Sunday, April 26, 2015

Leeds: The Final Act (for now)!

We have written pieces about Leeds for the last few years and to be honest I sometimes feel like I am bashing my head against a brick wall. The chances are that no matter what the actual truth is there are people out there who have made their minds up and no matter what will push their agenda to get their moral attitude into everyone else's lives. I have got to the point where this will be the last major post till either someone tries to drive through another change or a major story breaks about Leeds. I want to briefly sum up a few points as I will be tweeting at Leeds MP and Councillor this blog has seen as the original driving force including shaping the working group. This entry is a personal opinion but the statements about crime are based on a 2012 study by myself into crime around SEVs using the Police.UK database, no dragging figures out of thin air. Also I spent 4 years as a senior professional officer in a council and I have seen how councillors can influence officers to operate against their own better judgement, I know because I have done it in covering up for a councillor.

This could turn into a massive rant so I will try to keep the piece as short as possible whilst covering the issues. I will include a couple of responses to FoI requests from Leeds Council, I wont timeline the events rather I will try to use the issues as I see them to guide me in the way I word this.

Leeds Council what responsibility do they take?
Firstly I want to cover the response I got about if anyone checked if there would be any impact to crime in the area when the buildings closed. The response was that as the venues were closed on locality and proximity to sensitive premises (jokes in the comments about this will be fine). The statement was the clubs were not closed because of crime so they didn't analysis it. Which makes the assumption that the venues are the cause rather than a resource that will provide security to the area it is based in. The fact sexual and violent crime has doubled during 6 months in The Headrow in comparison to when the venue were open with security and CCTV running does suggests councils HAVE to take responsibility for the increase because they only view clubs as an issue and failed to acknowledge that the external security for clubs would have an impact in stopping crime. This is something that all councils should be aware of and if I was a victim of crime in the area I would be blaming the council. However no doubt as the Council points out they just didn't have any idea that closing venues could have such a negative impact which suggests a very blinkered attitude.
Leeds Night Life losing something?
Now I want to cover some of the issues that came out of the consultation and citizen panel. The consultation was based on the City of London questionnaire but had been adjusted to be quantitative rather than qualitative. Which is strange as when you look at the figures 48% wanted 4 SEVs or less and 52% wanted 5 or more SEVs, for me if you were going to set a figure then surely the arithmetic mean would be the correct point which would mean there should be 5 clubs rather than 4. The numbers ranged from 1 to 8 or more which is no surprise as the first consultation showed that people DID NOT want a complete ban. Now the e-mail from the council says the information was analysed by the council officer in charge of the citizen panel. This would be a person who would probably be a professional grade rather than management and having been there myself you do feel exposed should councillors decide to flex their muscles, no proof that anything happened just a feeling.

Part of the input into the questionnaire was based on the "Working Group". The working group had Object, a lobby group, represented and no representatives of the actually industry. The two police officers one was a child exploitation officer who was seen as a stakeholder (really that is stupid) and one representing the City Centre which is interesting as the police haven't raised issues about the clubs for child exploitation or that the clubs should be closed. It is therefore even more surprising no one thought of the risks in losing cctv and feet on the street. Section 3.1 said the licensing board put together the working group but tweets from Reeves and Charlwood at the time suggest a heavy involvement.The walk around town discussions with club management which clubs and where? The whole working group issue is one that makes me seethe just a little and I feel for Rosie being stuck in a group that had taken legal advice to ensure that their agenda could be pushed through (not exact wording of course).
After all the research the council still drive their own agenda.
We saw claims be made as a result of the citizen panel, Claims that 85% of the citizen panel was against clubs is a bit misleading as only 32% were against clubs in the city centre. The whole work has been to mislead and drive an agenda. When you add to that the fact that in the consultation there was a standard response template that was used quite a bit. 52 responses (39% of the response used the template). There is no point in the document that I can find that refers to the standard letter being one that the council provided so this would have be provided by Object or another feminist lobby group. Knowing that the consultation could easily be manipulated so that one person could easily make multiple responses the template presents a danger to the democracy. So long as someone clears their cookies in the cache of their web browser then there was nothing that would stop a simple cut and paste and repeat. Yet at no point was this even mentioned, I would have hoped that the Council would have had their eyes opened about these sort of risks of flooding by a handful of moral objectors. Remember one council actually spotted one person sending in multiple letters with different signatures because a template was used so any use of a template could be because of a single individual using the flaw in the council's system.

Finally to keep this reasonably short Having read the response from those against the clubs there is a constant reference to violence against women which there is no proof of in any shape of form in the UK. In section 3.27 the council seem to suggest that they took the Lilith research as valid but ignored press stories. They also mention the West Yorkshire Hollaback as a valid source it seems which I would question the site as it was based around street harassment and it is difficult because a lot of the claims have never been reported to the police so how do we judge how valid the "research" is and of course Hollaback has disappeared from the web so there is no way to check claims and Hollaback was only ever anecdotal evidence. So really the only thing it seemed that the claims were based on was Lilith and as we know that report has been withdrawn and in fact the figures show a drop in rape over 12 years rather than just the 3 years Lilith highlighted (once again based on figures obtained by this blog under FoI).

So to sum up, the whole thing seems to be taking figures and manipulating them. The fact only 32% of people were against clubs in the City Centre and that the mid point of the consultation was 5 clubs rather than 4 hints that people were not adverse to ignoring the public and that the agenda behind closing the 3 venues did not worry about any impact that the closure would make on anything. Sensitive premises would have benefited from CCTV and bouncers but now those protections for the public have been removed and people are suffering an impact of more sexual and violent crime with the blame laying at the feet of the architects behind the closure Rachel Reeves and Rebecca Charlwood in my humble and simple opinion.

TonyN (

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