Supertram solidarity faces threat

With Leeds anxiously awaiting a Government decision on its plan for a much-needed transport system, Municipal Reporter DAVID MARSH found tempers fraying at the lastest city council meeting

THE political unanimity that has underpinned Leeds's long-running Supertram campaign has suffered a serious blow.

For 15 years the council's three main parties have been singing off the same hymn sheet in pressing ministers for funding for the 450m project.

But the united front, considered to be vital in securing Government funding, was near collapse when the Labour group threatened to break ranks.

Labour councillors refused to support a resolution that condemned the Government's failure to make a decision on the scheme.

The resolution, tabled by council leader Coun Mark Harris (Lib Dem, Moortown), also urged supporters of the project to continue to lobby for a positive decision and said the delay was inexcusable because it was damaging the city's economy.

Labour councillors stressed they fully supported the Supertram proposals but said the resolution was badly timed and might do more harm than good.

Coun Mick Lyons (Lab, Temple Newsam) said to Coun Harris: "We don't need someone attacking the Government while we are in the middle of negotiations. You are going to scupper it."

Coun Andrew Carter (Con, Calverley and Farsley), council deputy leader, told Labour councillors: "You should be big enough to vote for this. The Government should be put under pressure. "

He accused the Labour group of losing its backbone.

With the vote about to be taken, a compromise was struck when it was agreed the sentence condemning the Government be removed from the resolution.

Labour joined the Liberal Democrats, Conservatives and Greens in supporting the resolution which was passed 89 votes to six with one abstention.

Morley Independents, long-standing opponents of the plan, voted against.

Country park for west Leeds

COUNCILLORS have backed a plan to create a huge country park in west Leeds.

The aim is to link a number of existing green areas to develop a horse-shoe shaped park running from Kirkstall near the city centre, running along the river and canal valley, looping around the Bradford border, behind Calverley Woods, through Fulneck, past Post Hill and turning back towards the city centre at Farnley.

The council also agreed to support the voluntary groups already working to maintain and improve the green areas.

Coun Andrew Carter (Con, Calverley and Farsley) said the scheme would create an attractive green corridor.

City plan for tribute to Pals

A MONUMENT to commemorate the service and sacrifice of the Leeds Pals battalion during the First World War is to be erected in Leeds.

The Pals, who were drawn from across Leeds, suffered appalling casualties during the Battle of the Somme in July 1916.

Training

While there is a monument at Colsterdale, near Masham, where the men trained, councillors want a memorial to be erected in Leeds.

A report on the commissioning of a statue will now be prepared for the city council's Executive Board.

Advice centre

action call

ONLY one in five phone calls to a council housing advice centre on The Headrow were being answered, the meeting heard.

Coun Richard Lewis (Lab, Pudsey), who called the service just not good enough, said the people ringing the centre were some of the most vulnerable in the community.

Coun Les Carter (Con, Adel and Wharfedale) said staff at the centre worked in inadequate offices. They were to be relocated.

Councillor not impressed by teashop talk

IS Betty's coming to Leeds?

According to Coun Peter Gruen (Lab, Whinmoor), a Civic Hall rumour is that the famous tea shop could be in the running to open an upmarket cafe in Roundhay Park Mansion, which is soon to be refurbished.

And he is less than impressed.

Afford

He said: "Who will be able to afford this? Not the people who come into the park."

Coun Gruen told the council's Conservative-Liberal Democrat-Green administration: "You are turning it into an elitist enterprise."

But Coun John Procter (Con, Wetherby), executive councillor for leisure, told the meeting Coun Gruen was one of a number of Labour councillors who had recently approached him to say how wonderful it would be if the rumour about Betty's was true.

He said the Mansion operation would go out to tender and bids would be invited.

Coun Procter said: "I hope we can attract a good operator.

"We want to create a range of facilities that can cater for all."

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Just £150 more per person will help narrow the North/South divide, says Leeds council leader