Letter from Chair of Adult Social Care, Public Healthand NHS Scrutiny Board to the Yorkshire Evening Post on Junior Doctors

Sir

So later on today we shall see thousands of ‘junior’ doctors and many sympathetic colleagues as well as the public demonstrate in the centre of Leeds and many other cities nationwide. Why has it come to this?

There is no doubt that patients would welcome the increased flexibility of access to their GPs which seven day cover would mean and the assurance that if they happen to need hospital treatment at the weekend, they will find both staff and time to be treated, as if it were a weekday. From all I have watched, listened to and people I have spoken with doctors do not disagree with this principle; after all they are in the job to improve people’s lives and make them better. No, the issue at hand is once again the manner of the consultations by Government, the doubts about their integrity and real intent and their five year track record of bringing the NHS almost to bankruptcy.

Why at this very moment Leeds is struggling to even begin to find in-year revenue savings of around £2.8 M; which have just been imposed on Public Health by Mr Osborne. Oh and by the way that consultation took place in four weeks in August! Enough said!

So called ‘junior’ doctors are of course young people who have studied for up to ten years, who carry very serious responsibilities in hospitals and make life and death decisions every day. Their work- and that of all their colleagues in the NHS- deserves recognition, respect and thanks.

Yours

Councillor Peter Gruen

Chair of Adult Social Care, Public Health and NHS Scrutiny Board

Remember, Remember it’s NoVOTEmber

On 1 December up to 2 million people could easily drop off the electoral register.  That’s on top of the 8 million who are not on the register at all.

That’s 10 million people – or 1 in 5 of all eligible adults – who won’t be able to vote.

These changes are happening because the Government is rushing changes to the way we register to vote, against the advice of its election watchdog, the Electoral Commission.

Leeds Labour says: ‘Whether you love us, loathe us or really can’t make your mind up some days – it’s your right to have your say. #NoVoteNoVoice’

So before it’s too late…

  • Check if you are on the register by calling Leeds Elections Office 0113 2476726
  • If you’re not on then sort it online here – It takes 5 minutes – and you’ll need your National Insurance number if you have one. (And remember if you are a student you can register at both your home address and your Leeds address)
  • Once you’re sorted than get friends, family and housemates to check as well.
  • You can print off the form here if people want to fill in a paper copy. Completed forms need to be posted to Electoral Services, Level 2, Town Hall, The Headrow, Leeds LS1 3AD or handed in at the Town Hall Main Reception.

If you try to get this sorted and are still having difficulty then email jonathan.pryor@leeds.gov.uk or ring and leave a message on 0113 2476726.

We’ll help as far as we can. And no-one will ask you anything about how you vote.

Let’s avoid it becoming NoVOTEmber and and make sure we find Leeds’ #MissingVoters

If you’ve got other questions about voting then try http://www.aboutmyvote.co.uk/

Tory cuts to vital local services in Leeds just keep coming

Leeds Labour Councillors have reacted angrily to a report that predicts a cut in funding by the Tory Government for the council’s services of nearly £70 million per year by 2020. This is on top of cuts to Health service funding announced within weeks of the new Conservative government taking office.

Since 2010 Leeds Council has been subjected to Tory cuts totalling £180 million which is some 40% of the funding towards providing local services despite 1-in-5 Leeds residents living in a deprived area.  Had Leeds received  a similar funding settlement to Surrey County Council then last year there would have been an extra £17 million available for Council services. Not only are the Conservatives attacking local services they are treating different parts of the country unfairly.

Along with the cuts impact of inflation and rising demand for many services the funding gap identified for 2016/17 is £49 million in the report which will got to the Council’s Executive Board on October 21st.

Leader of Leeds City Council Judith Blake commented:

“It’s wholly wrong that Leeds has taken a massive hit in terms of funding reductions in the last five years, especially compared with better off areas in the South. Money raised from Council Tax and other local income will have to stretch further and further to cover everything we consider vital. There is no doubt that the challenge for the city will grow as the Tory Government shrinks funding for services alongside hitting many residents’ incomes with cuts to Tax Credits. “

Child Friendly Britain?

Cutting child tax credits, scrapping free school meals and axing Britain’s child poverty targets; the Tories are making life very difficult for children in Britain. 

Time and again we’ve heard Cameron and Osbourne trot out the line ‘we’re all in this together’ but it’s obvious that they’re not willing to offer a helping hand to anyone who isn’t old enough to vote for them.

With life in Britain becoming harder and harder for children and young people, the role of Labour councils is more important than ever. Labour councils throughout the country are harnessing the power of local government to give young people the best possible start in life and bending over backwards to mitigate the worst effects of Tory cuts on children and their families. Here in Leeds, we’ve been able to keep every single childrens centre in the city open, we’ve dramatically reduced the number of young people not in education, employment or training and we’ve recently halved bus fares for 16-18 year olds.

This ethos comes to life in our ambition to be a childfriendly city. The Child Friendly Leeds campaign was set up in 2012. Since then the campaign has built strong links with local businesses, charities and schools, gained the support of 350 ambassadors across the city and we’re about to hold our third annual Child Friendly Leeds Awards to recognise those who help make Leeds a place where children are valued and supported. This ambition of a child friendly city might sound fluffy but theprinciple of putting children at the heart of the city speaks directly to our values as Labour councillors. We want to give everyone a good start in life and protect those who are too vulnerable to look after themselves. This is what Child Friendly Leeds is all about and it poses a stark political contrast with David Cameron’sattitude towards children and young people.

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I’m proud to live in a city that strives to be child friendly. If only we lived in a child friendly country too. The last Labour government set the ambitious target of abolishing child poverty by 2020. Sadly the Tories have turned their back on this promise but I’d love to see the Labour Party recapture that same level of ambition when it comes to making every child in Britain feel valued and supported. It’s a long time until the next general election; something those of us in localgovernment are all too aware of! Children in Britain will have to face another five Tory budgets before we have a shot at getting another Labour government. I hope the Labour Party will take inspiration from Leeds over the coming years so that we can enter the 2020 election with the radical aim of becoming a child friendly country.

Councillor Alice Smart – Armley Ward
Support Executive Member for Child Friendly Leeds

Leeds bizarrely named in worst 10 UK places for Culture…

Leeds recently featured in an article in the Independent named, “Britain’s worst places for culture named.”  We were in the bottom 10.

Thinking back to the incredible performance of ‘Kiss me Kate’ I saw last week, at the Leeds Grand Theatre by Opera North (based in Leeds), or to a few weeks ago where the West Yorkshire Playhouse hosted the world premiere of the ballet of ‘1984’ – put on by Northern Ballet (based in Leeds) – I did initially wonder how the Independent came to this conclusion.  But then, of course, culture goes far beyond the Opera and Ballet.

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Leeds Grand Theatre – no culture here!

I mean, Leeds has the highest number of listed buildings in any city outside of London, so this certainly can’t have been a factor in this judgement.

Perhaps instead this judgement is based on Sport?  At Headingley Stadium, in Rugby (League not Union) and Cricket, the Leeds Rhinos and Yorkshire County Cricket have both won the Challenge Cup and the County Championship trophy respectively.

Leeds also last year hosted the Grand Départ of the Tour de France, which has left a legacy of the Tour de Yorkshire! We have great figures which have affected our sporting life here in Leeds, from Beryl Burton to Jane Tomlinson.  So no, perhaps this judgement isn’t based on sport.

Maybe it’s music, I mean, aside from the Leeds College of Music and the Leeds Symphony Orchestra what have we got?  The Kaiser Chiefs maybe?  The Pigeon Detectives from Rothwell or, dare I say, Chumbawumba from Armley?  Is Soft Cell not enough?!  What about Mel B?  If the Spice Girls don’t count as culture then I want no part in these rankings.

If we’re going to talk about cultural assets, let’s talk about Louis le Prince.  Louis le Prince made the oldest surviving moving picture in Roundhay.  This is a legacy which has gone all the way to Hollywood starting a multi-billion pound industry.  No offence to Worcester (5th highest), but that tops your sauce.

For architecture, we have the Brotherton Library, Kirkstall Abbey, Harewood House, Broadcasting Tower and the Corn Exchange to name a few.

Authors who have lived and worked here include Alan Bennett, Helen Fielding and JRR Tolkein.

In Chapeltown we have the oldest West Indian carnival in Europe and next year will have our tenth year of Leeds Pride.  Our Universities and other local groups host Light Night in the city centre, a whole evening of free arts events for everyone in Leeds to visit.

So using what metric was this idea of Culture based?

The article states that one factor in how cultured an area is is how many historical ships there are… My efforts to have the HMS Victory brought down the Leeds-Liverpool canal have so far proved unfruitful but from today I shall redouble my efforts.

Another was the number of historical battlefields – perhaps we in Yorkshire get along better than some politicians would have you believe.

I would argue that culture is alive – yes it is about the past, about what brings an area to where we are today.  But if culture is not relevant and accessible to everybody, then what is it for?

Leeds is currently in the process for putting in a bid for the European Capital of Culture 2023.  Our bid will be based of course on our history, but on our present and our future too.  We want to be the best city for culture in the UK, and we have a real fighting chance.

I’m off now to book tickets for the Hyde Park Picture House, a 100 year old cinema down the road.  Perhaps whoever put together this list of cultured cities would like to come with me?  They’re showing Clueless.

Councillor Jonathan Pryor – Headingley Ward
Lead Member for Culture

Democracy in Danger. Shout about it!

In a democracy, should a governing party change electoral processes in its own favour without a public debate? Big changes are afoot, which will be defended as sensible and appropriate, but all of which will benefit the Conservative Government, and which have not been agreed by any other Party:-

• English Votes for English Laws, will prevent non English MPs from voting on matters deemed purely English. This can be justified by devolution to the other home countries, but favours the one Party that has long won the most seats in England, and because under the Barnett Formula that affects financial allocations to the whole UK, it will directly affect the other home countries;

• Individual voter registration (IVR) means households can no longer register their members. Individuals must register personally. But this has already led to the disappearance of around two million voters in Inner City areas that would be expected to Vote Labour;

• Reduction of seats – the Conservatives plan to reduce the House of Commons from 650 to 600 MPs, drawing new boundaries on the numbers of voters produced by Individual Voter Registration, and so affected by the missing voters in the Inner Cities;

• Trade Union reform – Unions will lose most of their power to fund Labour, while the power of Businesses to fund the Conservatives will be untouched.

The current electoral system is badly flawed. No party in modern times has won a majority of votes cast nationally. In May the Conservatives won power with 36.9% of the vote. Even the Labour landslide of 1997 was won on only 43.2% of the vote.

But fundamental changes to our democracy need open debate taking full account of the views of the public and parties across the spectrum. These changes are dangerous and partisan whatever your political outlook.

Cllr Bill Urry – Roundhay Ward Leeds
Support Executive Member for Homelessness and the Causes of Homelessness

Government’s anti-trade union Bill will damage industrial relations in Leeds, says Council Leader

Trade unions working for Leeds City Council have joined forces with the political leadership to fight the Government’s Trade Union Bill.

The Bill currently being debated in Parliament would severely restrict workers’ rights to take industrial action to protect jobs and services.

UNISON, the GMB, UNITE and UCATT all represent members who work for the local authority and they have welcomed the support of Councillor Judith Blake and her leadership team for the national campaign to oppose the Bill.

Councillor Blake said:

“The proposed Trade Union Bill could adversely affect the positive industrial relations we have. We believe it is unnecessary to raise ballot thresholds in respect of industrial action, as industrial action is a last resort and we can work together to avoid it.”

“If workplace issues are important the trade unions will always remain able to organise industrial action, regardless of additional regulations the Government seeks. ”Councillor Blake added that any plan to prevent public sector employers from deducting trade union subscriptions would be “unnecessary and petty”.

Councillor Blake added that the Council believed collective bargaining provided a positive framework for positive employee relations.

UNISON Regional Organiser Dean Harper said:

“We welcome the support from the Council because this Bill is grossly unfair and anti-democratic.” and Jon Smith, Regional Officer for the GMB said “It is welcome that the employers from Leeds City Council are standing shoulder to shoulder with their employees in fighting this bill. It certainly calls into question who this government is representing. As a member of the Tory Government, David Davis MP, has said, the Bill would not be out of place in Franco’s Fascist Spain but has no place in modern Britain.”

“We will campaign against this attack on our human rights with all the energy we can muster and we are delighted the leadership of Leeds City Council share our opinion.”