Tuesday, 26 May 2009

New council leader sets himself three targets for coming six months in office

The councillor taking the helm at Leeds City Council for the next six months is setting out details of what he wants to achieve while in charge.

Richard Brett is taking over command until November as part of a power sharing agreement between the two joint leaders of the authority.

Last year, the environment was at the heart of his agenda and in 2009 that theme continues.

One of Councillor Brett's first priorities is to make it easier for walkers and cyclists to get around Leeds – something he started in 2008 with a pledge to ride to work more often.

Now he wants to begin work on a ten year project to establish a whole network of walking and cycle routes into and out of the city centre.

They would be in between roads – so away from traffic – properly paved, lit during the winter months, be signposted throughout and be designed to be attractive as possible.

Councillor Brett says he'd like the first route to link the new Leeds Arena to Little London and Chapeltown.

Of the walking and cycle routes, Councillor Brett said:

“Our city is in danger of becoming clogged up with traffic and in order to reduce congestion we need to get people out of their cars and onto two wheels or two feet.

“But we can't expect them to do that unless we give them an attractive alternative.

“I've both ridden and walked into work in the past few months and I can see that as a council we need to do more to improve facilities.

“In ten years time, I want Leeds to have a network of routes for walkers and cyclists which is the envy of towns and cities across the country.”

Target two for the new leader is making life better and easier for disabled people in Leeds.

Councillor Brett is promising a review of the services the council provides with the sole aim of trying to find ways of making improvements.

That includes a promise to look at building a so-called 'changing places toilet' in the city centre and another in the new Leeds arena.

They are specially designed with disabled users in mind and often include things like hoists and a changing table. The issue of a lack of these kind of facilities in the city was raised at a recent meeting of the full council.

Cllr Brett said:

“It's estimated that there are around 2000 people in Leeds who would benefit from a changing places toilet. But, right now there isn't one, so that means we're effectively excluding some of the residents of our city from its centre.

“I'm not happy with that and for the sake of £10,000 or £20,000 I think the council should do what it can to help to establish this kind of facility.”

The third and final ambition for the coming six months is 'volunteering'.

Later this year, Councillor Brett will launch a campaign which will declare 2010 to be a 'Year of Volunteering' with thousands of extra people encouraged to give up their time for a good cause.

Working with Voluntary Action Leeds, Richard will propose that a new 'volunteering clearance house' is opened in the city centre. It will match people who can spare their time with organisations, charities and groups who need a helping hand.

The service already exists in Leeds but currently operates just two days a week from an office inside the main city library which it has completely outgrown.

Councillor Brett is hoping to set a target to increase the number of people who volunteer or the amount of total time people spending volunteering.

He said:

“The good news is that we're not starting from nothing – there is an amazing amount of good work going on across the city and many people donate many hours of their time each year.

“But I want to encourage more people to get involved.

“Tragically, as a result of the current economic conditions, some people will find themselves with time on their hands as a result of unemployment.

“There's nothing to stop them using their skills and expertise in a different way, albeit for free.

“For instance, in Leeds there are several thousand mentors who go into our schools to work with young people to boost their learning, confidence and career prospects.

“That's a fantastic way for someone to put something back into their community and I'd like to increase the number of mentors we have here.”

Summing up his three ambitions, Councillor Brett said:

“I've set myself three targets which are very ambitious, but also very do-able in the long term.

“There's no point being a leader who doesn't challenge himself.

I know it's not going to be easy, but I believe achieving all three will bring numerous benefits to the many people who live, work and play in Leeds.”

For media enquiries, please contact;
Andy Carter, Leeds City Council press office (0113) 395 0393
Email: andy.carter@leeds.gov.uk

Green residents can become recycling experts at the click of a button

Caption: Cllr Paul Wadsworth and children from year 6 at Strawberry Fields Primary School try out the council's online recycle guide.

Residents can now find out almost all there is to know about recycling in Leeds at the click of button!

A new revamped recycling guide on the council’s website www.leeds.gov.uk/recycleforleeds has been designed to help residents with all their recycling queries and boost the amount of waste reduced, reused and recycled by the city.

Residents can also test their green credentials by using a new online game featured on the site, which tests their awareness of how to reduce, reuse and recycle everyday items. The educational game was trialled by Leeds’ next generation of recyclers when children at Strawberry Fields Primary School in Garforth had a go at trying to dispose of as many materials as possible in the most environmentally friendly way or otherwise see them go to landfill.

Leeds is currently recycling around 30% of household waste and is now well on the way to achieving the minimum target of 50% by 2020. The site will be updated to let residents know how much they are recycling each month.

The website also features a ‘behind the scenes’ look at what happens to households green bin waste when it is taken to a material recycling facility in Leeds and take a 360 degree tour of black bin waste that is tipped in landfill site.

Residents will also be able to log on and see where the council’s team of recycling experts will be visiting each week.

Other new features include an A-Z search of recycling, Google maps to improve locating household waste sort sites and a search for bin collection day updated monthly.

Cllr Paul Wadsworth, deputy executive member for environmental services, said:
There are lots of opportunities for residents to reduce the amount of waste they generate, reuse goods and to recycle all sorts of materials. We want to encourage residents to find out more about the simple steps they can take to reduce their carbon footprint and the web is a great interactive way to reach the people of all ages.

“We’ve listened to what information residents have requested in the past and included this online to help others, ranging from asking when their bin will be collected to how they can recycle leftover wallpaper!”

For media enquiries, please contact;
Laura Ferris, Leeds City Council press office (0113) 224 3335
Email: laura.ferris@leeds.gov.uk