Thursday, 23 July 2009

Council’s face-to-face centres make their mark

The centres that give the people of Leeds face-to-face contact with their local council have been praised for providing excellent customer service to local residents.

Leeds City Council’s 15 One Stop Centres help customers with a range of issues, including housing, council tax, social services, refuse and highways. The centres have recently celebrated their 10th anniversary of serving the people of Leeds, and deal with over 420,000 customer enquiries a year.

The recent assessment was to measure whether the service’s Charter Mark accreditation, the national standard for excellence in customer service, would be renewed – and the centres passed with flying colours.

The Charter Mark demonstrates that an organisation listens to its customers and acts and delivers; involves the local community in the design and delivery of services; involves staff in the planning of services and allows them to put things right wherever possible; and continually acts to improve services.

This year, the centres were praised not only for continuing to deliver excellent customer service, but also for improvements in service delivery and performance. The inspector noted that the centres have “continued to maintain high standards of service delivery despite increased usage resulting from the economic recession”.

The centre in North Seacroft is now open on a Saturday morning for customer enquiries, the first time local residents have been able to get face to face council advice on a Saturday.

Councillor Richard Brett, leader of Leeds City Council and executive board member for customer services, said:
“This is great news for the staff at our One Stop Centres and shows that we are responsive to the needs of the communities we serve.
“These centres have been serving the people of Leeds for a decade now and continue to evolve and develop in ways that bring great benefits to the city.”

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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

Fly tipper’s Guy Fawkes ruse goes up in flames with £3,200 fine

A man who used a Guy Fawkes Night bonfire as an excuse to dump commercial waste on council land has been handed a bill for £3,200.

At Leeds Magistrates Court today, David Morton was fined £800 and ordered to pay costs of £2,697 plus a victim surcharge of £15 after pleading guilty to three charges under the Environmental Protection Act 1990.

The 35-year-old from Rocheford Grove, Leeds, was accused of dumping rubbish on Leeds City Council land off Burton Row, Leeds, near the Blooming Rose Pub, on 28th and 31st October last year.

In October last year, while carrying out checks around Holbeck, council officers and police spotted a parked open-backed Ford Transit vehicle that was loaded with various types of controlled waste. The waste appeared to be the same as house clearance waste found dumped in surrounding domestic bin yards, so it was sprayed with an identifying mark.

After a tip off, officials then went to the Blooming Rose Pub off Burton Row, Beeston, and found the marked waste had been dumped on Leeds City Council land next to the pub, in what appeared to be preparation for an unauthorised bonfire.

No permissions, waste permits or exemptions were in place allowing controlled waste to be dumped on the site, even if the intention was for a bonfire.

Leeds has been inundated with complaints of commercial businesses who use Guy Fawkes Night as an excuse to dump their waste illegally. Incidents have been recorded of businesses fly tipping their waste at unauthorised bonfire sites as early as September and October.

This is the third business prosecuted this year by the council’s Highways and Environmental Enforcement Team for fly tipping commercial waste at bonfires. Some of the previous offences involved waste that was deemed to be hazardous.

Councillor James Monaghan, Leeds City Council’s executive board member for environmental services, said:
“People often fly tip to avoid having to pay for proper commercial waste disposal – but the cost of clean up is then borne by the taxpayer: fly tipping costs the council hundreds of thousands of pounds a year to deal with.
“Using Guy Fawkes Night as an excuse to fly tip is particularly galling, and this shows that we will take action against people who wilfully blight our city.”

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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

Landlords landed with heavy fines for failing to licence their properties

Two landlords who failed to properly licence houses they rented out have been handed a bill of more than £5,000.

The two separate cases on 20 July at Leeds Magistrates Court saw Leeds City Council taking action against both landlords for not obtaining licenses for houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) that they owned.

Mrs Ghamar Gill was fined £1,000 and ordered to pay costs of £1,554 because she did not licence her property on Oak Road, Chapeltown - despite it being a licensable House in Multiple Occupation with at least five people living in the house.

An inspection of the property – which Gill, of Sandmoor Court, Harrogate Road, managed on behalf of her son – also revealed a lack of adequate fire precautions and had no fixed heating system which meant tenants had to rely on portable heaters.

Mr Qumar Javed of the 2View Properties management company on Queens Road was fined £2,000 and ordered to pay costs of £828. 2View took over the management of a property on Midland Road, Leeds, on behalf of a private landlord – but had failed to licence it properly.

All privately rented properties in Leeds that can accommodate five or more unrelated people must be licensed under the scheme, which has run since 2006. The licence, which can last for up to five years, ensures that the house is safe, with appropriate fire precautions , and has sufficient amenities for its tenants.

Councillor Les Carter, Leeds City Council’s executive board member for housing, said:
“Before we brought in HMO licensing we talked with landlords and made sure that when the scheme started, it would work well and protect tenants – and we have the proof this week.
“The vast majority of landlords have been able to meet the requirements successfully, but a small number have failed to follow the rules.
“These cases show that the council is serious about seeking out and prosecuting those landlords who attempt to evade this process, which is designed to protect the thousands of tenants in the city.”

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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

Temple Newsam gearing up for annual music extravaganza



Caption: Dizzee Rascal (above) and Sophie Ellis-Bextor (right) will be taking to the stage at Party in the Park

Music lovers will be flocking to Temple Newsam this weekend to enjoy the two biggest free outdoor events of the year in Leeds.

The annual Party in the Park and Opera in the Park, which take place on Saturday and Sunday, will again see a combined capacity crowd of 120,000 people taking in the sights and sounds of chart-topping performers and the finest opera and classical music.

An unprecedented ticket rush this year meant that all 70,000 tickets for Party in the Park were snapped up in less than four days. With a bill that boasts chart-toppers Dizzee Rascal, Alesha Dixon, Sophie Ellis-Bextor, Beverley Knight, Calvin Harris, Pixie Lott, Little Boots, JLS, N-Dubz, DJ Ironik and Booty Luv, the show which promises to be arguably the best ever starts at 1pm on Sunday with gates opening shortly before.

The previous evening sees the more relaxed style and atmosphere of Opera in the Park. This year’s show which begins at 8pm on Saturday evening with gates opening at 6pm will make a welcome return to a more classical theme featuring performances by award-winning soloists Alfie Boe and Natasha Marsh together with the Hallé Symphony Orchestra and the Leeds Festival Chorus in front of another enthralled crowd of 50,000 people.

For both events, ticket holders are advised to arrive as soon as possible after the gates open.

Both Party and Opera are organised by Leeds City Council with support from 96.3 Radio Aire for Party in the Park and Magic 828 and for Opera in the Park.

Leeds City Council executive member for Leisure Councillor John Procter said:

"Party in the Park and Opera in the Park at Temple Newsam is always a wonderful weekend of the year but this year looks extra special. The amazing rush on the tickets for Party in the Park and the announcements of the big-name performers has created a huge interest and anticipation in the event, while the magical style and atmosphere of Opera in the Park means it is also not to be missed.

“It is always fantastic to see the massive crowds which attends these two events, and as a council gives us great pride to be able to put on events of this scale for everyone to enjoy for free. Let’s hope the weather’s kind and we get another amazing musical weekend to remember!”

Joel from 96.3 Radio Aire’s JK & Joel @ Breakfast said:

“The big rush of tickets just shows this is going to be the biggest Party In the Park yet! JK and myself have only been on the breakfast show for a week and already Leeds is proving to be a great vibrant city. We’ll both be hosting the stage on the day so we’ll see you there!”

A limited number of free Party in the Park souvenir programmes will be available on site, which have been produced by Leeds City College students in partnership with Leeds City Council.

Party and Opera in the Park are part of the Summer of Fun in Leeds, with details of all the council-managed free or low-cost events and activities going on around the city able to be accessed through the new web portal at www.leeds.gov.uk/summeroffun.

Anyone requiring further details about either Party or Opera in the Park should contact Leeds City Council’s Events team on 0113 395 0891 or visit www.leeds.gov.uk

Notes to editors:

Media access to Opera in the Park and Party in the Park has been by prior accreditation only. There will be strictly no access for those without accreditation at either event.

Photos from both events will be available on request by calling Roger Boyde on 07891 270 580 over the course of the weekend or by emailing roger.boyde@leeds.gov.uk on Monday.

For media enquiries please contact:
Roger Boyde, Learning and Leisure Media Relations Officer,
Tel 0113 247 5472, Email: roger.boyde@leeds.gov.uk

Essential maintenance work on Leeds inner ring road

Essential maintenance work to one of the tunnels on Leeds Inner Ring Road starts this week.

The project includes the waterproofing of West Street tunnel, which carries the exit slip road of the inner ring road from the A58(M), and concrete repairs to both the tunnel and adjacent retaining walls.

These works cannot be carried out safely without the closure of West Street and the eastbound off slip road leading onto West Street.

In order to minimise delays to traffic, the works have been planned to overlap with the school summer holidays, when traffic volumes are usually at their lowest. The works commenced on 20 July and will last for approximately 20 weeks. The road closures will start from 27 July.

It would be helpful if motorists that will be affected by these closures could find alternative routes. However, those who cannot will be able to follow the diversion routes which will be fully signed.

Councillor Andrew Carter, joint leader and executive board member with responsibility for city development said:
“We apologise for the unavoidable delays that will happen as a result of this essential maintenance, and would like to reassure motorists that the works will be carried out as safely and quickly as possible.”

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Additional info

West Street tunnel, which was constructed in 1973, and the adjoining retaining walls are now in need of maintenance work which will involve:-

1) Repair of defective concrete, including concrete overlay to the retaining walls, using a sprayed concrete (Gunite) process.

2) Removal of existing carriageway surfacing directly over the tunnel roof and re-waterproofing of the tunnel roof. The road surfacing will then be replaced to the existing road levels.

3) Application of a new protective paint system to the inner walls of the tunnel.

On both the east and westbound carriageways of the Leeds Inner Ring Road, including through the tunnel, two lanes of traffic will be maintained during ‘peak hours’ (5am to 8pm Monday to Saturday). During ‘night time working’ (8pm to 5am) and ‘weekend working’ periods (8pm on Saturday to 5am on Monday), a minimum of two lanes of traffic on the westbound carriageway and one lane of traffic on the eastbound carriageway will be maintained during the course of works.

The works are expected to be completed by mid November.

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

Regions artists get chance to shine at Open Show 2009


122 artists from across the Yorkshire region have been selected to show their work in the Leeds Art Gallery annual open exhibition ‘Artists Show 2009’.

The annual open show, which opens on 26 July this year, invites amateur and professional artists to submit their work and win the chance to get their work exhibited, reviewed and sold in Leeds Art Gallery.

Over 450 artists flooded into the gallery earlier this month with their oils, watercolours, drawings, prints, sculptures and high hopes. Selectors then had the mammoth task of selecting the final exhibition.

This years submissions include a fascinatingly diverse mix of sculpture, photography, video art, painting and drawings, celebrating the wealth of creative talent that springs from people’s homes and studios across Yorkshire.

Cllr John Procter, Executive Board Member for Leisure, said:

“The open show at Leeds Art Gallery continues to be a fabulously creative celebration of some of the best artists from across the region. It’s a really important exhibition with such a large and diverse number of exhibits on offer, as well as helping new artists establish themselves and sell their work.”

This year’s selection panel are Moira Innes, Curator, Leeds Met Gallery, Jenny Hack, Painting Conservator, Leeds Museums and Galleries, and Sheila McGregor, Chief Executive, Axis – an online resource for contemporary art – ensuring that the selection process for the exhibition remains as objective as possible.

The show opens with a private viewing on Sunday 26th July at 12 noon, where all 450 entrants will be invited to come along and celebrate the pieces that did make it into the exhibition proper. The doors are then being opened to the public at 1pm.

Most of the work on exhibition is for sale, and with prices ranging from £50 to £3000, there are clear opportunities for regular art collectors - and those looking to start - to grab an original art work. There’s even a piece of art that is simply labelled ‘open to offers’!

Entry to Leeds Art Gallery is free, and the Artists Show 2009 runs from 26 July to 30 August. For more information visit www.leeds.gov.uk/artgallery.

Notes to editors:
1. For more information on the exhibition call Leeds Art Gallery on 0113 2478256 or email city.art.gallery@leeds.gov.uk.

2. The annual Open Show at Leeds Art Gallery is firmly established as an important event in the local visual arts calendar. In recent years, the diversity of the works on show has helped to attract a large and varied audience and a significant number of the exhibits have been sold. The Open Show Leaflet with this year's submission dates will be available from April 2009.

For media inquiries please contact:
Dominic Burton, Marketing Officer, Libraries Arts and Heritage
Leeds City Council
0113 2478391
Email: dominic.burton@leeds.gov.uk
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