Our Leeds NW Liberal Democrat MP thinks of himself as a different kind of politician. This is how he presents himself on his website,
‘Whilst other politicians rely on spin, Greg is known as a plain speaker who is not afraid to speak his mind.’
Leeds North West Labour Party would not normally deal with issues relating to other wards and constituencies in the city. However, as our MP has used the future of the former Royal Park School (Leeds Central, Hyde Park and Woodhouse) on his website to unfairly attack Leeds City Council, we must respond.
So what does Mr Mulholland say? His full article, published on his website, can be found here.
The essence of the article boils down to two accusations.
Leeds City Council:
1. has failed to adequately consult the local (i.e. Royal Park) community, including the Royal Park Community Consortium and,
2. has rushed ‘through their decision’.
The story so far:
The Royal Park School closed. This left a new problem; i.e. what was to be done with the building?
2004 – 2010
During this period, the Leeds City Council was run by a Liberal Democrat and Conservative coalition. The MP responsible for the area at that time was Mr Mulholland. Although there were some serious attempts by the Council and the local community to find new and economically viable uses for the old school, none seemed to fit the bill. As one of the campaigners recently remarked, it was a pity this wasn’t sorted out during the decade of local government plenty, that is before the current period of Liberal Democrat and Tory coalition created austerity.
Labour took control of the Council in 2010. It worked with the community, now in the form of the Royal Park Community Consortium (RPCC), to seek a mutually agreeable and cost-efficient solution to what was becoming a long-standing issue. The council even sorted out professional advice via Leeds Ahead for the RPCC.
It was hoped that this would enable the development of a number of options that might, for example, preserve the building, raise funds to support its refurbishment and find a use for the building that would be locally acceptable. These considerable efforts, carried out in good faith by all parties, proved fruitless.
The Director of City Development submitted a report to Leeds City Council’s Executive Board detailing the progress which had been made to tackle a number of derelict and nuisance properties across the city including the former Royal Park School.
The Board, however, deferred action and discussions between Councillor Richard Lewis, Executive Member for Development and the Economy, and members of the community continued throughout 2012 and 2013 right up to the present. Attempts made to access the Building Communities Fund facility were unsuccessful.
17th July 2013
One year later, the Leeds City Council’s Executive Board met to discuss business under the heading, ‘Derelict and Nuisance Property Programme Update, including the former Royal Park School and former South Leeds Sports Centre’. Draft minutes of the Board records the decision: ‘That approval be given for the demolition of the former Royal Park School and the temporary grassing over of the site until a deliverable primarily public sector, affordable housing or community use is brought forward.’
Nine years after the closure of the former Royal Park School the council has decided to demolish the building and looks forward to developing the site for public sector use.
So what about Mr Mulholland and his ‘spin-free’ claim?
Well, he’s been caught spinning – again.
We argue that no reasonable person considering the matter objectively could believe – as he claims to do – either that the Council’s decision has been rushed or that consultation has been inadequate.
Actually things are even worse than we’ve suggested so far. In his website article he makes two further points that bear attention:
1. writing about himself in the third person, Mr Mulholland states, ‘Greg was astonished when he heard from the press that the report to the Council’s Executive Board called for them to agree to the demolition of the former school.’ It beggars belief that such a well-connected and engaged MP as Mr Mulholland claims he could have missed the Leeds Director of City Development’s report that signalled the possibility that the Council might demolish the former school. This was brought forward in July 2012 – one year ago.
2. he continues, ‘I would like to call on the council to defer their decision until such a time as residents and community groups feel happy with the plans.’ (our emphasis) He must know that such an open-ended commitment is not only unworkable but also disingenuous.
But this sort of statement is entirely consistent with Mr Mulholland’s populist brand of politics.
Detailed attention to the facts does not form part of that politics. Synthetic astonishment clearly does.
Taking responsibility for his own party’s actions – whilst in government in Leeds, or now at Westminster – has no place in them.
The Leeds North West Constituency Labour Party congratulates the residents and community activists who worked to preserve the former Royal Park School. We hope that they will feel encouraged by the Executive Board’s resolution which, even nine years on, leaves the possibility of a ‘primarily public sector, affordable housing or community’ option on the table.