Leeds West MP Rachel Reeves writes her monthly column for the Dispatch. Here, she looks at Armley and Bramnley lights switch-on, a celebration for New Farnley Vision group and a plan to boost New Wortley.
Christmas Lights switch on in Armley and Bramley
It’s that time of year again when the festive spirit comes to West Leeds.
It was fantastic to see Armley Town Street packed with people for the Victorian Christmas Market. The weather could have been kinder but the stall holders and entertainers made sure everyone was in good spirits.
A massive thank you to all the volunteers, shop keepers, police and others who made the event a great success. The Victorian Market was then followed by the Armley Christmas Lights Switch on where I, and the Armley Councillors, Alice Smart, Alison Lowe and Jim McKenna did the big switch on after an introduction from Ronnie the Rhino.
A big thanks to All Together Armley, Radio Aire, Leeds City Council who put their time and effort into organising another fantastic event, showcasing the talents and vibrancy of Armley.
In Bramley, too, there was a huge crowd gathered for the lights switch on, with lots of local schools involved in the entertainment.
The event certainly benefitted from the improved carpark at Bramley Shopping centre. Helen Gerrard, the centre Management, Bramley councillors and members of the community came together to organise and the evening was enjoyed by all.
School visits in Kirkstall and Farnley
One of the very best part of my job is visiting local schools to talk to the pupils about my work as their MP, I often get to take part in Assemblies and hear the wonderful singing. At this time of year I am also presenting certificates to the pupils who entered designs for my Christmas card competition.
Last week I was at Kirkstall St Stephens where I met Skye, who had designed the winning card, and I also visited Beecroft Primary where we were entertained by some very talented musicians and also got to visit their new library.
I also went to The Farnley Academy and was given a tour by the prefects and had a very interesting question and answer session with a group of pupils, they had thought about issues in their community that were of concern and wanted to chat to me about how I might be able to help.
There are more school visits in my diary over the next couple of weeks which I am very much looking forward to.
New Farnley Vision Group
I was delighted to attend the 10-year celebration of the New Farnley Vision Group this month.
The group was established in 2006 to conserve and promote the history and environment of New Farnley and the surrounding area.
It has also worked very hard over the years to press for improvements to the local area and facilities.
At their 10-year celebration they showcased local services available to residents as part of a “Know your community” theme, there were stalls and refreshments of course and a very talented face painter!
If you’re interested in getting involved, you can find out more about the New Farnley Vision Group on their website.
Bramley War Memorial
On the 11th November I spoke at the remembrance service at Bramley War Memorial.
At the service there was also a dedication and blessing of two new plaques with additional names of the fallen and a Book of Remembrance.
We also heard more about the lives of many of those from Bramley, Stanningley and Rodley whose names now appear on the memorial.
It’s also fantastic to hear that the Bramley War Memorial, which was unveiled two years ago after a successful local fundraising campaign, has been shortlisted in the “public art and landscape design” category of the annual Leeds architecture awards.
The ‘Our Place Plan’ in New Wortley
For the last few years, I’ve had the pleasure of being involved in the Our Place plan in New Wortley.
The Our Place Plan is a unique project where partners from New Wortley including the community centre, doctors surgery, local residents and Castleton Primary School have come together to shape a plan which offers local solutions to local problems.
I chaired an Our Place meeting in New Wortley Community Centre earlier this month where we split into groups to discuss how the plan was working in practice. It was good to hear from local organisations as well as local residents about the challenges facing the community and the work being done to find positive solutions.
We had the Autumn Statement where the Chancellor failed to reverse many of the cruellest sanctions or help those who are just about managing.
The Chancellor could have done more, such as axing his predecessor’s plans to raise the inheritance tax threshold for a couple to £1m and using the savings from that policy to improve funding for childcare provision.
He also refused to listen to the plight of thousands of people who have a health condition or disability that limits their ability to work, who stand to lose £30 a week from their employment and support allowance.
With the national debt set to soar to nearly £2 trillion, extra borrowing of £122bn and a £58.7bn “Brexit hit” on the cards, the Chancellor has left the economy in a perilous state.
But his Autumn Statement is equally bleak for the ordinary households the Government promised it would look after.
FCA Consultation on high cost short-term credit
After repeated calls for a review of overdraft charges the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has launched a review into high cost short-term credit. The FCA will be reviewing the cap on payday lenders, as well as looking at other forms of high cost credit such as overdrafts.
I have long been calling for a cap to be introduced on overdraft charges – currently the cost of borrowing £100 from some banks for 28 days amounted to as much as £90 in charges, compared with the maximum £22.40 on a payday loan, thanks to action from the regulator to introduce a cap on payday lenders.
The Competitions and Markets Authority review from the summer was a missed opportunity and failed to propose any remedies that would help those financially vulnerable customers who are being pushed into deeper debt crises as a result of these extortionate charges. I am delighted that the FCA have decided to step in to look at what can be done – and the launch of the consultation today is a very welcome first step.
It has been a terribly sad month for the Bramley community with the devastating discovery of the baby at the vicarage. Reverend Paul Crabb and the whole community have come together to support each other and to pray for an innocent life lost and a mum who must be in desperate need of help.