West Yorkshire Police have been told to make £20 million in cuts this year. It is estimated that there will be about 1500 fewer Police and this will have a major effect on the fight against crime and disorder in our community.

Theresa May, the Home Secretary, has claimed that ‘the cuts to the Police Budget will not affect frontline services’. However, this view has been dismissed by the Federation of Police Officers which has warned that the most vulnerable communities will suffer the most:

“Our officers are telling us the most vulnerable in society will be hit the hardest.

‘Those who can protect themselves, will go and protect themselves. Those who can’t protect themselves will be at greater risk of experiencing anti-social behaviour, violent crime and crime generally”

I told a residents meeting in Hyde Park that these cuts will will undo a lot of the great work done by our community policing team which includes the many PCSO’s in our area. We must protest against this out of touch Lib-Con government in the strongest terms to stop this happening. I also took the opportunity also to speak to Yvette Cooper, Labours Shadow Home Secretary to explain to her how this will effect Hyde Park, Woodhouse and Little London at the launch of the campaign to stop the cuts in the policing budget in West Yorkshire.

Labour will resist these cuts which strike another cruel blow against our local community.

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Best wishes to all my readers for the New Year. I hope you all had a happy holiday period. Today, the Council’s Executive Board met and I was in attendance. I am very pleased to be able to report on two victories for our local community. Firstly, the Exec Board decided to support the Royal Park Consortium’s bid for Royal Park School to be kept for community use. This is a great testament to the dedication and hard-work of local campaigners and the local community which has fought desperately hard to maintain Royal Park and keep it within the community. Well done to all those involved.

Secondly, Oblong has been given a 50 year lease to run Woodhouse Community Centre. It is again great to see the inspirational efforts of the local community recognised. This is an encouraging start to 2011 for our local community and if we work together I know it will grow from strength-to-strength.

Above I have posted a couple of pictures from the demonstrations by students against the increase in tuition fees and cuts to essential support the government gives to poorer students like Education Maintenance Allowance. The demonstration was peaceful and good natured throughout and students across Leeds did themselves credit. I am fully supportive of the students in Hyde Park and Woodhouse and across Leeds who are demonstrating against this drastic increase of the debt burden being placed on them by this government.

Yesterday it was a full council meeting and I spoke about government proposals to take away the power of local councils when it comes to deciding the fate of planning applications for Houses of Multiple Occupancy. Below is a copy of the speech:

The Governments proposal to remove local councils powers to refuse HMO’S is a disgrace.

Housing Minister Grant Shapps visited Leeds this year during the General Election campaign, when he was Shadow Housing Minister and said; “that he would not change the impact of the governments legislation which enables local councils to refuse more applications for HMO’S”.

He has made a spectacular u-turn on what he said. We’re being left back at square one after years of campaigning by local councils,residents and community groups. Another broken promise to go with that on Tuition Fee’s mentioned earlier today.

My ward Hyde Park has one of the highest proportions of HMO’s in the City and is a very densely populated area.

More HMO’s bring with them a range of other problems such as increased crime rates, noise, anti-social behaviour and environmental issues.

This also makes it very difficult to foster a community spirit and cohesion caused by a large transient population.

At a time when we as a Council are trying to improve Hyde Park and Headingley wards and make them a better place to live, it would be extremely disappointing and detrimental to our efforts if the governments actions prevented us from protecting the areas from further encroachment from HMO’s at the expense of desperately needed family housing for our local residents.

Who is going to live in these properties? More and more students are moving into custom built flats supplied by Unipol etc. There are more and more voids, empty and boarded up houses appearing in our area which proves that there is an over supply of existing HMO’s in my ward.

Last year the Labour government consulted on the issue of HMO’s and 92% of respondents supported changes in planning legislation which gave local council’s the powers to refuse permission for new HMO’s.

But now we are about to lose these powers again as the new coalition government have announced that they will bring in these new and different laws so that a change of use from a family home will become permitted development which means that planning permission will not be needed at all.

Ten years of local campaigning by local communities and extensive consultation dismissed at a stroke.

What happened to the Big Society ? Taking powers from Whitehall Mandarins and giving power back to local people and councils.

“Local people Know there area better than any Civil Servant in Whitehall”.

Who said that during the general election campaign ? David Cameron !

As I said before yet another broken promise. I ask that council support the Labour amendment to this white paper and hopefully the government may be persuaded to look again at their policy on this important issue for our local communities here in Leeds.

It would help if the Conservative group and other groups on council voted to support the amended white paper and send a clear message to the Coalition government that all the political parties in Leeds are listening to the people who will be badly affected by this new policy.

Below is a letter I sent to the Yorkshire Evening Post.

I am writing to say that I am delighted that the recommendation made by Education Leeds that the City of Leeds School remains open has been accepted by the Council’s Executive Board.

This is great news for the local community which has been saying for a long time that City of Leeds School is a vital part of the local community and for the parents and pupils its closure would have been an absolute disaster. Staff, pupils and parents have however responded very positively and I know this will continue in a determination to drive City of Leeds forward.

I would like to thank the local community, especially the Stand Up 4 City campaign which has played a huge role in making the case for City of Leeds. Myself, Councillor Javaid Akthar and local MP, Hilary Benn are all delighted that the communities voice has been heard on this issue.

I will continue as the Councillor for Hyde Park & Woodhouse to make sure that City of Leeds receives the support and recognition it deserves.

Yours Sincerely,

Councillor Gerry Harper

Hyde Park Ward

Leeds Civic Hall

This coming Saturday I will be presenting the members of the United Youth project, run at the Burley Lodge Centre, with special certificates in honour of their part in organising and taking part in a series of challenges.

The group successfully raised money to buy new equipment for the community kitchen and the Youth Café at the Burley Lodge Centre as well as funds to bring the IT suite up-to-date. They also organised a series of challenges for local young people that involved learning to snowboard, mountain bike riding, high ropes and bike repair workshops.

It was a great pleasure to be able to assist them in securing funds for celebration night which will take the form of the presentation followed by a meal at the Bengal Brasserie. If you would like more information about United Youth or the Burley Lodge Centre call 0113 2754142 or visit here. Congratulations to the United Youth members who are a credit to the community.

Leeds City Councils previous ‘ConDem’ administration tried to close City of Leeds school. Now, the ConDems nationally have once again made City of Leeds their target. It is one of the schools effected by the announcement by Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, that the Building Schools for the Future Program will be axed.

Basically, Gove’s maniacal axe-wielding stems from the mistaken view that school buildings and their quality somehow matter less than other factors when it comes to providing a ‘good quality education’. Although the government has tried to keep a lid on this view; Philip Hammond, the Transport Secretary, couldn’t contain himself on the BBC’s Daily Politics show. Struggling to learn or work in inadequate surroundings is obviously a problem that has ever bothered Mr Hammond or the government.

Liberal Democrats locally will tell you they have been forced into these ‘tough choices’ by Labour’s ‘mis-management’ of the economy. However, they are not telling the truth with bodies like the government’s own Office for Budget Responsibility recognising that the previous governments plans were good enough to meet the challenge posed by Britain’s budget deficit.  The fact that, once again, City of Leeds and Hyde Park & Woodhouse has once again bore the brunt of Lib Dem led-cuts shows just how effective they are as representatives and how committed they are to the local area and City of Leeds specifically.

As you may well have heard one of the first decisions the new Labour administration in Leeds has taken is to scrap the previous Liberal/Conservative ones plans for a designated BBQ area on Woodhouse Moor. I am delighted that Leeds City Council has finally acknowledged what the local community has been telling them for a long time. Enforcement of the total ban on BBQ’s has proven to work and it is necessary to protect the Moor. The Coalition that ran Leeds City Council trampled all over the wishes of the local community when it pressed ahead with these proposals.

This area was a complete waste of money and impractical to boot. I am glad that this has finally been recognised and the plans abandoned. Credit is due to the local community which has fought determinedly against these plans. I will continue to work with the local community to ensure the by-laws which prohibit the lighting of BBQ’s on the Moor and all other anti-social behaviour is tackled head-on.

Below are the details of where and when you can come and meet your Labour councillors for Hyde Park & Woodhouse:

First Saturday of the month….

Little London Community Centre

Oatland Lane

Leeds

LS7 1SP

10.00 – 12.00

Second Saturday of the month….

Woodhouse Community Centre

197 Woodhouse Street

Leeds

LS6 2NY

10.30 – 12.00

Thrid Saturday each month….

Burley Lodge Community Centre

42 Burley Lodge Road

Leeds

LS6 1QF

10.30 – 12.00

Fourth Thursday each month….

Woodsley Road Community Centre

64 Woodsley Road

Leeds

LS3 1DU

18.00 – 19.30

I hope to see you there!

How often do you walk down the stairs at work to be confronted with a giant chocolate egg carrying rabbit? Not very often but that is what happened to me the other day. As well as delivering a chocolate treat, this Easter Bunny was promoting an organisation called ‘Fair 10’ which works to promote a variety of policies including the ‘Robin Hood Tax’ and urgent action on climate change, including the introduction of carbon caps across the UK following the example of Leeds which recently agreed to cap emissions at 40%. Below is a picture of myself with the bunny:

I am refusing to comment on whether the egg remains uneaten! Seriously, I would like to wish everybody a Happy Easter. Whether you are in Hyde Park & Woodhouse or elsewhere I hope you have an enjoyable and safe Easter and don’t suffer too much from too many chocolate eggs.

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