By Helen Gavaghan
14th May, 2014. Leeds.
The audience divided 50:50 when asked this afternoon whether it would vote in favour of the devolution of political power to Yorkshire. It was the final question posed in the Northern debate held on the last day of "Buy Yorkshire", an event staged at The Royal Armouries in Leeds.
On the platform were chief executives from Hull, Sunderland, Wakefield, Bradford and Liverpool City Councils, plus a senior executive from Leeds City Council. Questions covered: energy saving measures the Councils were making; purpose and value to the North of the High Speed Rail 2 link; devolved power for the North; and the north-south divide in the context of economic recovery. Speakers stressed the northern recovery was lagging behind that of the south, particularly London.
Darryl Stephenson, chief executive of Hull City Council, said his council was replacing street lighting with lower-energy illumination, but that the change had prompted complaints the new lights were too bright. Others said they were introducing smart meters to Council buildings, closing less energy-efficient buildings, and reviewing how to address fuel poverty.
Of the north-south divide in economic recovery, it was pointed out there was an East-West divide nearly as large when considering transport - only trains were mentioned, not buses.
Marvina Babs-Apata, project director for Nigeria Community Leeds, asked what councils were doing about provision for inclusion of the 16-30 age group in social and economic life; promotion of intergenerational social cohesion; and community cohesion projects. None of the executives responded to the question about intergenerational relations.
Tony Reeves, chief executive of Bradford City Council, said, "I don't believe funding community cohesion projects is the way forward.". Rather, he told the audience, his Council needed a systemic approach to ensuring they were not raising barriers to community cohesion. Dave Smith, chief executive of Sunderland City Council, favoured working with social enterprise groups, rather than the third sector, or old style projects. Mr Stephenson stressed effort was needed to identify the specific needs of different community groups.
Ms Babs-Apata told me afterwards she was not satisfied the panelists had not addressed the issue of intergenerational understanding, and that this was an issue being pushed by the Nigerian community in Leeds. Ms Babs-Apata has a leading role in the Black history project in Leeds, and also heads an organisation called "Angel of Youths". Of the panelists Joanne Roney, chief executive of Wakefield City Council, spoke most of skills-training for youth, saying massive improvements had been made in simplifying and making clearer what training options exist.
Though she was slated to be a panelist Kertsen England, chief executive of York City Council, did not attend.
16.5.14. Noted I used word two above instead of too -- I must have been thinking two things! Sorry readers, and sorry, readers. Correction made. HG.