Leeds councillor speaks on Voice of Holbeck for red light zone report amid suggestions of rift

A senior Leeds councillor has moved to reassure residents in Holbeck that the authority will listen to their views on its controversial approach to managing the city’s red light zone.

Friday, 5th February 2021, 11:45 am

It follows the publication of a new report by the Voice of Holbeck coalition that focuses on the experiences of people living in the community, including accounts of being approached by kerb crawlers or sex workers on residential streets.

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"In developing this approach, we are also directly responding to one of the recommendations in the recently published Independent Review which suggested the current ways in which we were seeking to do this were not as effective as they could be.”

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Holbeck residents have been assured that their views will be taken into account as the council's Managed Approach to on-street sex work continues to be adapted. Picture: Simon Hulme

The independent review, published in July 2020, concluded that the MA was “more effective” than any other approach to on-street sex work. In place since 2014, it allows sex workers to operate on certain non-residential streets in Holbeck and within agreed hours without fear of arrest.

Concerned that the full impact upon local residents needed to be understand, Voice of Holbeck – a coalition of community groups – published its own Listening Well Report earlier this week.

The report, compiled by Leeds Beckett University, is the first study to focus on the experiences of residents living close to the industrial streets where the MA operates.

It is the result of surveys and community events - many attended by local councillors - that were held between February 2019 and February 2020, with more than 500 different people taking part.

As reported previously by the Yorkshire Evening Post, it has been suggested that the sharing of a draft copy with all Leeds councillors in last year has left the authority unwilling to deal with the group.

Coun Coupar said: "Our work supporting local people is a priority for us due to the importance of responding to concerns in a way that can be both seen and acknowledged locally by every person who has an interest in the local area.

"Much has been done through our work with the Voice of Holbeck group, including our involvement in the Listening Well events where we met with number of local people keen to share their experiences with us. This feedback will be analysed and used to help shape our partnership work moving forward.

"I would like to thank Voice of Holbeck and local residents for their continued involvement with us throughout this. Our efforts are now focused on extending our reach in terms of our engagement work with the wider Holbeck community."

It is not yet clear what that engagement work will entail in practice but the council said its intention is to ensure more people can offer their views from the recommendations in the independent review.

A spokesperson said: "We believe this offers more potential moving forward to grasp a wider range of views than keeping consultation and engagement as previously to a specific or smaller number of groups and organisations.

"Any views offered to us by any active members of the Voice of Holbeck can still be submitted and we will continue to engage and respond to any comments they may have as we would any individual, group or organisation."

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