Leeds' Labour Group wants voters to ‘send government a message over appalling treatment' of the city in upcoming election
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Leeds’ Labour group has urged voters to “send the government a message” over what it claims is the “appalling treatment” of the city. Council leader and local Labour chief James Lewis said he believed voters were “fired up” and “angry” over the state of the country.
But he said the gains Labour made at last year’s polls in Leeds showed his party’s local leadership was viewed favourably too. Labour became the ruling party on Leeds City Council in 2010, following a six-year coalition between the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats.
In a wide-ranging interview ahead of next week’s local elections, Councillor Lewis also defended Leeds’ 2023 Year of Culture and disputed claims from opposition parties that Labour “isn’t listening” to people. He said: “The way the government has treated Leeds over the last 13 years has been appalling. We’ve seen £2.5bn taken away from our funding cumulatively. We’ve seen no progress on transport investment, whether it’s mass transit, or whether it’s better trains to London and Manchester.
“I know this isn’t a General Elecion but this is a real opportunity to send a strong message to the government. People are really angry about the government. There’s no doubt about it. But last May we won seats off not just the Conservatives, but the Green Party and Lib Dems as well. So people are clearly looking at the record of Labour councillors and see what we’ve done in the city as positive.”
Councillor Lewis said his party had protected frontline services despite the cuts, kept children’s centres open and pointed to the council’s district heating scheme as an example of how the authority was helping the city’s poorest, as well as reducing carbon emissions.
And he defended the administration’s decision to cut its financial support for local PCSOs, despite Labour campaigning hard on crime nationally. The council leader also pointed to work being done by the authorities to tackle nuisance bike riders in the south and east of Leeds, with an on-the-spot fines system having been introduced this month.
Councillor Lewis, who has led the city since 2021, said: “We’ve had to face a situation where nearly 90 per cent of funding the government used to give us for local services is gone. So we are having to stretch people’s council tax further and further to cover everything we want to do.
“The police have put their council tax precept up over time and we’re getting extra officers on the streets of Leeds, so it’s not as if nothing’s happening in this area.”
Responding to criticism that Leeds’ landmark year of culture has failed to create a buzz with the public so far, Councillor Lewis said there was “lots going on” in the suburbs to get people engaged.
“I think the launch event went really well,” he said. “It got a significant amount of national coverage and really put Leeds on the map.
“There’s a lot of stuff happening through the summer and into the autumn. We’re bringing back Leeds Children’s Day (at Roundhay Park) for the first time in a decade in 2023. There’s the WOW Barn Festival on Woodhouse Moor (on May 13).
“It’s not just one or two big city centre events. It’s really important to me that it’s about all the different communities in Leeds.”
Councillor Lewis also disputed suggestions from opposition groups that Labour “isn’t listening” to the city’s people and “is out of touch”.
Stewart Golton, leader of the local Lib Dems, and the Conservative chief Andrew Carter have both claimed as such in recent weeks.
Councillor Lewis pointed to the authority’s U-turn over shutting Queensway School in Yeadon earlier this year, as an example of how residents’ views are taken on board.
He added: “Councillors Carter and Golton have to accept responsibility for the coalition government and the current government for the sheer amount of money that’s been taken out of Leeds’ budget by way of service cuts.
“If their parties had listened a bit more to us we’d maybe see more money for people in Leeds.
“There’ve been a number of things over time where we have consulted, listened to people and changed our minds. I don’t accept at all that we don’t listen.
“Hopefully the Conservatives will listen to our demands for investment in public services.”
Labour in numbers
Current seats on Leeds City Council: 56/99 (Largest party)
Number of candidates standing in 2023 local elections: 33 (out of 33 wards)
Year first Labour councillor elected in Leeds (since council was reorganised in its present form) : 1973
Labour candidates standing in your area
Adel and Wharfedale – Steve Clapcote
Alwoodley – Jackie Ellis
Ardsley and Robin Hood – Stephen Holroyd-Case
Armley – Andy Parnham
Beeston and Holbeck – Andrew Timothy Scopes
Bramley and Stanningley – Tom Hinchcliffe
Burmantofts and Richmond Hill – Nkele Charmaine Manaka
Calverley and Farsley – Peter Carlill
Chapel Allerton – Jane Alice Dowson
Cross Gates and Whinmoor – Jess Lennox
Farnley and Wortley – Adrian McCluskey
Garforth and Swillington – Luke Anthony Morrow
Gipton and Harehills – Asghar Ali
Guiseley and Rawdon – Oliver Roland Edwards
Harewood – Oliver Gill
Headingley and Hyde Park – Abdul Hannan
Horsforth – Raymond Wyn Jones
Hunslet and Riverside – Paul Ian Wray
Killingbeck and Seacroft – Katie Dye
Kippax and Methley – Michael Thomas Millar
Kirkstall – Andy Rontree
Little London and Woodhouse – Abigail Marshall Katung
Middleton Park – Lauren Alice Summers
Moortown – Mohammed Shahzad
Morley North – Patrick Gerard Davey
Morley South – Bailey Jacob Statton Bradley
Otley and Yeadon – Ian Joseph McCargo
Pudsey – Riaz Ahmed
Rothwell – James Louis Driver
Roundhay – Jordan Daniel Bowden
Temple Newsam – Nicole Louise Sharpe
Weetwood – Jools Heselwood
Wetherby – Lucy Kathleen Nuttgens