Leeds divided by gap between rich and poor

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Leeds’ civic leaders are today pledging to pull the city closer together and narrow the gap between the city’s rich and poor.

After the YEP reported yesterday that Leeds is on the brink of a five-year, £24bn economic boom, new figures show that despite a resurgent economy, the city is still struggling to bridge the gap between the rich and those on the breadline.

The new figures, from the Cities Outlook report, reveal Leeds has the third highest levels of inequality in the UK.

In more deprived areas of the city, such as Holbeck, over 15 per cent of residents are on Jobseekers’ Allowance, whilst in other areas such as Weetwood, the figure is 0.2 per cent.

In contrast, the report, which was compiled by Centre for Cities, showed Leeds has the highest percentage of new private sector jobs – even out-performing London.

Leader of Leeds City Council, councillor Keith Wakefield, said plans are already in place to tackle the issue, but added that more needs to be done – even in the face of harsh budget cuts.

He said: “Reducing inequality and protecting the most vulnerable in our city remains an absolute priority. But make no mistake, the substantial reductions which are being made to our budget is making this challenge more and more difficult.

“Despite this testing environment, we will be continuing to allocate nearly 60 per cent of our spending to support adults’ and children’s services and our health and wellbeing strategy is tackling inequality in our most deprived communities.

“This sits aside our on-going commitment to provide apprenticeship opportunities, a campaign to tackle high-cost lending and a housing programme which is building over 1,000 new council homes.

“But there is no doubt that if we are to make further major improvements to the lives of people in Leeds, more assistance is urgently needed.

“I believe devolving more powers and responsibilities to councils would be an important step in the right direction, and provide us with greater tools to tackle the problems which are being caused by the continuing north-south economic divide and the two-tier economy it has caused in the UK.”

The figures are further backed up by data from Leeds Community Foundation (LCF), which shows 23 per cent of children – or around 30,000 – are living in poverty in Leeds.

The Leeds Central constituency is one of the worst in the UK for child poverty, with 38 per cent of young people affected.

Sally-Anne Greenfield, chief executive at LCF, said: “It is no great surprise to see the report concludes that inequality is high in Leeds because, although the city is doing well, the more disadvantaged areas of the city have not shared this growth.

“We still have one in five people living in a place that is classified as being amongst the most disadvantaged 10 per cent of areas in the UK.

“Inequality has increased because of the mixed impact of the recession, reducing central and local government budgets and the impact of some welfare reforms.”

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ISSUES AFFECTING AFFLUENT AND DEPRIVED AREAS

Someone living in a deprived area of Leeds is expected to live at least eight years less than someone living in an affluent part of Leeds, according to a report by the Leeds Community Foundation (LCF).

In more deprived areas of the city, such as Holbeck, over 15 per cent of residents are on Jobseekers’ Allowance, whilst in other areas such as Weetwood, the figure is just 0.2 per cent.

Around one in five households in Leeds are also classed as ‘fuel poor’, and are struggling to keep up with the cost of their fuel bills.

23 per cent of children – or around 30,000 – aged up to 16 years old are living in poverty in Leeds.

The Leeds Central constituency has been one of the worst in the UK for child poverty, with about 38 per cent of young people affected by it.

TEN YEARS SINCE YEP SOUGHT PRIME MINISTER’S HELP

The Yorkshire Evening Post shone a spotlight on the huge gap between the city’s rich and poor more than a decade ago.

Back in 2002, the newspaper ran the Life in Leeds campaign – a series of stories that were praised and supported by the then-Prime Minister Tony Blair.

In a dossier handed to Mr Blair during one of his visits to Leeds, the YEP highlighted some of the problems that were being faced by many of the city’s poorest communities.

But 13 years later, it’s clear that the problem is still ongoing.

Speaking at the time, Mr Blair said: “What the YEP series highlighted was the communities, some within a stone’s throw of the thriving city centre itself, which have missed out badly.

“But there is a great deal more to do if we are to give everyone, wherever they live, a fair chance.”

His message for the city was: “The Government is determined to give you all the support it can.”

The YEP revived the Life in Leeds campaign 10 years later, in 2012.

The fresh approach further uncovered a range of social and economic problems that the city was facing.

The stories also revealed that 20 per cent of the city’s children were living in poverty at the time.

Despite the YEP’s rallying cry all those years ago, it still seems that there is still work to be done to tackle the issues.

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