Friday, 15 May 2009

City celebrates African achievements, liberation and aspirations

A teaching pack designed to address and discuss issues such as human rights, identity, racial discrimination and cultural change is to be launched in Leeds.

The ‘African Achievement, Liberation and Aspirations’ pack has been produced by the Leeds Bi-Centenary Transformation project, Education Leeds, the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust and the Heritage Lottery Fund.

It complements the publication of ‘Trading Roots’ - a collection of pieces of work from children and young people from 10 schools which have achieved the Stephen Lawrence award - which looks at the pre-slave period in African history, the slave trade and its subsequent legacy.

The publications are the outcome of work which started in 2007 when the city commemorated the bicentenary of the British Parliamentary Abolition Act 1807 which ended the slave trade within the then British Empire.

The pack can be used in all primary and secondary schools in the city and includes 29 thought-provoking lesson plans covering ancient and traditional African history and culture and the trans-atlantic African enslavement.

Chris Edwards, chief executive of Education Leeds, said:

“This pack is a brilliant tool for our schools to help them raise awareness amongst our children and young people of the many issues connected to the African slave trade.

“Freedom, identity, human rights, prejudice and racial discrimination are issues which are just as important today so it is essential that everybody understands the importance of respect and tolerance regardless of race, religious beliefs, ethnic background and culture.”

Councillor Richard Harker, executive board member responsible for learning, said:
“Leeds is a great city made-up of many different vibrant communities which live, work and learn alongside each other. It is vital that our children and young people understand what has happened in the past to ensure it doesn’t happen again in the future.

“This pack - together with initiatives such as the Stephen Lawrence award - helps to ensure that Leeds remains an understanding and welcoming place for all who live here.”

The launch takes place at Leeds Civic Hall on Tuesday 19 May between 9am and 12 noon. There will be a number of speakers from the Leeds Bi-Centenary Transformation Project and an opportunity for those to attend to ask questions about the teaching pack.

For more information contact Dr Carl Hylton at the Leeds Bi-Centenary Transformation Project on 0113 2622270.

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For media enquiries please contact:
Jon Crampton, Leeds City Council press office, 0113 3951577
Email: jon.crampton@leeds.gov.uk

Highways funding boost for council

The Department for Transport (DfT) have announced that Leeds City Council is one of fourteen local authorities to benefit from extra funding to help them manage their roads, bridges and other highway assets.

The £400k award forms part of a £7.5m initiative(1) to help promote good practice in asset management in local councils.

In December 2008, councils were invited to submit applications for funding describing how they have developed information to improve the delivery of highway services. Leeds City Council’s application highlighted the work that has taken place over the last 10 years to identify and prioritise highway maintenance needs through a series of inspection techniques, and how this work has benefited the community by delivering the right maintenance treatments at the right time in the right place. The bid also highlighted the considerable investment of £82.4m being made in highway maintenance by the council from 2004 to 2013.

Out of 69 bids made to the DfT, applications from Leeds and just 13 other local authorities across the country were successful. Leeds will now be required to act as a regional champion, which means it will share its good practice in highway maintenance achieved through better use of data, with other authorities. The funding will also be used to make further improvements to inspection processes and improve knowledge of highways assets in Leeds so that efficiencies can be made and greater benefits delivered to the community.

Councillor Andrew Carter, joint leader and executive member responsible for city development said:
“Our success with this bid is fitting recognition of the work of the highways and transportation team, and the commitment that the council has made to highway maintenance over the last few years and promised into the future. It will allow us to promote our work for the benefit of others in the region, and to improve services and deliver greater benefits for the people of Leeds.”

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Additional info
1. Reference DfT press release: http://nds.coi.gov.uk/environment/fullDetail.asp?ReleaseID=401304&NewsAreaID=2&NavigatedFromDepartment=False

For media enquiries, please contact;
Claire Macklam, Leeds City Council press office (0113) 395 1578
Email: claire.macklam@leeds.gov.uk

Essential maintenance work to viaduct in Leeds

Essential maintenance work to Wellington Street Viaduct, which carries the Inner Ring Road over Wellington Street, will start on Tuesday 26 May and continue until the autumn.

The viaduct, which was constructed in 1973, requires painting to protect the steel construction from rust and corrosion, and also to enhance its appearance.

In order for the work to be undertaken safely, some lane and road closures will be necessary. Work to the underside of the flyover will require lane closures during off-peak periods. Road closures, which will only happen on Sundays, will be required on the outbound carriageways underneath the flyover, and on the top of the viaduct on the Inner Ring Road. Diversions will be provided and clearly signposted.

Councillor Andrew Carter, joint leader and executive member responsible for city development said:
“Unfortunately, there may be some disruption to traffic during these off-peak periods. We apologise for this and will do our best to keep the delays to a minimum. We hope that motorists will be understanding and would encourage them to take extra care when passing through the works.

“Every effort will be made to complete these works as quickly as possible and we thank the public in advance for their co-operation.”

For more information regarding the works please contact Aaron Okorie on Leeds 2476209.

ENDS

For media enquiries, please contact;
Claire Macklam, Leeds City Council press office (0113) 395 1578
Email: claire.macklam@leeds.gov.uk

Let the gas man in for chance to win yourself a prize

A reward scheme that encourages tenants in north and north west Leeds to keep appointments for gas servicing in their homes has celebrated its first winners.

The Lord Mayor of Leeds, Councillor Frank Robinson, has lent his support to the scheme, which has been run by Leeds City Council, West North West Homes Leeds and partner gas service contractor West Gas.

Under the scheme, every tenant that keeps an gas appointment or grants access to their property first time gets entered into the prize draw each month.

A prize draw system has been established to allow all customers meeting arranged gas service visits to be automatically entered into a monthly prize draw for £250. The prize winners from January to April were presented with their cheques at Leeds Civic Hall by the Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress, Mrs Sheila Robinson. The winners were also given a personal tour around the Civic Hall and a buffet brunch.

‘First time’ access to gas servicing appointments is important so contractors are able to assess and maintain central heating boilers – this prevents leaks or any danger from faulty systems, such as carbon monoxide poisoning.

Cathy Clelland, chair of the West North West Homes Leeds board, said:
“Gas safety is very important and we are pleased that this scheme has increased the number of people who have given first time access to gas engineers.
“We hope to increase the level still further over the next year, keeping customers and their homes safe for the future.”

Notes for editors:

West North West Homes Leeds
is one of three Arms Length Management Organisations (ALMO) which manage and maintain council housing on behalf of Leeds City Council. It is wholly owned by the council, which retains ownership of housing stock and sets rents.
West North West Homes Leeds covers the areas of Otley, Pool, Bramhope, Guiseley, Yeadon, Cookridge, Rawdon, Holt Park. Tinshill, Horsforth, Kirkstall, Burley, Armley, Bramley, Pudsey, Woodhouse, Wortley, Farnley, and New Farnley.

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For media enquiries, please contact;
Michael Molcher, Leeds City Council press office (0113) 224 3937
Email: michael.molcher@leeds.gov.uk

Greater exposure for challenges to council decisions

The mechanism for challenging decisions made by the most senior councillors in Leeds will have a greater profile in future.

The watchdog system – called scrutiny – has recently been changed so that reports have to come before the authority's executive board.

It's hoped that will mean more publicity and the process will be better understood.

Leeds City Council has seven scrutiny boards and the job of the people who sit on them is to monitor decisions made, review policies and keep an eye on performance.

The boards cover all of the council's activities; adult social care, central and corporate functions, children's services, city and regional partnerships, city development, environment and neighbourhoods and health.

Scrutiny boards are made up of councillors from all political parties and some include members who aren’t part of the council. For example, this means teacher representatives sit on the children's services board and patient representatives sit on the health board.

They have a vital function as they provide the checks and balances on the work of the council, so making sure the people of Leeds get the best out of the services they use.

As well as questioning decisions, boards have the authority to launch their own inquiries which work in similar way to Parliamentary select committees.

Those inquiries can also be prompted by residents who may want the relevant board to look into a specific issue which affects a particular group or community in Leeds.

Up to now, scrutiny boards have worked quietly in the background, but a recent change in how their work is reported means inquiries will now be considered by the executive board.

This week alone, five scrutiny reports into issues as diverse as transport improvements, the way the council buys goods and services, staff attendance and the way the authority involves the people of Leeds in the decision making process were discussed.

Councillor Richard Brett, joint leader and executive board member with responsibility for governance and democracy said:

“Scrutiny boards are absolutely fundamental to the work of the council – they keep an eye on what we do and challenge the decisions we make as councillors.

“Having a watchdog means we're accountable, it improves the transparency of the council's decision making process and bolsters democracy.

“I'm pleased scrutiny reports are now being referred back to the executive board as it means the vital work they do gets more exposure.”

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For media enquiries please contact:
Andy Carter, Leeds City Council Press Office (0113) 395 0393
email: andy.carter@leeds.gov.uk