‘It’s not going to help anyone here’: Yorkshire city untouched by Rishi Sunak’s 20m ‘largesse’ £ | Yorkshire

In the wake of his budget speech last week, Rishi Sunak sent a tweet trumpeting a £ 20m investment in transport in Leeds West constituency. It was designed to encourage local MP and Chancellor of the Exchequer Rachel Reeves. But as Reeves pointed out, the money was actually for Pudsey next door, a Tory seat.

But even in Pudsey last week, where the money will be spent on upgrading a highway, there was little support for Sunak’s supposed grandeur as it comes after a decade of underinvestment.

Janet Walsh, who has lived in the city for 45 years, had little faith that Westminster politicians could really do anything about Pudsey’s problems – and the budget had not given her more confidence. There were “so many” problems that needed to be solved, she said, adding, “One person would not be able to do what needs to be repaired.”

As the largest city in Europe without a mass transit system, Leeds has long complained that it has a desperate need for improved transport. Plans to reintroduce trams and trolley buses were canceled in 2016 after 20 years back and forth between local leaders and the national government. For now, however, many people would be happy with more reliable and affordable public transportation.

Tracy Brabin, West Yorkshire’s mayor, said the total pot of £ 830 million for transport in her region would make no difference. “This funding actually includes money for the maintenance and repair of gaps that would have been expected in any normal spending round. To begin with, West Yorkshire and other urban areas really need adequate revenue funding to help deliver ceiling rates and disused bus routes. The expenditure review was not clear on whether this would come in the future. “

This level of funding would help save bus connections in Pudsey, which a Walsh used weekly to nearby Morley, which was recently scrapped, to great disappointment. “It was a big shock for everyone. There are a lot of seniors who are addicted to it,” she said.

Food Bank Volunteer Bev Stephenson.
Food Bank Volunteer Bev Stephenson. Photo: Richard Saker / the observer

Fortunately, it now appears that it is being rescued by another bus company. But there are plenty of places that residents cannot get to by public transportation. “It’s not going to help people here,” said Stephen Barker, who works at a confectionery stall in the market. “We need the locals to be able to move. Pudsey is bad for parking and the bus station takes people out but does not bring people in. We are fighting a losing battle. “

The Pudsey market is quiet with only about half a dozen stalls occupied and even fewer customers at a time. Barker added: “The market is dependent on older people, but many of them live too far away to go here.”

Whitehall cash may attract headlines, but a decade of austerity and a Leeds City Council budget that is still around 40% of what it was in 2010 have meant important community services are shut down. Earlier this year, the council laid off a further 87 million pounds and 800 posts, a situation council leader James Lewis described as “pretty awful”. More than a third of Leeds’ children now live in poverty, according to the charity Action for Children, and Pudsey is about average for the city.

Bev Stephenson, a retired teacher who has lived in Pudsey all his life, said the town had a strong community of people eager to help each other. She is a volunteer in a new food and clothing bank, which was set up at the parish church during the pandemic, but which has now grown large enough to need its own space.

“We have some people in real need, but we’ve also had dozens of volunteers,” she said. “People have wanted to help the community by donating and giving their time. Pudsey has such a wonderful feeling.”

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