Councillors look set to debate the future of a controversial approach to street sex work in Leeds.
It also follows calls last month from Leeds Central MP Hilary Benn for the council to hold an independent review into what has been dubbed Britain’s first ‘legal’ red light zone .
Tory councillor Amanda Carter will table a motion at Leeds City Council’s full meeting next week calling for the authority to prove they can either make the ‘managed approach’ in Holbeck work or stop it all together.
Campaigners have welcomed the move, claiming it will allow members of the council to see what life is like for people living in the area.
Coun Carter, conservative shadow spokeswoman for community safety, said:
“At a certain point we have to ask if the managed approach is really working on the ground as intended or if it is making things worse.
“Positive work to engage women with support services is to be welcomed, but we cannot ignore the impact on local residents and businesses, many of whom are saying the situation has deteriorated. These are people who are living with the day to day reality of the policy, who see the rules being flouted, the increase in litter, and who worry about the reputational damage to their communities. The council has a duty to listen to and address their concerns.
“The council and its partners must now act decisively, and to a defined timetable, and set out how they intend to prove the managed approach can work as intended for local people. If they cannot do that, it must be suspended.”
Introduced by community safety partnership Safer Leeds in October 2014, the scheme allows street sex workers to operate in parts of Holbeck during certain hours, with the aim of getting more of the women to engage with support services.
The motion, known as a white paper will be voted on by all members of the council.
It reads: “This council notes the mounting objections to the managed approach in Holbeck and further notes growing evidence of resident and business dissatisfaction with this policy. This council agrees with the concerns of the member of Parliament for Leeds Central and believes it is time for the ruling administration to prove to residents and businesses that they can make the managed approach work, or suspend it.”
However, it is understood that even if councillors voted in favour of the paper, it would not nessecarily mean the ‘managed approach’ would be suspended.
But members of campaign group Save Our Eyes, which has been campaigning against the scheme, welcome the debate, saying the time is right for politicians in the city to face the reality of life for the people of Holbeck.
A statement on the group’s website reads: “We believe that the (managed approach) does not benefit the prostituted women it was designed to help, the residents or the businesses.
“At the moment all sides are suffering. This summer there have been another three attempted murders of prostituted women as well as the abduction and rape of a local teacher who was apparently mistaken for a prostitute by kerb crawlers.
“We want to see a Leeds where modern slavery is tackled by helping victims who are trapped escape, not be ‘worked’ more ‘safely’.
“We want the streets cleared of the pimps and drug dealers who threaten and intimidate residents.
“The time has come to build a better Leeds, a fairer Leeds. We call on all councillors to oppose the managed approach, or be willing to move to Holbeck and live amongst the filth, fear and chaos.”
The full Leeds City Council meeting will take place in Civic Hall on Wednesday, November 14 at 1.15pm.