Leeds local elections 2023: What the Liberal Democrats are promising as they claim Labour 'isn't listening'

This piece is part of a series of interviews with local party leaders across Leeds ahead of the local elections on May 4.
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Leeds’ Liberal Democrats have claimed the city’s ruling Labour administration “isn’t listening”, as it fights for votes in next month’s local elections. Lib Dem group leader Stewart Golton said his party had a strong track record in “speaking truth to power” in the areas of the city his councillors represent.

In an interview ahead of May’s polls, Councillor Golton accused Labour of starving the suburbs of cash to fund new city centre infrastructure and suggested Leeds had “nothing to show” for its flagship Year of Culture so far.

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“Labour’s not listening,” Councillor Golton, whose party is fielding candidates in all of the city’s 33 wards and defending three seats, said. “There’s a certain entitlement to the Leeds Labour group. They think they’re the only people worth listening to and that they’re the only ones where any creativity can come from.”

Lib Dem group leader Stewart Golton said his party had a strong track record in “speaking truth to power” in the areas of the city his councillors representLib Dem group leader Stewart Golton said his party had a strong track record in “speaking truth to power” in the areas of the city his councillors represent
Lib Dem group leader Stewart Golton said his party had a strong track record in “speaking truth to power” in the areas of the city his councillors represent

Councillor Golton cited his recent motion calling for a second homes tax to be introduced in Leeds, which was rejected by the ruling party, as “symptomatic” of this perceived approach.

In recent months, the council has U-turned on proposals to bring in parking charges at parks and green spaces and on its plans to close Queensway School in Yeadon. Both ideas had been strongly opposed by Lib Dems and other opposition councillors, as well as members of the public.

Asked if this suggested Labour was listening more than he claims, Councillor Golton said both examples were “the exception that proves the rule”. “They gave in on those points after months and months of resistance,” he added. “It was only when they realised their policies didn’t make any sense that they had to withdraw them.

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“That’s why the council needs effective challenge and that’s where strong opposition is really valuable.”

With councils across the UK in dire financial straits, Councillor Golton is frequently accused by Leeds’ Labour group of representing a party that started austerity when it was part of a Coalition government. Asked for his response to that charge, the Lib Dem group leader replied: “I’m not sure that the people of Leeds want an administration that’s only interested in history lessons.

“What they want are decisons pertinent to the situation we’re in right here, right now. Playing the blame game isn’t very responsible from the people in charge. It’s not very effective in delivering public services shaped for the communities they serve.”

Councillor Golton claimed Labour are running a “two speed city” and was critical of the traffic “gridlock” that city centre roadworks have caused in recent months. The works themselves have been staunchly defended by the administration, who say they will deliver lasting improvements.

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But Councillor Golton said: “Hundreds of millions of pounds is spent on the city centre, but what is the council’s policy for all the district and town centres elsewhere, where the majority of Leeds residents – who don’t participate in the nine-to-five economy in and out of Leeds city centre – spend most of their time?”

People aren’t stupid. They can see the line ‘we don’t have any money’ is wrong, because when the council does have priorities it will find the money.

“We’re one third of the way through Year of Culture and what have we got to show for it? There’s very little being delivered in our communities in the way that we were promised and I’ve yet to see a big spectacular in Leeds city centre, that we’ve been promised.

“If the Year of Culture was the excuse for dredging all the money that could have been spent on the suburbs, to spend it on the city centre, then it’s clearly not worked.”

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Labour is keen to create so-called 15-minute neighbourhoods across Leeds – an idea geared towards ensuring everyone can access all the services they need within a short walk or cycle ride. Councillor Golton and his colleagues have been outspoken in their support of the concept, but he claimed that Labour isn’t consulting communities enough about such schemes.

“We think 15-minute neighbourhoods should be the basis on which every council decision is made,” he said. “The community should be the first place you go to, so they can express how they want to live their lives and say what improvements they want in their environment.

“It’s the only way the council can respond with any kind of educated understanding. “That’s a better way of doing it rather than having a senior council officer, who thinks they know best, having their idea rubberstamped by Labour politicians who don’t want to question the opinions of a public servant.”

Liberal Democrats in numbers

Current seats on Leeds City Council: 7/99 (3rd largest party)

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Number of candidates standing in 2023 local elections: 33 (out of 33 wards)

Year first Lib Dem councillor elected in Leeds (since council was reorganised in its present form) : 1973

Liberal Democrat candidates standing in your area

Adel and Wharfedale – Sharon Margaret Slinger

Alwoodley – Jonathan Jared Levy

Ardsley and Robin Hood – Tom Leadley

Armley – Dan Walker

Beeston and Holbeck – Peter Richard Andrews

Bramley and Stanningley – Elizabeth Anne Bee

Burmantofts and Richmond Hill – David Ewan Hollingsworth

Calverley and Farsley – Stuart McLeod

Chapel Allerton – Aqila Choudhry

Cross Gates and Whinmoor – Patricia Cooper

Farnley and Wortley – Christine Mavis Golton

Garforth and Swillington – Jake Knox

Gipton and Harehills – Mark John Twitchett

Guiseley and Rawdon – Robert Hugh Jacques

Harewood – Dan Cook

Headingley and Hyde Park – Brandon John Ashford

Horsforth – James Michael Spencer

Hunslet and Riverside – Benedict Luke Turner-Chastney

Killingbeck and Seacroft – John Otley

Kippax and Methley – Lesley Ann McIntee

Kirkstall – Adam James Belcher

Little London and Woodhouse – Katherine Mary Arbuckle

Middleton Park – Jude Patrick Arbuckle

Moortown – George Sykes

Morley North – James Trueman

Morley South – Mihai Marcelin Barticel

Otley and Yeadon – Ryk Downes

Pudsey – Christine Amy Glover

Rothwell – Diane Chapman

Roundhay – Darren Finlay

Temple Newsam – Keith Cecil Norman

Weetwood – Chris Howley

Wetherby – James Andrew Prince