At the council’s Executive Board last month, we considered two reports about the city centre, one looking particularly at what the council is doing to tackle homelessness, rough sleeping and begging, but more particularly substance abuse, addiction and criminality.
Without getting to grips with the challenges around rough sleeping and criminality, but particularly drug and substance abuse, the council cannot hope to achieve its goals.
On homelessness the Government has made millions of pounds of funding available to cities, including Leeds, to help bring down the number of rough sleepers; and credit where it’s due, the council report to set up a new ‘Street Support Team’ seems to me to be a good idea.
However, as your newspaper’s coverage has shown, many people living on the street are deeply entrenched in a way of life.
They rely on a close support network to help them survive with a number of addictions or physical and mental health needs, the scourge being the drug Spice.
What the council’s new approach must do is to give individual support to these people, and not just drive them from the city centre into other inner city areas, and then let them disappear from the radar.
That is of no help to the individuals concerned, and could be extremely detrimental to adjacent inner city communities.
On the issues of crime and ant-social behaviour, there are a number of areas where the Labour administration on Leeds City Council isn’t doing enough, and could do a great deal more.
I remain concerned about what I regard as the complacent attitude of the council towards the number of business burglaries in the city centre.
In August there were reports of a third ram-raid burglary on a Leeds business within a year.
The council needs to be much more pro-active in this respect.
The other area where the council is not doing anywhere near enough is in imposing planning conditions on developers to try and build out crime from new estates.
The council, through planning conditions, can do a great deal more to ensure speculative house builders play their part in ensuring we can help the police prevent crime, catch criminals and stop some crime happening in the first place.
Finally, I think the council is still dithering over what to do about the ‘managed area’ in Holbeck.
Faced with evidence that it has been a disaster for local people and businesses – not to mention the huge reputational damage to the city of its lurid history being splashed across national newspapers – the administration has still refused to suspend it while a proper, workable and acceptable plan is put in place, one that gets local residents and businesses back on side.
The Labour administration has to prove to the rest of the council, but more particularly to residents and businesses, that they can make the ‘managed area’ work, or suspend it.