"We have tried to make sure people have a voice" - grassroots community groups are behind the future of Seacroft

Understanding and working with the community is the key to keeping Seacroft a place where its people are proud of it.

Tuesday, 1st September 2020, 6:00 am

From boxing to bingo and children’s centres to cafes, grassroots organisations are a way of giving people a voice and empowering disadvantaged groups, says a local ward councillor.

Coun David Jenkins was elected two and a half years along with Couns Paul Drinkwater and Katie Dye.

He said: “We took over from long-standing labour councillors. We have tried to work within the community, with the community and we all live in the community.”

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High rises and housing are one of the issues ward councillors in Seacroft have been working on over the summer.

Coun Jenkins alone sits on several organisations from Seacroft Local Care Partnership, Seacroft Friends and Neighbours, Seacroft and Manston Cluster, the governing body of Seacroft Grange Primary School as well as more strategic authorities such as West Yorkshire Fire Authority.

These locally run projects at the heart of Seacroft seemingly have the most impact on real people, real lives.

For example, after 20 years of complaints and conversations with the police, a ginnel on Murton Close is to be cut off with a three year legal order.

It comes after reams of reports of drug dealing, anti-social behaviour and urinating outside people’s homes.

Coun David Jenkins.

Also in the last couple of years, a fence is being put up around the base for Seacroft Colts football team using section 106 monies obtained by the council as the posts keep getting stolen and the portable cabin used for changing was set on fire within five days of being put up.

A further £15,000 has been awarded to do up the changing rooms at Seacroft WMC where the Sharks rugby league team is based.

A postcards project was set up in the high rise flats where neighbours sent each other notes or made phone calls to try and combat the isolation during lockdown and the Seacroft Community On Top group, which is around 20 volunteers, engaged with around 100 youngsters while schools were closed.

Coun Jenkins said: “Obviously COVID has knocked a lot of it on the head but we are working a lot with sports groups, one of the things we need for the future is the boxing club at Kentmere Community Centre. It has a lot of groups in a building that was getting run down.

Seacroft WMC is home to many local clubs and sports groups.

The Denis Healey building was opened in 1988, we got £50,000 to do it up and will be a cafe, have a gym and bingo and all sorts of things.”

While these things add to people’s lives there is still work to do on the basics, he says, like housing and education.

Seacroft was once home to one of the largest housing estates in the country and the second biggest in Yorkshire. By the late 90s and early 2000s many had been vacated with the area’s population decreasing by several hundreds.

They became derelict as deprivation pursued.

Meanwhile, parcels of land that had become surplus to requirements around Seacroft Hospital were snapped up and a large Strata development is now on site. Other pockets of new housing are popping up.

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Coun Jenkins added: “One of the great problems for us as councillors, is it divides the community. At one level there are people moving into fairly posh houses at £180-200,000, then, an area of diminishing council housing stock which is about 4,500 and that used to be about 10,000 in the old days.

“We are trying to work on those sorts of issues and make sure people use the local services.”

The care and hospitality sectors are the main source of employment since service and engineering jobs went from the 1980s onwards placing education, employment and opportunity at the top of the agenda.

A governor at Seacroft Grange school for the last three years, Coun Jenkins added: “That is really important and we have worked closely with schools.

“Young people come from quite deprived situations and going into school has been a real transition. When many of them come at four or five they can’t read or write.

“They come from a difficult situation and children’s centres. We work within the context of ten years of Tory austerity. We have tried to make sure people have a voice and help to understand what’s going on and improve people’s situations.”

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Thank you

Laura Collins