Fears for Leeds community events amid police cutbacks

Otley Carnival procession in 2013.

Otley Carnival procession in 2013.

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Fears have been raised for the future of much-loved community events in Leeds as a result of swingeing police cutbacks.

West Yorkshire Police say they could have to drop their long-standing support for a number of carnivals and galas in the city.

The force has traditionally laid on officers to handle road closures for parades that are held as part of events such as Yeadon Carnival and Horsforth Gala.

Now, however, it is warning that it may not be able to continue to provide the service in what it describes as “these times of austerity”.

Without a police presence, organisers could be forced to draft in traffic management companies of the type used by large-scale city runs.

And today concerns were voiced about the strain such a step would place on the resources of the wider events.

Otley Carnival treasurer Ann Steval said using a traffic management company would add a “significant” amount to its costs.

She stressed that funds would still be found to ensure this year’s carnival went ahead as planned in June.

But she also said that, in the long term, extra financial pressures could mean “the end of Otley Carnival”.

Horsforth Gala co-organiser Dawn Collins said that, if no police support was forthcoming, then the summertime event’s popular parade through the town would have to be axed.

She told the Yorkshire Evening Post that although the rest of the gala would take place as usual in Hall Park, the loss of the parade would be a “huge disappointment” to local youngsters.

Leeds North West’s Lib Dem MP, Greg Mulholland, is urging West Yorkshire Police to reaffirm their backing for the celebrations. He said: “I am a great supporter of the many community events held in Leeds, which are now facing a very uncertain future.

“Such events are very important for community cohesion and tourism and for supporting local charities.”

Leeds City Council’s Coun Colin Campbell (Lib Dem, Otley & Yeadon) said: “This will have a major impact on dozens of local groups.

“In my own ward of Yeadon, the children’s parade at Yeadon Carnival has been walking down High Street for the last 100 years.

“The police have stopped traffic for a maximum of 15 minutes and everyone has been happy.

“Now this along with events organised by Otley Carnival, Guiseley Carnival, Kirkstall Festival [and] Horsforth Gala will be put at risk.”

In a statement, West Yorkshire Police’s Chief Insp Derek Hughes said: “We are committed to working with community groups and key partners to ensure public events are managed effectively and efficiently.”

He went on: “However, in these times of austerity we have the need to balance normal policing requirements against the specific needs of events which may be reflected in our ability to provide resources for areas that fall outside of our role and responsibility.”

The West Yorkshire force has had to cope with the loss of nearly 1,000 officers in the space of just five years.

It is also facing up to budget cuts of around £163.5m by 2016/17.

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