed to the highest standards.


Safer Communities

On Theresa May’s watch, police numbers have been cut by 20,000. Cuts to the police force endanger communities and endanger police officers too. Labour’s approach to policing crime will be different.

Leeds Labour works with West Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner Mark Burns- Williamson on strategies to prevent crime and anti-social behaviour . We want to work to eliminate institutional biases against BAME communities, that mean you are still far more likely to be stopped and searched as a black or Asian man.

Leeds Labour will ensure that the number of PCSOs in Leeds will continue to remain the same, on top of the 150 of them we have funded already, to ensure that community policing remains here in Leeds.


Secure Homes For All

Everyone in Leeds is entitled to a decent home, and security of tenure.

After eight years of failure, the Conservatives have no plan to fix the housing crisis. Since 2010, housebuilding has fallen to its lowest level since the 1920s, rents have risen faster than incomes, and new, affordable housebuilding is at a 24-year low.

Leeds Labour believes in brownfield first – When the Conservative-Liberal Democrat Coalition was in Government, they got rid of Labour’s brownfield first policy and handed huge powers to developers.

We have 90 applicants for every council house that becomes available, yet the Government won’t allow us to build all the council houses we need. We need the power to not only control where homes should be built, but also the type of homes we need.

Over the past 6 years, Labour- run Leeds City Council has reduced the number of empty homes by 2599, reducing the pressure on other sites in the city. We will continue to do this where possible.

We are investing £20m of ‘Right to Buy’ replacement programme funding into new affordable housing.

Leeds Labour will focus on improving the quality of the private rented sector too, making sure that rogue landlords cannot operate in our city.


Tackling Poverty And Exploitation

Under the Tories and LibDem/Tory Coalition targets for tackling Child Poverty were abolished and it is women and children who have borne the brunt of austerity. Child poverty has soared by 400,000 since Tories came to power. This is a direct result of this Government’s seven wasted years of austerity and punitive social security cuts.

The Tories’ shocking failure to tackle the increasing costs of basic essentials, stagnating wages and their ruthless slashing of social security is leaving working families worse off, with many needing food banks.

Leeds Labour supports a reverse of the cuts to in-work support, banning exploitative zero hours contracts being used on hundreds of thousands of workers, and guarantees the Living Wage Foundation’s Real Living Wage.

The last Labour Government took 1 million children out of poverty, and under the Conservatives all that work is reversed. We should be investing in people.

The Government need to now urgently fund local councils to intervene and deliver investment on the ground where it is most desperately needed to reverse this worrying trend.




What are these elections for? 

The elections this May are to decide who runs Leeds City Council. The Council is currently run by the Labour Party who are working hard to protect the most vulnerable in light of the huge Conservative cuts.


Why do I have 3 Labour candidates? 

These elections are to elect all 99 Councillors across Leeds – three Councillors represent each area so there are three Labour candidates. It’s really important to use all your three votes for Labour to ensure the Conservatives can’t sneak in.


Has Leeds had elections like this before? 

The last time Leeds elected all 99 Councillors at once was 2004. The result of that election was a three-way coalition between The Conservatives, The Green Party, and The Liberal Democrats. Only by using all your three votes for Labour will we keep the Conservatives out of power in Leeds.


Wasn’t the election last year? 

Last year was a General Election to elect the MP to represent you in Parliament. This year is a local election to elect the Councillors to represent you on Leeds City Council. Parliament decides how much money local Councils get, and Local Councils decide how that money is spent.

Leeds Labour statement on Rohingya crisis

We are extremely concerned by reports of ethnic cleansing and condemn the actions of the Burmese Government towards the ethnic minority Rohingya population.

We call on the UK Government to send humanitarian support to the hundreds of thousands of people who have been forced to flee their homes.

We further support calls in Parliament for the UK government to suspend Britain’s involvement in training Burmese military forces.

Rachel Reeves MP on Leeds’ first Women MP, Alice Bacon

In the last in our series of International Women’s Day blog posts today, Rachel Reeves MP talks about Alice Bacon – who was the first woman to represent Leeds in Parliament.


Rachel at a book signing for “Alice in Westminster”

Alice Bacon was one of the great unsung heroes of post-war Britain. Born the daughter of a coal-miner in the years immediately preceding the outbreak of World War I and elected to Parliament in the great Labour landslide of 1945, her background was not that of a typical Member of Parliament.

For one, just a handful of women had preceded her as MPs. That fact alone made Alice a pioneer, who had to learn to thrive in an environment that was frequently inhospitable to women. By negotiating the challenges they faced just doing their jobs – whether it was the lack of suitable office space for women MPs, or their pigeonholing as being only interested in certain ‘women’s issues’ – Alice and those who entered Parliament with her were trailblazers.

And, Alice was the daughter of a coal-miner. While this might not have been the traditional preparation for working in the Palace of Westminster, it ensured that Alice was perhaps surprisingly well-equipped to carry out her work as an MP, having helped miners fill in claims for compensation in working-men’s clubs – her training ground, and she developed a strong bond with the kind of community she would go on to represent in Parliament.

Most of all, Alice was a proud Yorkshire woman, who lived for almost her entire life in her childhood home in Normanton. For 25 years, she served the people of Leeds as a dedicated constituency MP, and was known as ‘our Alice’ by her constituents. Her surgeries took place at the Leeds Corn Exchange and were billed as ‘Any Problems’ – even today people remember Alice helping with housing, pension, schooling and other issues. She is a great role model for today’s MPs and Councillors.

Alice was a close ally of great Leeds Labour stalwarts like Hugh Gaitskell and Denis Healey. And when she retired, she was made Baroness Bacon of the City of Leeds and Normanton in the West Riding of the County of York.


Alice talking to Labour Party Conference in 1965

As a Government Minister, first at the Home Office and then the Department of Education and Science, Alice played a vital role in some of the great reforms of the 1960s: the legalisation of homosexuality and abortion, and the abolition of the death penalty. However, the cause closest to her heart was one shaped by her experience growing up in Yorkshire: the introduction of comprehensive education. On this issue, she spoke as someone who had taught in a secondary modern and understood the problems associated with selective education, as well as excessive class sizes and inadequate school buildings. Alice championed the issue of the comprehensive from the moment she arrived in Parliament, before it was ever accepted as Labour Party policy, and as the minister responsible for schools after 1967, she was able to drive through the reform countrywide.

The Labour Party in Yorkshire has a proud history – from Harold Wilson and Barbara Castle, to Gaitskell and Healey. Alice Bacon deserves to be remembered alongside such illustrious counterparts.

Cllr Alison Lowe on the importance of International Women’s Day today

International Women’s Day events are held worldwide on March 8 to celebrate women and their global contribution. Various women, including political, community, and business leaders, as well as leading educators, inventors, entrepreneurs, and television personalities, are usually invited to speak at events on the day, highlighting their successes to illustrate how much progress has been made, and often how much further there is till yet to go.

Many students in schools and other educational settings participate in special lessons, debates or presentations about the importance of women in society, their influence, and issues that affect them. In some countries school children bring gifts to their female teachers and women receive small presents from friends or family members. Many workplaces make a special mention about International Women’s Day through internal newsletters or notices, or by handing out promotional material focusing on the day.

In Leeds, we will also be celebrating the contribution of women to our fabulous city and honouring them throughout this day.  I will also be there to tell Leeds’ women why they are an asset to Leeds, their families and wider communities and why they should be proud to be women living in this great city of ours.


Many women in Leeds will not always have had the start in life that their talent or potential deserved – I was subject to sexual abuse as a child and domestic violence as an adult – but that did not define me and nor should it define us. Women are the backbone of their families, communities and cities.  We are peacemakers, mediators, strategists and bringers of hope.  We keep our families together through bad times and good and we go without to make sure our families survive.  In the workplace we are Leaders of Councils, Chief Executives, doctors, nurses, physicists, lawyers and  Chief Constables.  We are whatever it is we want to be – and whatever it is we believe we can be.

If you are a citizen of Leeds, celebrate all that is great about our city, recognise the huge and continuing contribution of women and girls today and be part of making women’s lives better for tomorrow.

In the words of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon:

Countries with more gender equality have better economic growth. Companies with more women leaders perform better. Peace agreements that include women are more durable. Parliaments with more women enact more legislation on key social issues such as health, education, anti-discrimination and child support. The evidence is clear: equality for women means progress for all.”

Cllr Pauleen Grahame on the Barnbow Lasses

On International Women’s Day – Cllr Pauleen Grahame writes about the Barnbow Lasses, A story of women who worked in a munitions factory which also records the worst tragedy in the history of the City of Leeds – in terms of people killed – a story however that never made the news headlines of the day. A dreadful explosion killed 35 Yorkshire women and girls at the Barnbow Munitions factory at Crossgates during the First World War.


I was honoured to be asked by our local Historical Society if I could help with a Memorial for the Lasses who worked at the Barnbow Munitions Factory in Cross Gates during WW1.

Due to the official Secrets it was never discussed at the time.  I was adamant that there would be something to remember and let people know about these wonderful Women.

The Memorial Stone in Manston Park was agreed by all involved. There are also 2 Lecterns one at each entrance to  park informing people of the tragedy and the wonderful Women who worked there to save lives and many lost their own. I feel great Pride when I pass the park and see people children looking at the memorial.

As the Lasses would have walked the path to get to the factory I like to think that a few may visit in the night. At our Cross Gate Christmas Light Switch On I always mention the Lasses . It is my greatest achievement on I am most proud of as a councillor to have been involved in the recognition of these brave women who saved many lives and paid a great part in winning the war.


Cllr Al Garthwaite on the history of International Women’s Day

After being celebrated widely during the first part of the twentieth century, International Women’s Day was neglected, apart from in the Soviet Union, where men would present women with flowers and make them a cup of tea, presumably as some sort of sop for doing nothing for them the rest of the year. This was until the second wave of the Women’s Liberation Movement in the late 1960s; from that time, women all over the world celebrate and campaign in the days surrounding March 8th.

In Leeds, in the late 1970s, feminists booked the then-empty-and-going-on-for-derelict Corn Exchange and promoted International Women’s Day events, with lots of stalls showcasing women’s organisations and businesses, film screenings, music, singing, talks, massage, and the chance to help build a wall, facilitated by the organisation Women in Manual Trades. This was very popular; queues of women snaked up Vicar Lane before the start, and we were full all day.


This idea was taken up again in the 1980s, when Leeds City Council Women’s Sub-Committee offered similar all-day programmes in the Corn Exchange and eventually, the Lord Mayor’s Banqueting Suite in the Civic Hall. Women’s groups all over Leeds also put on events, from motor bike riding to screen printing, conferences against violence against women, steel band concerts and South Asian dancing, funded by a special International Women’s Day grant pot. Vera Media’s 1987’s short film exploring the history of the day, highlighting activities all over the world and focussing especially on events in Leeds, was distributed nationally. (We showed it recently to a audience of mainly young women at the Hyde Park Book Club; 30 years on, it went down very well).

This year, there’s still time to catch some events in Leeds, like I Am Woman (Hear Me Roar); Girl Gang Presents Cool for Crafts Market; the Feminist Archive North exhibition; Edit Wikipedia for Women; and International Women’s Day – the Promised Band, a film exploring women’s lives in Israel and Palestine and how a rock band brought them together. See www.leedsinspired.co.uk/international women’s day for details. Leeds Beckett University and Leeds University also have events, among others listed online.

In the twenty-first century, International Women’s Day is as relevant and necessary as it ever was. Get out there and enjoy.