‘Exit strategy’ for managed zone and ‘review’ of licences for strip clubs needed, says councillor
A Leeds politician has called on decision makers to “review” the licences for the city’s strip clubs and for an “exit strategy” to be created for the city’s managed zone.
Speaking at a full Leeds City Council meeting, Coun Ryan Stephenson claimed that three of the four sexual entertainment venues in Leeds received Covid-related business support grants from the council.
He added that the managed zone in Holbeck, which permits sex work to take place in certain areas, needed to ultimately be scrapped – and that the council was avoiding speaking about both issues.
The leader of Leeds City Council hit back, accusing Coun Stephenson of “hypocrisy”, adding that the Conservative government has done nothing to enable councils to remove sexual entertainment licences.
Earlier in the meeting, Labour councillors Julie Heselwood and Al Garthwaite gave impassioned speeches around the need to combat violence against women, including calls to make misogyny a hate crime.
Coun Stephenson (Con) responded: “I agree with most of the comments made by Couns Garthwaite and Heselwood with one slight exception.
“You have to admire the creativity of some Labour members talking about any issue under the sun, but the one issue that has been glossed over completely is the sex licensing in Leeds and the council’s managed zone.
“Throughout this pandemic, Leeds City Council has provided grants to three out of four sex establishments in Leeds to help out with the Covid pandemic.”
Leeds currently has four licensed sexual entertainment venues – Silks, Whiskey Downs, Liberte and Purple Door. Each establishment must have its licence reviewed by a Leeds City Council sub-committee annually.
Coun Stephenson added that there was “a lot more to be done” on the managed zone, and that in a recent annual safeguarding report, no reference was made to the managed zone.
He said: “In the spirit of cross party working on licensing, now is the time to look closely at where we collectively take action in Leeds to end the scourge of violence against women in Leeds and, finally, having an exit strategy to the managed zone in Leeds, which has been appallingly handled by this administration.”
Leeds City Council leader Coun James Lewis (Lab) responded: “The key word of the report he refers to is ‘independent’ – it was done outside the council. I’m not sure how he thinks we’re responsible for that.
“On the licenses he refers to – his party has been in government for 11 years now and has done absolutely nothing to withdraw the ability of Leeds licences and venues to operate, so I suggest he gets serious and knocks off the hypocrisy here.
“The Conservatives need to get their own house in order.”
Introduced in 2014, the managed zone permits street sex work to take place overnight in certain parts of Holbeck, in exchange for extra council and police support for those affected. An independent report published in 2020 recommended that the zone should remain in place.