A leading councillor has agreed an independent review should be carried out on the future of Britain’s first ‘legal’ red light zone.
Deputy leader Coun Debra Coupar agreed Leeds City Council should hold a review into the ‘managed approach’ in Holbeck during a heated debate at Leeds Civic Hall.
But she said the review should take place “once the enhanced activity has been given time to take effect”.
Members of the local authority’s full council discussed a motion, known as a white paper, calling on the local authority to prove it can either make the ‘managed approach’ work or stop it all together.
READ MORE: Sex in the city: Is Leeds ‘managed approach’ an innovation?
Coun Coupar (Lab) called for an amendment to the motion, praising work done to help sex workers, and said enhanced work was taking place to ensure communities were not negatively affected by the work.
Speaking during the debate, Coun Amanda Carter (Con), who submitted the original motion, said: “What they have had to contend with in that area is horrendous. People there are wondering what democracy means for them.
“The situation cannot continue in its current form. The administration needs to take responsibility.
“If the council can’t improve the situation, the managed zone should be suspended.”
Coun Coupar responded: “I would like to reassure the residents that Safer Leeds and the council is committed to working with the communities.
“It is important to say we have not created a red light zone. We have invested resources to deal with street prostitution.
“Extra police and resources have been implemented to prevent the encroachment into residential areas.
“We have always been committed to an independent review. We have said so all along. We are still committed to that review and intend to conduct that review with local residents.”
READ MORE: The history of sex work in Leeds: Timeline reveals evolution of Holbeck's managed zone
Coun Andrew Scopes (Lab) said: “We must not lose sight of the fact that this is a vulnerable group of women that deserve the same level of support and compassion as anyone else in our city.”
Coun Barry Anderson (Con) said: “This policy has no magic bullet to resolve it. We need to look at how to reduce the impact on the community there are heartfelt problems felt by the community, we can’t keep ignoring their views – they are hurting.”
Coun Dan Cohen (Con) said: “This is absolutely about supporting our local residents and making sure that Leeds is a fit place for the people who are living and growing up in it.”
Holbeck councillor Angela Gabriel (Lab) argued that the zone was improving, adding: “Now is the wrong time to stop it.”
Liberal Democrat group leader Stewart Golton said: “I don’t think anybody here would like their daughter or their son to go into prostitution. But if they found themselves in that situation, you would hope the authorities would do everything they could to help them.”
Coun Mark Dobson (Ind), a former Labour portfolio holder, said: “Before the managed zone, we were getting people telling us about the unmanaged zone. I am not going to try and abdicate myself from this decision.
“Over time it has become clear it was never resourced properly – it was resourced on a shoestring. Four years in there are fundamental problems.
“My name was over the door. We got it wrong.”
Coun Carter summed up: “You wanted to make a difference to your communities – I want to make a difference to these people (in Holbeck) because they have had enough.
“This isn’t Pretty Woman, this isn’t Hollywood, there is no Richard Gere round the corner.”
Members voted in favour of the amendment by Coun Coupar.