LEEDS: Managed zone "doing more harm than good" says Leeds Tory leader

Influential politicians in Leeds have clashed over the city's controversial managed red-light zone.

Leader of the Leeds Conservative group Coun Andrew Carter. Picture: Nigel Roddis

Leader of the Leeds Conservative group Coun Andrew Carter has called for an immediate suspension of the scheme, believing it to damage businesses and communities in the area.

But Leeds City Council's executive member for communities Coun Debra Coupar defended the project, claiming the council is doing all it can to ensure vulnerable people are protected.

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The Leeds managed red light zone was introduced in Holbeck in 2016, in order to protect sex workers from violence.

But Coun Carter believes it is local residents who are paying the price.

He said: “To my mind it is clear that this initiative is ineffective and is doing more harm than good impacting on local families, children and young people and local businesses.

"It is time for the managed area to be suspended with immediate effect.

"There have been high profile and extremely serious incidents as well as the community having to live through the daily grind of putting up with totally inappropriate and often criminal behaviour in broad daylight.

"The fact that it is still in operation given this background is baffling and, in my view, points to a complete lack of leadership within the council – the area should have been suspended, as we called for, years ago."

The managed zone hit the headlines again this week, as national newspapers focused on the scheme which allows prostitutes to work in designated streets between 7pm and 7am.

But Coun Coupar believes the issues are not black and white, and that the managed approach is "evolving".

She said: “Many of the issues relating to street based sex work in the city are extremely complex and despite many previous initiatives have remained a problem for a significant number of years.

"When I took on responsibility for this portfolio in 2016 I made a personal and ongoing commitment to listen to and work with the community to understand the impact on them.

"Recognising the challenges faced by street based sex work, I oversaw a review of the managed approach and introduced a number of new measures to reduce further the impact on residents, businesses and local stakeholders.

"This has seen the managed approach evolve with a number of changes to the approach being made.

"This has included changing the operational hours of the Managed Approach, increasing the police resource working in the area, increasing our street cleansing resource and establishing better and more regular communication and engagement with local residents, businesses and stakeholders."

However, she did not commit to continuing the scheme for the foreseeable future, and claimed the council was "continually reviewing" its approach to sex work.

She said: "I continue to recognise that the challenges faced by on-street sex work in most large cities are long-standing and complex and recognise there are no easy answers.

"However, in Leeds we are committed to continually reviewing our approach to ensure that the best possible outcomes are achieved for local residents and businesses impacted by on street sex work, and to do all that we can to support those vulnerable women involved in on-street sex work.”