Tag Archives: Rachel Reeves

What is high-speed rail worth to Leeds?

The green light for HS2 to Leeds looks increasingly likely, but more than 70 groups across the UK oppose it. Photo: ©knowyourleeds

The only way to be sure of catching a train is to miss the one before it, writer Chesterton once said. And there’s one train all politicians are desperate to board, the second incarnation of high-speed rail (HS2).

These super-fast trains – capable of 200mph – on a Y-shaped route will link London, Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds to a new rail network at a headline grabbing cost of £32.7bn by 2032.

Although you may not need to wait 20 years for a glimpse of how our local infrastructure will look like. Developments are already underway.

While electrification of existing rail lines towards York, Manchester and Bradford are under discussion, two new railway stations have been rubber stamped: Kirkstall Forge and Apperley Bridge, the former of which, Leeds West MP Rachel Reeves campaigned for.

“I think high-speed rail could make a real difference to regeneration,” Rachel Reeves told knowyourleeds shortly before last week’s announcement.

“Obviously it will create jobs during the construction of it, but I think it will make cities like Leeds and Manchester and Newcastle, and potentially Glasgow and Edinburgh, closer to export markets and could give us a real kick start.”

Professor Chris Nash of Leeds University acted as a consultant on Network Rail’s New Lines study. He examined plans on how to deal with chronic congestion on Britain’s rail lines. The findings lead to the drawing up of HS2.

“Arguably getting it to Leeds is more important than getting it Birmingham,” said Professor Nash.

Dependent on final acceptance of the plans in 2014, the Leeds link to HS2 won’t be in operation until six years after Birmingham.

“Assuming it comes to Leeds and goes on the join the EastCoast line to York, it’ll funnel traffic from Leeds, York, Newcastle and Edinburgh onto the faster services. The time savings for Leeds will be much bigger than for Birmingham.

“The potential benefits for the Leeds link are very high and probably pursued as quickly as possible as part of the plan,” he said.

Opponents to HS2 have said it’ll create more jobs in London than Birmingham, have challenged the evidence used to support the case and questioned environmental impact and need for a ministerial vanity project at such a huge financial cost when money is scare.

Metro say Leeds has to be "high-speed ready". Photo: ©knowyourleeds

“Even now, because that decision has made about high-speed rail going to Birmingham, then onto Leeds, will influence businesses in terms of where they make investment decisions,” said WY Metro spokesman Martin Driver.

Although there are new stations being built, there is more in the pipeline. A decision on funding the trolleybus scheme – rejected before Christmas because the government wanted additional assurances on cost-ratio estimates – will be given in March.

Negotiations to introduce a London style Oyster card are proving complex, according to Martin, but it’s not out of the picture.

“Leeds has to be ready for the high-speed rail. It’s no good people coming up here and then having to chug across to Halifax on a 30 year-old train. What you’ve got to do is come here and be able to use fast, modern local transport,” said Martin.

“It’s a positive time but I guess we would always want more. We want to grow the economy and improve environmental and social inclusions; transport underpins it.”

Can the HS2 really help kick-start Leeds economy, and if so, why do we have to wait a full six years after Birmingham for it?

Knowyoursleeds decided to investigate. In this audioboo feature, we’ve spoken to Conservative MP for Pudsey and Horsforth, Stuart Andrew who defends the plan and thinks it’ll be money well spent. But we discover that Professor Nash’s isn’t as optimystic on the economic benefits and of HS2. In addition to hearing what local commuters at Leeds station think about the plans, WY Metro chairman and Coun James Lewis (Lab, Kippax and Methley), tell us what he’s pushing for in the council’s chambers.

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Site Update

Firstly, a belated best wishes for the new year.

I’ll have a few new posts up this month. KnowYourLeeds will look at the cuts to the fire services which were announced last month, and they’ll be an update on the incinerator project in East Leeds.

Also, I’m looking into the public transport developments in Leeds for 2012 (not only the High Speed Rail 2 project) while taking a look at how the council balances corporate need which provides jobs and growth, against carrot dangling those most vulnerable.

I’ve updated the Know Your Rights page which I’ve used to outline some of the tools available online that helps me keep track of developments in the council chambers and Westminster. So please do take a look. They’ll be a Freedom of Information guide up there as soon as I get my own replies in.

Don’t forget, if there’s anything you’d like to see covered, drop me a line on knowyourleeds@gmail.com or leave a comment below. 

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Fight for Bramley Baths.

The temperature board at Bramley Baths. The decision on if the baths will be passed over to a local community group is due soon. Photo:©knowyourleeds

Whether it’s the local library, the disused cemetery or a decaying pub dating back hundreds of years, local institutions can bring a community together and provide services which we all take for granted.

Bramley Baths is one of them. It’s one of just six Victorian Bath Houses remaining in the country and has survived two world wars, the 1930s depression and countless recessions.

However, this economic downturn may prove to be its downfall.

If local community committee cannot find the cash to keep the public baths and swimming pool afloat by March next year, the Labour dominated council will have to close it.

Leeds’ only female MP, Rachel Reeves, is an emerging force in Westminster. The former economist donned her swimsuit in a campaign to save it earlier this year and has spearheaded a sophisticated campaign to save it.

“It doesn’t make money and as a result it’s on the list for cuts as the Council try and balance its budget,” said Rachel Reeves in an interview with knowyourleeds.

“But I’m not satisfied with that solution. I’m not satisfied because it will mean that it won’t be open for school swimming and it won’t be open in the daytime for older people.”

Local Government funding from the Downing Street is being drastically cut in Leeds. The grant to the council’s budget has been cut by 27% over the next four years. That’s £90 million off the budget this year alone.

Critics however would point to the council’s overspend during the ‘boom years’.

Plaque from 1904 shows a list of committee members. Photo:©knowyourleeds

Also, the reduction in opening hours was originally voted for by Labour councillors at the time. When asked about the irony of a Labour MP fighting against Labour council cuts, she said the council have had little choice.

“The people in Leeds didn’t vote for those cuts. The councillors didn’t vote for those cuts. But we’re the ones who have to bear the brunt of them. I would prefer Leeds City Council to continue funding Bramley Baths but we know that’s not realistic,” she said.

Appointed to the shadow chief secretary to the Treasury after just a year as an MP, she believes that the solution to save it is a community asset transfer.

This means the council would still own the building but the day-to-day running of the baths would be handed over to a community group.

The proposal for that will be vetted by the council early next year. And they have to prove that their plan is viable – self-funded – and can keep the 107 year-old building open.

“We’re not willing just to sit back and let the baths wither on the vine, that’s why we’ve taken action. There’s such a buy-in from the local community, particularly from schools who use it for school swimming, that we can make it work,” she said.

As reported in the Guardian Leeds, although similar handover schemes have failed in Garforth and Beeston, successes further afield in Sheffield, Nottingham and South London have convinced some it can work.

The active backing of a determined local MP, who has considerable weight in Parliament, has helped the cause to save it with much needed publicity. But the real challenge will be to develop Bramley Baths into real workable community space which doesn’t need state support.


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Leeds’ Youth Debt

Unemployment rates at a 17 high while youth unemployment is at the highest since records began. Photo:©knowyourleeds

There was a sobering moment last week for us all. Government figures revealed that over a million young people are out of work, education or training.

Speaking in Leeds last week, the Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg announced that £1 billion of taxpayers’ money will be given to employers in a bid to drive down the spiraling jobless numbers among the young.

The government said employers will be given £2,275 for each worker they take on in the next three years, meaning they’ll effectively be subsidising work and training placement schemes.

With the country in the middle of a what could turn out to be a decade long slump, employers can afford to be picky and choose from those with the most experience.

It’s not just ‘neets’ (not in education, employment, or training) to use the political parlance, who find themselves in an ever-increasing competitive job market. They also have to compete with the more experience job seekers as people from all sectors across country are vying for scarce jobs with companies continuing to make redundancies and tighten their belts.

Leeds West MP and shadow chief secretary to the Treasury, Rachel Reeves, told knowyourleeds that the scale of the problem isn’t as simple as giving people jobs.

“I think that the outlook is probably the toughest outlook that young people are faced with,” she said.

“Whether they’re leaving school, college or university in the last few years, 22% of young people are out of work. In the constituency that I represent, Leeds West, the numbers are much higher than that. Long term youth unemployment has gone up by around 80% since the start of the year. That’s the scale of the problem.”

In Leeds city center, jobseekers knowyourleeds spoke to said the main problem was that employers aren’t hiring them because they lack one vital attribute on their CV: experience.

You can here what jobseekers had to say in the Audioboo below.

Employers aren’t hiring because they want people who have worked before. Businesses aren’t to blame. But is the government right and are these proposal right for Leeds’ young people?

As an economist before she became Leeds’ only female MP in last years election, Rachel Reeves said that people with high qualifications are taking jobs that would’ve traditionally have gone to people fresh out of school.

Leeds West MP Rachel Reeves studied at the London School of Economics. Photo: ©rachelreeves.net

A mixture of graduates, school and college leavers in the job market with their more experienced elders has created a “crazy” situation she said.

“Everyone is applying for the same jobs, irrespective of their qualifications,” she said.

“This year was the best for GCSE and ‘A’ Level results. Yet youth unemployment has not been higher for 20 years.”

Rachel Reeves unsurprisingly believes the priority should be to make sure that young people leaving school and college get an opportunity to contribute and put something back in the economy.

“It just seems a huge waste, a criminal waste really, of the talents and skills of young people who we’re not harnessing and that we’re letting them languish on benefits. They could be contributing, paying taxes and making a difference, especially at the start of their working lives when it so important to get into the habit and learn those skills of work.”

 

What do you think? Are businesses to blame? Should the government be doing more for entrepreneurs?

Have your say in the comments section or as usual tweet @knowyourleeds



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Bramley Baths

Bramley Baths

The campaign to save Bramley Baths from closure hasn’t stopped going and has been in the news again this week.

Knowyourleeds managed to nab an exclusive interview with Leeds West MP, Rachel Reeves. She spoke at length about her hopes for the baths and how her constituents planned to keep it afloat despite crippling council budget cuts across Leeds.

Check on this site later this week for a report on what she had to say about Bramley Baths.

We’ll also have a sobering report about Leeds’ youth unemployment as figures for those out of work nationwide soared this week.

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