It was reported in yesterday’s Yorkshire Evening Post that absence due to sickness costs Leeds City Council £26 million every year. Councillor Jon Bale was quoted as saying, “Supportive management is needed to ensure workers turn up regularly and are supported in whatever problems they face.” Presumably this would mean Councillor John Procter and senior managers at Parks and Countryside listening to their ground staff’s views on barbeques. They are after all the people who have to gather up the toxic ash, broken glass and other litter that’s deposited during the barbeque season.
Also in yesterday’s paper was a letter from local resident Tony Paley-Smith. Tony was responding to a letter from Greg Miller praising councillors for including short term residents in the barbeque consultation. Mr Miller is the deputy head of Leeds University’s community relations department and lives miles away from Woodhouse Moor.
There was also an editorial comment on the consultation process.
One of the council officers who attended the drop-ins told me that the survey forms were delivered by a private company on the 26th and the 27th March. He said they’d decided to use the services of this private company rather than the Royal Mail because their quote was half that of the Royal Mail. It can’t have occurred to them that a company that quotes half what the Royal Mail is quoting might be delivering only half the service. That does now seem a reasonable explanation for why the majority of the local residents I’m acquainted with, haven’t received a form.
What do we know about this company? Their website claims, “All of our staff are fully employed mature, professional distributors – they are highly reliable, dedicated to customer service & will NOT let you down”. Really? Then where are the missing survey forms?
What I’d like to know is what checks does Leeds City Council carry out to determine whether private companies like this are actually delivering the goods. And what checks do they make into claims such as the one made by this company that they only employ “fully employed, mature, professional distributors” before they actually enter into a contract with the company.
An undetermined number of the 10,000 survey forms that were to have been delivered to every household within 800 metres of the park’s perimeter have instead disappeared into a black hole. The council used a private delivery firm to deliver the forms rather than Royal Mail on the ground that this was cheaper. But the Royal Mail has a reputation for reliability and to not use them for this important survey may turn out to have been a false economy if the survey has to be abandoned on the ground that not all local residents have received their survey forms as promised.
Local resident Chris Webb pointed out recently that 10,000 is more than the total number of households in Hyde Park and Woodhouse (the actual number in 2001 was 9705). Given this, how is it possible that Chris and so many other people haven’t received a form ? Chris had a letter published in yesterday’s Yorkshire Evening Post on this issue, and so did North Hyde Park Neighbourhood Association chair Martin Staniforth. Martin pointed out in his letter that it’s high time the council started to engage with the local community.
The above image of a black hole is published courtesy of thebadastronomer.
Martin Staniforth has had a letter published in today’s Yorkshire Evening Post criticising the slanted nature of the barbeque consultation. In it he makes clear that it’s been targeted at students and designed to elicit a “yes” to the question “Do you want to barbeque on Woodhouse Moor?”. He calls for further drop-ins that are accessible to local people. Martin is a local resident and chair of North Hyde Park Neighbourhood Association, our longest established community association. You can read his letter by clicking on the words above highlighted in green. Thanks Martin for speaking out on our behalf.
When I got home last night from the barbeque consultation, there was an email from one of the Friends informing me there was a bonfire on the Moor. I went up there and found a large group of people gathered round a blazing fire.
Some of the people gathered around the fire weren’t too pleased that I was taking a photograph. One came up to me and pointing to my camera asked “Are you going to use this as evidence?”. I wish. But this is Hyde Park and Woodhouse 2009 where it seems that the only crime left is murder. I am right aren’t I – murder is still a crime here? On my way home, I flagged down a passing police van and told them about the barbeque. They said they’d look into it. The next morning I found that not only had the barbeque-ers burnt the grass, they’d also torn off the seat from one of the park benches.
We’ve precious few park benches as at is. When you think about it, the lack of park benches means that older people are being discriminated against. If there’s nowhere for them to sit how can they properly enjoy the park ?
Woodhouse Moor was packed with people yesterday afternoon enjoying the glorious sunshine. Unfortunately, many of them never bothered to take their litter home with them, which is why the park looked such a mess this morning.
Leeds employs people known as “Civil Enforcement Officers” to ensure that the city is kept neat and tidy. They have the power to issue on the spot £75 fixed penalty notices to anyone dropping litter. A friend of mine was fined a couple of years ago by one of these people for dropping a cigarette butt in the city centre. And there’s the problem. These enforcement officers don’t appear to operate in Hyde Park and Woodhouse ward. If they do, I’ve never seen one. Why is it that the rules that apply to other parts of the city don’t apply here ?
There were five barbeques burning yesterday afternoon, and this morning I took this photo showing the damage caused by one of them.
I find it amazing that these dangerous contraptions are freely available in supermarkets and corner shops. There’s no age limit restricting their sale. Last year I heard at work that someone’s child had stood on one. She lost all sensation in the sole of her foot because of nerve damage.
I suppose I should be writing to the Times, for today I spotted my first barbeque of 2009 on Woodhouse Moor (see photo below). There were five actually. And that’s the problem. For unlike nightingales, barbeques are a very common species in these parts, and they’re likely to become even more so, if Leeds City Council is able to persuade students to vote for barbeque areas on Woodhouse Moor.
Also on the Moor this afternoon, was a large police van with about five or six policemen and women inside. My companion went up to one of the policemen, and asked him to tell the barbeque-ers to desist. But he refused, repeating over and over again, “It’s what students do.” It left me wondering what the police van was doing on the Moor. It also left me wondering why I pay council tax. Can anyone suggest a reason why that police van was on the Moor ?
To get to the Student Union Building by foot from Hyde Park, walk along Moorland Road until you come to the junction with Clarendon Road i.e the junction where the former Grammar School is located. Then cross Clarendon Road and continue on down University Road. Take your first right onto Lyddon Terrace and then your first left onto Lifton Place. Continue on down until you come to a large red brick building on your right. That building is the Student Union Building. The first of the two barbeque consultations is to be held on the second floor of the Student Union Building in Meeting Room 2 of ARC. ARC stands for Activities Resouce Centre.
On the above map, the Student Union Building is coloured red, the former Grammar School is coloured orange, and the Parkinson Building (the large Portland stone building with the clock tower) is coloured purple.
Just to remind you, the drop-in session is to be held from 5pm to 7pm this Friday, the 20th March.
In response to the clamour of protests from local residents about last year’s mayhem on Woodhouse Moor, when trees and benches were burnt in bonfires, as both the police and Leeds City Council failed to enforce the no-barbeque byelaw, the council has responded – not by taking steps to enforce the byelaw, but by first getting the byelaws changed to make barbeque areas possible in principle, and now by proposing barbeque areas on Woodhouse Moor. There’s to be consultation, but apparently, it’s not aimed at local residents. There are to be two consultation events :
Friday 20th March, 5pm – 7pm at Leeds University Student Union Meeting Room 2 (upstairs in the ARC).
Thursday 26th March, 3pm – 7pm in the Bowls Pavilion, Woodhouse Moor.
Clearly the views of local residents don’t matter to our councillors, and neither does the waste of public resources given that between the 1st May and the 10th June 2008, the fire brigade was called out to Woodhouse Moor 29 times to extinguish fires. This contrasts with just three call-outs to Roundhay Park in the same period.
On the 17th December 2008, central government bureaucrats gave their approval to Leeds City Councils’ application to change the city’s byelaws to allow unauthorised parking and barbeque areas in the city’s parks. Local residents had asked the Department for Communities and Local Government to reject the proposals on the grounds that Leeds City Council had failed to consult. But instead, the department chose to accept Leeds City Council’s assurance that consultation had taken place. I have since learnt that Leeds City Council consulted just six bodies : The National Council for Metal Detecting, South Leeds Aero Modelling Society, British Model Flying Association, The Leeds Society for Deaf and Blind People, Access Committee for Leeds, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.
No response was received from any of these organisations. This is hardly surprising since whilst the proposed changes will have a big impact on local residents, they will have no effect whatsoever on the people represented by these organisations.