A Leeds council chief has insisted that “progress has definitely been made” in making the country’s first quasi-legal prostitution zone work - and in reducing adverse impact for families living in the surrounding area.
Councillor Debra Coupar, Leeds City Council’s cabinet member for communities, was speaking at today’s (Wednesday) full council meeting at Leeds Civic Hall.
Responding to a question during the monthly Q&A session from Conservative councillor Amanda Carter, on whether she was “satisfied that the managed area in Holbeck is now being managed more effectively, to the satisfaction of local residents and businesses”, Coun Coupar acknowledged that “last summer there were some issues in the running of the managed approach, and it was important that steps were taken to make sure this was managed more effectively”.
She went on: “A number of changes have been made in recent months to improve and enhance support services linked to the managed approach.
“A community reference group has now been formed and significant progress has been made in working together and building trust to identify a joint solution to this issue.
“Communication with businesses has also been undertaken on a regular basis and a weekly update is shared.
“We are committed to continuing this level of engagement with residents and businesses in the area. And whilst I recognise there is more to be done to tackle this very long-standing issue, progress has definitely been made.”
As previously reported in the YEP, the council and police bosses in Leeds launched what was thought to be the country’s first ‘legal’ red light zone in 2014.
If sex workers followed the rules, they could openly ply for trade on certain streets without fear of arrest.
But families living in the surrounding area have repeatedly raised concerns that the plying of sex work has been “creeping” in to residential streets.
Coun Coupar said a dedicated police team had now been set up to “tackle any soliciting, kerb crawling and sex working taking place in residential areas”.
The team would focus on “tackling breaches of the rules, providing a visible presence and reassurance to the community”.
“Enforcement activity has increased, with action taken against both kerb crawlers and sex workers,” she added.
“Enforcement of the rules is done on a daily basis.”
She said a new “cleansing” team had also been formed and had “built up good links with the community...working with them to identify and respond to areas of concern”.
And she said there had been a focus on offering “intensive resource to sex workers, providing support to some of the most complex and vulnerable women in the city”.
Coun Coupar said she had met with locals in the area several times - and pledged to keep doing so,
“It is a small area of the city that is being impacted by it, and we are determined to deal with it in the right way, so that those residents and businesses are not impacted by it adversely.”