Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Leeds affordable homes get the thumbs up

More families in Leeds will get the chance to access affordable housing following successful bids for over £8 million from the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) 2015-18 Affordable Homes Programme.

With Leeds City Council investing over £40 million resources into the 12 schemes, they will deliver over 300 new build properties and an empty homes programme which will also return 100 properties to use.

With bids for almost 500 other properties from other providers in the city still being considered in coming days, there are positive signs that significant amounts of extra affordable housing for the city will be available soon.

Councillor Richard Lewis, Leeds City Council executive board member with responsibility for transport and the economy
, said:

“The quality of our bid for this funding is shown in our success – we have received the biggest allocation out of all the core cities – and this additional funding will help meet the cost of developments that will make a real difference to Leeds.

“This is about affordable housing. We have a lot to do to meet need but this announcement is really good news for our city. We don’t only need job opportunities in Leeds, but we need the right kind of housing in the right places and this funding will allow us to continue to work towards this.”

Councillor Peter Gruen, Leeds City Council executive board member with responsibility for neighbourhoods, planning and personnel, said:

“Our plans to get excellent quality affordable housing for Leeds are making good progress. The HCA funding will buttress our own significant investment and help us move towards getting the homes we need in the city. This helps us realise our ambition of creating the largest number of new Council homes in Leeds in a generation.

“In Leeds we have been clear that any homes we build will have high quality design, space standards and energy efficiency.

“We are focussed on meeting the challenge Leeds faces, which is to provide enough high quality, accessible and affordable homes to meet the city’s growing population.”

Leeds City Council will receive an initial £8,612,000 from the HCA for both general needs housing, and other types of specialist housing, for example, supported housing.

Notes for editors:

Details of the HCA affordable homes programme can be found at: https://www.homesandcommunities.co.uk/ourwork/affordable-homes-programme-2015-18

Issued by:
Phil Morcom,

Leeds City Council press office (0113) 2243602
Email: philip.morcom@leeds.gov.uk

Popular Picture Lending Scheme extended to weekend

Caption: Leeds Art Gallery will be hosting the popular Picture Lending Scheme this weekend.

Due to popular demand, the UKs most longstanding Picture Lending Scheme hosted by a city gallery will take place for the first time over two days this weekend.

Bringing original art to people’s homes since 1961, picture lending from the collection of Leeds Art Gallery has proved to be a tremendous success with people across Yorkshire, who through the scheme have a rare opportunity to enjoy original works of art in the privacy of their own homes. The gallery is now just one of a few remaining in the country offering the unique service, which ever growing, has over six hundred pictures to choose from. Available to loan from just £48 for the year are a fantastic range of works including oils, watercolours, drawings, photographs, and a variety of prints.

As part of the initiative, selection days are held four times a year where the public has the opportunity to browse, select, borrow and return selected artworks available to loan from the gallery’s collections. Usually held on just one day, this month’s picture lending event has now been extended and will take place over the weekend of Saturday 26 July and Sunday July 27 at Leeds Art Gallery, which is located on The Headrow.

Further details regarding the scheme can be found at www.leeds.gov.uk/picturelending or twitter at www.twitter.com/leedsartgallery.

Councillor Lucinda Yeadon, Leeds City Council’s executive member for digital and creative technologies, culture and skills said:

"We are extremely proud to be one of the few remaining art galleries in the country to offer a Picture Lending Scheme to residents.

"The scheme is extremely popular, and with this mind, we have taken the decision to extend our selection day this month to a whole weekend, so more people can have the chance to have pictures from our collection in their own front rooms."

Notes to editors:

Leeds Art Gallery
The Headrow
West Yorkshire
0113 247 8256

Described as ‘Probably the best collection of twentieth century British art outside London’ (John Russell Taylor, The Times) Leeds Art Gallery is a lively gallery in the heart of Leeds on The Headrow in Leeds' Cultural Quarter. Offering displays of Leeds' stunning collections as well as a dynamic programme of changing exhibitions, the Gallery is an innovative and exciting place to visit. At Leeds Art Gallery you can see a rich variety of art on display from Leeds’ impressive collections, to nationally acclaimed prints, watercolours, paintings, sculptures, photography, and contemporary art.

Free admission
Opening Times
Monday & Tuesday 10am – 5pm
Wednesday 12pm – 5pm
Thursday to Saturday 10am – 5pm
Sunday 1pm – 5pm
Closed on Bank Holidays

For media enquiries, please contact;
Colin Dickinson, Leeds City Council press office (0113) 39 51578
Email: colin.dickinson@leeds.gov.uk

Monday, 21 July 2014

Leeds City Council proposes renegotiating staff conditions

Leeds City Council is proposing changes to staff terms and conditions in a bid to cope with the impact of greatly reduced budgets over the past few years.

As budgets are worked out for the coming year, the council has seen its core funding reduced by 43% in real terms since 2010 and has done everything it can to make savings as efficiently as possible to reduce impact on key frontline services.

The council has been in talks with trade unions over a number of months about how to reduce employment costs while protecting key public services and jobs as far as possible, taking feedback from them into account.

Now formal proposals to change some local terms and conditions will be presented to councillors at the General Purposes Committee on July 29.

They include removal of some historical payment arrangements, introducing a redundancy policy and reducing spending on travel-related items, including mileage rates and car allowance payments.

Leeds City Council Chief Executive Tom Riordan said:
“Our absolute priorities as a council throughout these very difficult cuts of the past few years have been to protect frontline services for vulnerable people, manage our finances as efficiently as possible and to act responsibly as one of the city’s major employers.

“We have achieved all this to the best of our ability and will continue to do so. However the financial challenges facing us are so enormous that we have been talking to staff representatives again. We need to find workable solutions to ensure we can continue to deliver essential public services.

“While we have to consider negotiating some changes, we are doing everything we can to continue protecting jobs and services and are as committed as ever to avoiding compulsory redundancies if we can. We very much value the mature relationship we have with our unions and our staff and will continue to work with them to achieve the best possible outcomes.

“Although up till now we have not been able to reach an agreement with the trade unions on the best way to take forward our proposals, we are sympathetic to the fact that public sector workers have had little or no pay increase for over 5 years. The changes we are proposing will have minimal impact on take home pay for the vast majority of our staff. We believe this offers the best solution to enable us to continue to provide essential council services to the people of Leeds.”

Ways in which the council has achieved significant savings to its costs in the light of reducing budgets over the past few years:
• significantly reducing the number of senior manager posts by 22% since 2010;
• reducing agency spend;
• restricting recruitment;
• supporting staff wherever possible to leave the council through the voluntary Early Leaver Initiative (ELI). Over 2,000 staff have left since the scheme was launched, leading to a corresponding reduction in numbers of posts;
• a cost of living rise of just 1% for the majority of staff over the past four (with no increase for senior management);
• no cost of living rise for staff over the past three years (four years for senior management);
• developing more flexible roles/job descriptions (to reduce the need for recruitment / agency / overtime spend);
• actively promoting voluntary reductions in working hours/working weeks;
• ongoing work to further reduce sickness absence ;
• reviewing existing temporary payments and acting up arrangements.

Notes to editors:
A Section 188 notice was issued by Leeds City Council to its unions on 23 July 2013. The obligation to consult under Section 188 of the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992 (TULRCA) applies where the employer is proposing to dismiss as redundant 20 or more employees at one establishment within a period of 90 days or less, or proposing to issue notices to terminate existing contracts of employment and immediately offering to engage staff new contracts. The duty is to consult with representatives of employees who may be affected by the proposed dismissals or may be affected by measures taken in connection with those dismissals. The formal notice to commence this kind of consultation is often referred to as a “section 188 notice”.

For media enquiries please contact:
Donna Cox, Leeds City Council press office (0113) 224 3335
e-mail: donna.cox@leeds.gov.uk


Local people demand more power to England's cities

Issued on behalf of the Core Cities group

Leeds is one of England’s eight largest cities outside of London today launching a major national campaign demanding more power over how their money is spent.

The Local Voices campaign will be launched at a Parliamentary Reception with Mayor of London, Boris Johnson and Nottingham City Council Leader Cllr Jon Collins telling MPs and Council leaders of the need to make the most of taxpayer’s money by having the power to make decisions locally.

The Local Voices campaign consists of people in each of the eight Core Cities whose work has benefitted, and would benefit further, by greater devolution of freedoms to cities. Spokespeople include the manager of a Premier Inn in Leeds, a family intervention project team leader in Manchester and the chief executive of an SME in Nottingham.

Councillor Keith Wakefield, Leader of Leeds City Council, said:
“We have already proved through our Devolved Youth Contract that where we have the freedom, power and resources to determine local solutions to the big challenges facing our communities, we can deliver more effective solutions than Whitehall alone. We also recognise that enabling our regions to thrive economically will be key to rebalancing the national economy and delivering long-term sustainable growth.

“This is why we are asking Government to endorse our five year Skills and Labour Market Agreements. These agreements will see provision for skills and employment services devolved to local functioning economic areas, our cities and city regions. Here, local economic partnerships will be able to maximise the benefits of secure, long term budgets to provide effective support services tailored to local labour markets."

Leeds City Council and local employers and training providers have been working closely together on skills and apprenticeships.

Simon Murphy, General Manager, Premier Inn Leeds & Bradford and one of the Local Voices talking in London about the need for devolution to help young people get into work, such as the Leeds Devolved Youth Contract, said:

“Locally devised and targeted skills programmes can significantly boost the number and quality of young people able to go on and have economically productive lives. We need greater influence to give far more young people meaningful training that firms are actively seeking.”

Also attending the Parliamentary Reception today will be Mayor George Ferguson, Mayor of Bristol, numerous Council leaders from the Core Cities and London and MP’s from England’s biggest cities.

Greater freedom to decide how to spend the money generated in cities, such as property taxes, would help the Core Cities meet their target of outperforming the national economy, and becoming financially self-sustaining. Independent forecasts demonstrate this could mean an additional £222 billion and 1.3 million jobs for the country by 2030. That is like adding the entire economy of Denmark to the UK. This could also mean an additional £41.6billion to the Government in taxes from increased jobs by 2030 – enough to pay off almost half the national deficit. And that’s not by raising the levels of taxes, just by changing how current taxes are invested.

Speaking in advance of the Parliamentary Reception, Sir Richard Leese, Leader of Manchester City Council and Chair of the Core Cities Cabinet said:
“The national economy needs our cities to succeed like never before in delivering jobs and growth, and reducing dependency on public services. To do so means going further and faster in devolving resources from the centre.

“The Local Voices campaign clearly demonstrates the positive impact devolution can have on people’s lives. Each of the case studies has benefited from decisions being made at a local level but at the same time have been hindered that the freedoms cities enjoy do not go far enough to enable them to make a real difference. This campaign seeks to highlight the excellent work cities do and how with more freedoms we can make our community’s better places to live.”

Cllr Jon Collins, Leader of Nottingham City Council and Core Cities Cabinet member for Business, Growth, Trade and Investment said:
“We can’t deliver on jobs, growth and financial self-sufficiency with our hands tied behind our backs by Whitehall. Our overly centralised system is no longer fit for purpose, and though growth deals are a step forward, the current annual negotiation process won’t solve the problem. The Core Cities want to see a better balance of funding for the regions so we can effectively meet the needs in our cities.”

Julie Cusack, Family Intervention Project Team Leader from Manchester and one of the Local Voices speaking of how local freedoms in Manchester through the Family Intervention Programme has benefited her work said:
“The transformation in the family’s lives has been remarkable: better school attendance, less interventions by police and social workers, improved health outcomes and generally happier and more motivated people.

“We now need to build on the programme, and others like it, if we are to fully reform our public services.”

International cities, such as Paris, Berlin and Barcelona, have enjoyed huge amounts of economic success due to having the policy and tax freedoms to boost their local economies. Comparatively, England’s Core Cities are being hindered by central Government retaining control over 95% of funds raised locally.

Birmingham Alabama for example retains a lot more locally raised taxes than Birmingham UK. According to the OECD, the level of taxes managed at the local or regional level is about 10 times greater in Canada, 7.5 in the US, 7 in Sweden, almost 6 in Germany, and over 5 times greater across the OECD on average.

Local Voices forms part of the wider City Centred Campaign for greater devolution to cities run by Core Cities, the Mayor of London and London Councils.


Media contact
Alex Linden, Westbourne Communications – alex.linden@westbournecoms.com or 020 3397 1874

Notes to editors
Please visit the City Centred website for more details of the campaign and to view the Local Voices case studies www.citycentred.co.uk

The Core Cities consist of: Birmingham, Bristol, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham and Sheffield.

The Core Cities recently released a Growth Prospectus which can be read online..

Property taxes consist of: council tax, business rates, stamp duty land tax, annual tax on enveloped dwellings and capital gains property disposal tax.

The Core Cities are a unique and united local authority voice to promote the role of their cities in driving economic growth. They represent the councils of England’s eight largest city economies outside London. The Core Cities Group has a track record of 15 years as a cross party group, led by the City Leaders. For more information please visit www.corecities.com/.