When we began our campaign to have the impact on residents taken into account by “Managed approach” leads 3 years ago, we hoped that listening to and understanding the impact on residents would bring change. None of the 99 Leeds City Councillors live in the affected area and none of the people in power running the MA do either.
3 ½ years after the public campaign started at Save Our Eyes and 3 years after the launch of Voice of Holbeck many residents lives remain blighted by the impact of the MA and street prostitution. Some have moved out of the area feeling that they could not put their children at risk any longer.
Today we are able to publish the Listening Well Report, in conjunction with Leeds Beckett University, a summary of the residents’ lived experiences. The data was collected over approximately 1 year and is the only comprehensive report showing how a local community can be impacted by the encroachment of sex industry activity from a neighbouring Council designated “red light district” in the UK.
The Managed Approach has given a sense of purpose and legitimacy to the commercial sex industry. While those in power now aim to “balance” the safety of a residential neighbourhood with the “rights” they have assigned to kerb crawlers, prostituted women and pimps to operate freely nearby. Holbeck and Beeston Hill are the only areas in Leeds where punters feel they “have the right” to approach schoolgirls in the street and ask for sexual services. http://saveoureyes.co.uk/
ACPO Strategy for Policing Prostitution and Sexual Exploitation (2011)
Save Our Eyes believe a key reason for the failure of Leeds Managed Approach is that demand from men seeking to purchase women was never addressed (point 2.4.5). This led to the MA legitimising the purchase of sex and drawing in men from a wide area who feel they have rights to buy sex. It’s clear from punters forums that they see the zone as an LCC approved open air brothel. Many travel from other cities to visit Holbeck, even from as far away as Birmingham & Hampshire.
A small amount of discreet on street prostitution serving local men ballooned into a much greater problem that could not be contained in the small area originally allocated to it. Demand rose and women were trafficked from other cities and across Europe to satisfy it.
Instead of the 2014 pilot project being ended as prostitution grew and took hold of the nearby community around 2016-2017, the project was made permanent. Supposedly under constant review, the matter was not debated in Leeds Civic Hall until October 2018. At the debate, Labour councillors were not given a free vote, they had to vote as a block and support the MA as a Council policy. However, one outcome was that an Independent Review was commissioned that took place in 2019 by Huddersfield University. The Independent Review did not consider the impact on female residents, children or disabled people in communities affected by street prostitution.
Through liaison with Leeds City Council and the Police we have managed to secure some improvements for the community over the last 3 1/2 years, including a dedicated telephone line, increased Police patrols and a sex litter removal service. However, street prostitution, pimping and kerb crawling in residential areas near the Managed Approach remain a danger to residents, as this report shows.
The Listening Well report and the many reports from residents to SOE, show that one of the key concerns locally is men kerb crawling women and children in the streets or approaching them on foot to ask for sex.
Despite the MA closure since March 2020 for the pandemic, kerb crawlers continue to come to Leeds in search of prostituted women, though there are fewer of them. The women have had some improvement in support services and drug treatment and we have heard that some have managed to exit prostitution due to the pandemic. However, many remain with some new ones seen working residential streets in the freezing cold. Our newest blog post shows that prostitution remains a problem.
We are grateful for the help and cooperation of the four Strategic Leads responsible for the managed approach policy. They attended the Listening Well events and heard community experiences. However, we are disappointed that, since the final draft report was issued privately to all 99 Leeds City Councillors in advance of a debate on the Managed Approach, the leads have decided to have no further discussions with Voice of Holbeck. We urge the leads to take up the recommendations and community requests in the report, including phasing out the managed approach and providing more help for women to exit prostitution & drug addiction.
We call for an urgent ban on all kerb crawling, the arrest of predatory men and better use of existing ANPR technology to identify vehicles and their drivers. In our opinion, Leeds City Council need to start preparations for a phasing out the MA in the interests of community safety.
We commend this report to Police and Councils across the UK. Please learn from what has happened here in Leeds. What can be presented as “best practice” for one group of people may actually be to the detriment of other groups. Our children deserve better. Our women deserve better.
To obtain a PDF copy of the Listening Well Report please email voiceholbeck(at)gmail.com
A response from our fellow Voice of Holbeck members, Ruth Gorse Academy
Sir John Townsley, the Chief Executive Officer of The GORSE Academies Trust, of which The Ruth Gorse Academy is a part, says:
“All those involved with the Managed Approach should take notice of the Listening Well Report as it captures the true feeling of the residents of Holbeck, including children who have to live within and commute through the zone.
“Unlike the ‘Independent Review’ into the Managed Approach, this report takes into account the issues surrounding children and the safeguarding concerns raised by schools. I am confident that Leeds City Council will take on board the important recommendations made within the report and address the safeguarding concerns raised.
“What is most regrettable is that key individuals at Safer Leeds and Leeds City Council no longer wish to engage with the Voice of Holbeck who commissioned this landmark report. As the leading community group that represents all residents, including many of our students, it is imperative that they continue to have an active role in the developing conversation around the Managed Approach. This report highlights very real and serious concerns; a failure to act on those concerns could lead to incidents which are potentially life threatening.”
Ben Mallinson, Principal at The Ruth Gorse Academy, adds:
“I echo the sentiment of Sir John. This latest report into the Managed Approach confirms our view that our students are put under increasing risk of harm while ever the zone continues to operate.
“We now need to see a firm commitment from West Yorkshire Police, Safer Leeds and Leeds City Council on a more proactive approach to managing the zone in the short term. Asking ourselves and residents to inform the police after an incident has happened isn’t good enough. We want to see measures which means the incidents are stopped before they occur.
“I remain firm in the position that Leeds City Council need to produce and implement a cohesive and well-thought-out exit strategy for the Managed Approach within the next six-to-twelve months as I stand firm in my view that in the near future, one of our students could be potentially harmed.”