Better Lives

Politics is about making difficult decisions

The decommissioning of care home which directly impinges on many elderly and vulnerable people and their carers is one of those difficult decisions.

Many people on Leeds City Council, including myself, have an elderly parent who we want the best for. Disrupting the lives of vulnerable is not be done lightly and only after careful consideration, consultation and when all options are exhausted.

We have to balance the impact we have on current residents whilst ensuring we are capable of meeting future needs for those who will need our support in the future.

In 2011 it was recognised that doing nothing to change provision of adult care was not an option and we have made many changes since then, including decommissioning of eight homes and many day centres in Leeds.

The MBI’s position is confused. In Morley Town Hall they call for no closures at all, in Leeds Civic Hall they talk about a reprieve for only two years. Why two years? Why not one or three? With the Conservative Government cutting £314 million from Leeds what will happen over the next two years to improve the financial position of the council?

The demand pressures on adult care are around increasing by around £20m per year, there are more elderly people – and the resources of the council to meet that demand are reducing, despite the extra Osborne levy on Leeds Council tax payers raising £5.2m this year.   It is nowhere near enough.   As we all know we are increasing every year the proportion of the council spend on adult care – 40.6% this year. In 2011 when I was elected it was 30%.

This cannot go on for ever we have to take a different approach.

The better lives strategy is an alternative approach and is about supporting people to stay in their homes or ensuring they have alternative models such as extracare housing to meet demand. I believe we will be bring forward proposals early next year to invest £31m over the next three years to improve our ability to meet future demand for extracare housing.

If we do nothing for 2 years we will incur another of £4.2m of costs – then we will still be faced with the same difficult decision about decommissioning of these homes. The economics will not change.

In politics as in life delaying a decision does not help. Booting this into the long grass will not make the decision easier when it comes, it will make it harder.

We have to recognise that demand for places in our care homes is dropping Siegen Manor has an occupancy rate of less than 7O%. Only 7 of the residents in Siegen Manor are from Morley. Our remaining care homes are well run and have excellent staff but we do not have the money to invest in existing or new care new homes. Only the Independent sector can do that.

We need to ensure we provide alternatives such as extra care housing and promote good quality private sector provision.   In Morley I will work to ensure we do have good quality provision to replace Siegen Manor through the private sector or with investment in extracare.

Cllr Neil Dawson – Morley South Ward


The case for International Men’s Day

March 8th every year, International Women’s Day. And every year without fail Facebook and Twitter timelines fill up with – “why don’t we have International Men’s Day!!!?!” – well we do, it was on Saturday.

All of us have multiple identities, and for me being male is one of those – but what does it mean to be a man today, and what are our issues we would highlight on international men’s day.

When we look on the national stage we have plenty of male figures to look up to. Nigel Farage, Donald Trump, Boris Johnson – all towering figures who have reached those dizzying heights by belittling and degrading others, male or female.

Compare this to some celebrated figures on the current and recent world stage who act as role models for women – Hillary Clinton, who received more votes for President of the United States than any white man in history, Harriet Harman, whose list of achievements for women in the UK is endless, Angela Merkel going for her fourth term as Chancellor of Germany or Amal Clooney the British-Lebanese lawyer, activist, and author who recently took on a human trafficking survivor as a client in a groundbreaking legal case to prosecute ISIS generals for genocide.

Is there no huge swell of activity on international men’s day because being male is not a liberation cause? I am not oppressed for my gender in the way that many are for their race, disability, sexuality or religion. But this does not mean that men do not have specific issues that need addressing.

Last month researchers at the Centre for Men’s Health Leeds Beckett University published a study commissioned by Leeds City Council on the state on Men’s Health in the city. Men are more likely to die young than women, suicide rates for men are 5 times higher, and young boys are less likely to achieve a good level of basic education and higher grade GCSEs compared to their female peers.

How to respond to this presents a challenge, those politicians who have entered the fray with men’s issues at the core of their politics haven’t done so in the spirit of helping those vulnerable men – they have done so as part of an anti-feminist rhetoric.

Phillip Davis MP said that “men have lost their voices” – and he’s right. As an elected representative he has been so distracted by criticising women politicians for standing up for women, that he’s forgotten to stand up for any men himself.

As a MP, Phillip Davis has supported huge cuts to local Government. In Leeds we are directly responsible for Public Health – we can directly affect the state of men’s health. But while Mr Davis MP is waxing lyrical about men’s issues, he votes to take over £314 million from Leeds, directly detrimental to men’s health. It’s hypocritical.

We have had men right at the top of the political world since the beginning of time – and these men’s issues have not been dealt with. What does that tell us? We must demand better from those with power.

Now – it’s not that I think that women can only represent women and men can only represent men – but it is a second rate politician who spends their time pointing at others and saying – ‘it’s their fault things are like this’ rather than getting stuck in and resolving a problem themselves. This attitude of blaming others seems to be in vogue at the moment, be it Mexicans, Eastern Europeans or feminists. It’s incorrect and frankly lazy.

Without feminism my sisters would not be equal to me – and I do not want to achieve what I achieve because of certain advantages society lends to my gender – I want to get there on my own merit, because of what I think, say and do.

As a male politician in Leeds, I celebrate the fact that our Leeds Labour Group is now majority women (32 women, 31 men). It demonstrates a fairness to all 63 of us, ensuring that we who govern the city of Leeds, represent the city of Leeds. It does not diminish me as a man to be treated equally – it enhances it.

So international men’s day, let’s look at what we can do as a city to address these problems specifically facing men. But nobody’s rights and representation should come at the expense of another – and it is a poor politician who will tell you otherwise.

Councillor Jonathan Pryor – Headingley Ward

What the Tories grammar school plans mean for local government

In the past few months, we’ve seen Theresa May and her Tory colleagues talking seriously about taking the backward step to reintroduce the grammar school system. Labour understands that grammar schools widen the divide between children from disadvantaged backgrounds and those from more privileged ones and have no place in a society where every child gets the best start in life.

It’s an absolute disgrace that the Tory Government are proposing to categorise children from the age of eleven by way of a test that can easily be abused by those with the cash to do so. This dangerous strategy is underpinned by the Government’s wrongly held view that selective schools are best placed to support underperforming schools.

We know that grammar schools are over representative of advantaged pupils from families with the skills and educational background to support them. Will these grammar schools really be able to improve schools with a greater mix of disadvantaged, lower achieving pupils and the associated problems of child poverty? I don’t believe they will but luckily we know that local government has a proven track record when it comes to school improvement.

Recent data gathered by the Local Government Association has shown that local authorities have more success in raising school standards than academies or free schools. The LGA say that almost nine out of ten council-run primary and secondary schools are rated as Good or Outstanding, which is a higher number than among academies and free schools. Richard Watts, the Chair of the LGAs Children and Young People’s Board, has said that local authorities have continued to prove their effectiveness in raising school standards using their relationship with schools and their in-depth knowledge of their local areas. He has gone on to question the ability of unaccountable Regional School Commissioners to turn around underperforming schools across large geographic areas they know nothing about. I would also seriously question their ability to turn around schools with a pupil make-up of which they have virtually no experience dealing with and very little desire to gain any. and have demonstrated very little desire to gain any understanding.

Social segregation is not the answer to educational improvement, the answer is real investment and real support through local authorities who know their schools, know their areas and have the experience of delivering the best possible outcomes for pupils and teachers.

Cllr Alice Smart- Lead Member for Child Friendly Leeds