Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Leeds top council for tackling council tax discount cheats

There’s nowhere to hide for council tax discount fraudsters in Leeds – as the city has been identified as one of the best at cracking down on cheats who costs taxpayers millions every year.

As an Audit Commission report says that councils should do more to combat people who fraudulently claim the 25% single person’s discount on their council tax, Leeds is leading the way in tackling the issue using data matching techniques.

Since 2007, over 3,000 people have been caught wrongly claiming the discount and have been required to pay an additional £1.8m in Council Tax, with other councils showing interest in using Leeds' innovative approach to catching cheats.

The Audit Commission, in producing its report, contacted the council directly because of Leeds’ approach to tackling this issue and to provide an example of good practice for others to follow.

The Audit Commission report, the preparation of which included discussions with Leeds about their innovative approach, recognises the value and effectiveness of using data matching techniques.

Councillor Richard Brett, council leader and executive board member for finance, said:
“Any kind of fraud against councils is a fraud against the council tax payer and we must do everything in our power to take action against cheats – and we do.
“On the face of it, the Audit Commission’s report suggests that all councils have a problem catching these council tax cheats – but in fact Leeds is showing that you can get tough and reclaim money that can be pumped into the vital front line services that we provide.
“The discount is intended to lessen the tax burden on single people living alone.
“If you claim it but have someone living with you then you’re a cheat – we will catch you and you will have to repay the money you owe the council tax payers of this city.”

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

The Roses of Success

Yorkshire in Bloom judges have chosen Leeds as the town and Woodlesford the village to represent Yorkshire in next year’s Britain in Bloom competition and have awarded them a Gold Rose in their respective categories.

Chair of the Leeds Floral Initiative, Councilllor Frank Robinson said:
“I’m delighted that Leeds and Woodlesford gardeners’ hard work has been recognised in this way. Next year we want everyone getting their hands dirty and discovering their green fingers as we gear up for our strictest judging in 2010.”

In the 2009 Yorkshire in Bloom competition judges awarded prizes to 2 small villages, 2 villages, 4 large villages, 1 urban community, 1 small country town, 5 towns and 1 city.

Britain in Bloom is one of the largest horticultural campaigns in Europe working year-round to create a cleaner and greener Britain through community action. Participants can earn top marks in horticultural achievement, environmental responsibility and community participation. The 'in Bloom' journey starts in the regional/national campaigns from which communities are nominated for the finals.

Yorkshire in Bloom is a voluntary regional organisation that administers the Britain in Bloom Campaign in North, South, East and West Yorkshire and North and North-East Lincolnshire.

To find out more about getting involved in Leeds and Woodlesford’s Britain in Bloom campaign information contact richard.gill@leeds.gov.uk or 0113 2375301.

For media enquiries please contact
Debra Kerr
Learning and Leisure Senior Marketing Officer
Tel: 0113 247 8409
Mobile: 07767 05580
Email: debra.kerr@leeds.gov.uk

Notes for Editors:


Ledston - Silver Rose Award
Ledston Luck - Silver Rose Award

Oulton - Silver Gilt Rose Award
Woodlesford - Gold Rose Award

Bramham - Gold Rose Award
Micklefield - Silver Rose Award
Scholes - Silver Gilt Rose Award
Shadwell - Silver Gilt Rose Award
Great Little Preston - Silver

Guiseley - Silver Gilt Rose Award
Calverley - Silver Gilt Rose Award
Beeston - Silver

Swillington - Silver Rose Award

Wetherby - Gold Rose Award

Horsforth - Bronze Rose Award
Morley - Silver Rose Award
Otley - Silver Rose Award
Pudsey - Silver Rose Award
Rothwell - Silver Gilt Rose Award

Leeds - Gold Rose Award

Leeds freshers given safety advice

New students in Leeds need not become a crime statistic if they follow simple advice say community safety chiefs.

One in three UK students will be a victim of crime while at college.

Students in Leeds are the victims of 15% of the city’s burglaries each year.

In nearly 60% of burglaries of student properties in Leeds, the burglar was able to sneak in through an unlocked door or window, compared with only 30% of burglaries against non-students.

National figures show students are the victims of 22% of all robberies.

Chief Inspector Jim McNeil from Safer Leeds said:
“Many new students arriving in Leeds and enjoying the taste of independence for the first time won’t think they have to worry about safety and security.

“That’s why criminals can see them as easy targets.

“Most student-related crime can be easily avoided. If new students only remember three things, remember these:

“Lock your doors and windows, don’t leave your valuables on display, and think about how you’ll keep safe on your journey home.”

Councillor Les Carter, executive board member responsible for community safety and chair of Safer Leeds added:
“Leeds is a great city to be a student in. Don’t spoil it by becoming a crime statistic.

“You can’t spend your life being frightened, and we don’t want you to. Crime levels are falling, and most people are honest and law-abiding. Making sure you remember this basic advice on self-protection will help students enjoy their college years even more.”

The Safer Leeds Crime Reduction Roadshow will be offering students advice on all aspects of safety throughout the week:

21 and 22 September, outside Leeds University Union Building.
24 September, Leeds Metropolitan University, Headingley campus.
25 September, Trinity and All Saints, Horsforth.

Students will be offered property marking kits and personal attack alarms (free to female students).

Safer Leeds is providing the following advice for students:

BURGLARY: In 30% of all burglaries, the burglar was able to sneak in through an unlocked door or window. For students in Leeds, that becomes nearly 60%. Burglars know this, and target student homes, because they know there will be easy pickings, like laptops, games consoles, iPods and more. If you lock your doors and windows, they will pick somewhere else.

Don’t assume someone else will check they are locked if you don’t.

MUGGING: Muggers target students. It’s not a nice thought, but it’s true. Students get lost and drunk. Students have cash and iPods and nice mobiles. Women are more at risk, but men are victims too.

You can reduce the risk by keeping bags closed and zipped or buckled. Keep an eye on rucksacks. If someone grabs it, let it go – bags and their contents can be replaced, but you can’t.

If you’re using a cashpoint, go in daylight, or somewhere well-lit. Go with a friend if you can.

Don’t flash your cash or your mobile.

Walk confidently and be aware of what’s going on around you.

If you’re chatting on the phone or listening to your personal stereo, you won’t be able to hear someone coming up behind you. Your hearing is your best protection: your voice is your best defence.

If you are attacked, shout and run.

DRINK SPIKING: Drink spiking is on the increase. Sometimes people do it to be funny or out of spite. Sometimes it’s because they want to rob or sexually assault you. Men as well as women are at risk. 70% of victims know their spiker.

Don’t accept drinks from a stranger. Leave your drink with someone you really trust if you need to go to the toilet or want to dance. If you suddenly feel odd or unusually drunk, ask a trusted friend to take you home, or speak with bar staff.

Keep an eye out for your friends too, in case they start behaving strangely. They might have been drugged.

GETTING HOME: Think about your journey home before you go out.

Stay in a group if you can. If you can’t, get a taxi home – most responsible bars will have telephone numbers for trusted taxi firms.

Try to keep to well-lit streets. Walking across unlit areas of Woodhouse Moor at night isn’t very clever.

If a friend is worried about getting home, help them.

• Safer Leeds is the Crime and Disorder Reduction Partnership (CDRP) dedicated to tackling drugs and crime in the city. It is a partnership between a number of local agencies including Leeds City Council, West Yorkshire Police, NHS Leeds, West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue and West Yorkshire Police Authority.

Restored rooms re-open at Temple Newsam House

Councillor Bill Hyde in Mr Cutts room

Two rooms in the oldest part of Temple Newsam House have been restored to their original state and are open to the to the public for the first time.

The two rooms have been restored to their eighteenth century appearance with the support of a £72,000 grant from the DCMS/Wolfson Foundation Museums and Galleries Improvement Fund/Building on Success.

It has taken eighteen months to complete the project which looked at the oldest parts of the house, some of which dates back 500 years. A huge team of experts including curators, conservators, carpet weavers and hand printed wallpaper makers used evidence from inventories, bills and scraps of wallpaper and material to restore the rooms. Much of the houses interior decoration and fittings were destroyed in the war when Temple Newsam was used as a n Art Gallery. Since the 1980s there has been a concerted programme to restore the house and this latest work brings the number of restored rooms to 43.

The first room is Mr Cutts room – so called because it was described as the private room of Mordecai Cutts the Senior Estate steward in 1773, detailed in the chimney sweeps cleaning record. For Mr Cutts the room would have been a sitting room/office (room) but very much a work room. The restoration project has involved replica wallpaper and carpets being made; both long and intricate processes. The wallpaper is a crimson flock wallpaper made by hand by Allyson McDermott from small fragments of the 1766 paper. The function of this room has been varied (but it has generally remained a room for working and became)including a time as a schoolroom in the 1880s. On display in this room for the first time is Temple Newsam’s latest acquisition a 1740s Doll’s house or Baby house reputed to have been decorated by Charlotte Bronte whilst working as a governess in Yorkshire.

The second room is Sir John Ramsden’s Dressing Room. A dressing room was an informal bedroom which could also be used as an office. The wallpaper looks surprisingly contemporary and again is hand printed by Allyson McDermott. The carpet is a Wilton carpet woven by Avena carpets of Halifax. The room houses a stunning and unusual fireplace of which only the hearth was still in place. A replica surround and mantel have been made from the same limestone from the ‘Once a week quarry’ in Derbyshire. The limestone is so unusual as it is full of visible fossils.

Leeds City Council lead member for Leisure Councillor Bill Hyde said:
“The work that has been done is fantastic and really brings to life the past character of this part of the house. It is wonderful to see the fantastic work and precision which has gone into the project by such a large group of people. I encourage families and friends to come and visit these newly restored rooms.”

For further information about Temple Newsam House visit www.leeds.gov.uk/templenewsamhouse

Notes to Editors:

Temple Newsam is one of the country's great historic houses and estates. Situated in 1500 acres of stunning "capability brown" parkland it is home to outstanding and nationally designated collections of painting, furniture, textiles, silver and ceramics. It has an ever-changing programme of exhibitions and events. These two rooms are the latest part of the house to be restored in the restoration programme over the last 25 years.

A special programme of talks will be taking place to mark the re-opening of the rooms:
22nd September, 2.30 – 4pm Interior Restoration Revealed – people and personalities
29 September 2009, 2.30 – 4pm Interior Restoration Revealed – design decisions
6th October , 2.30 – 4pm Interior Restoration revealed – the whole story

Tickets for each talk are £6 and include afternoon tea in the Dining room.


For media enquiries please contact:
Catherine Milburn, Leeds City Council press office,
on 0113 247 8285
Email: catherine.milburn@leeds.gov.uk

Green and community jobs in Leeds to get a boost

A council-led scheme that could create hundreds of new jobs – all for long-term unemployed young people in some of Leeds’ job ‘black spots’ – has secured a promise of government funding.

From early next year, the money from the government’s new Future Jobs Fund will mean a ‘guaranteed offer’ of a job to young people aged between 18 and 24 who have been unemployed for almost a year.

It is designed to create real and sustainable jobs – focusing on ‘green’ jobs and those that help the community, while giving extra aid to those living in unemployment ‘hotspots’ who face significant disadvantages in the labour market.

The council has put in a bid for a £4.7m grant, which it is hoped would create 734 new jobs over the next 18 months, but has yet to hear from the government what its allocation will be.

Under the scheme jobs must be new, must last a minimum of six months and must be of direct benefit to local communities. It is hoped the Future Jobs Fund will create 734 jobs in Leeds and 150,000 nationwide over the next 18 months.

It is recognised that jobs are scarce in the current market. It is therefore important that people get transferable skills that will give them a wide range of potential careers. There will be a full package of in-work support including mentoring or ‘buddy’ schemes, training to develop basic and more specialist skills, plus help with CV writing and job searching.

Support will be tailored to individual needs to improve people’s chances of staying in employment. Practical assistance will be given in the form of travel passes and funding for clothing and equipment.

The programme will also involve working to deliver pre-apprenticeship placements with the possibility of entry onto Work4Leeds Apprenticeships and other council vacancies. These and jobs offered through the Leeds Teaching Hospitals Trust will provide opportunities for young people who might otherwise have difficulty accessing employment within the public sector, particularly in the current climate.

The scheme will be delivered by the council in partnership with Jobcentre Plus, other public sector organisations and community and voluntary organisations in the city.

Where jobs are not sustainable, help to access jobs elsewhere or to consider self-employment will be given. People leaving the programme after six months will gain useful work experience and transferable skills, with some picking up accredited qualifications to significantly improve their employment prospects.

Councillor Les Carter, Leeds City Council’s executive board member for jobs and skills, said:
“This chance to work together to try and stem the growing problem of youth unemployment is very welcome
“We want to provide real help to people who are worst affected by the recession, but ensure that those jobs are sustainable and they don’t just go back on benefits when the scheme ends.
“This is very much a step in the right direction and fits into our plans to make sure Leeds is in the ideal position when the economy recovers.”

Ian Hunter, West Yorkshire District Manager at Jobcentre Plus, said:
"The successful bid is brilliant news for the city and will provide many additional job opportunities for the long term unemployed young people of Leeds.
“In putting together our proposals, we were also keen to include the 'wrap around' support that someone might need to be able to get and hold down a job and progress in the future."

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

A week of celebrations for Leeds Children’s Centres

Picture caption: Families enjoying a teddy bear's picnic at one of Leeds' Children's Centres

Children's centres across Leeds are planning to show off what makes them special during a week of celebrations.

Sure Start Children's Centre Week is being celebrated across the country from next Monday (14 September) to promote the support available to families in their local children's centre.

Leeds already has 48 centres, with another 10 in the pipeline. Services on offer range from early education and childcare to help with job hunting and information on all aspects of bringing up a family.

Centres also offer a variety of sessions such as baby massage, healthy eating and smoke-free homes to breastfeeding support and stay and play sessions.

A host of events are planned during the week at children’s centres across the city including:

A special celebration event at Quarry Mount Children’s Centre in Woodhouse on Tuesday 15 September. Staff will be laying on a series of activities during the day for local families. Children will be able to attend a Well Being clinic, as well as joining in plenty of fun games and a drumming session. A teddy bear’s picnic will be at 12 noon, where Leeds Rhinos’ mascot Ronnie the Rhino will help children to learn about healthy living. Parents will also be able to chat to centre staff and learn about all the facilities on offer.

Castleton Children’s Centre at Castleton Primary School, New Wortley, is combining the Children’s Centre week celebrations with the opening of a new community building on the campus. Local families will be able to look around the new facility and find out what services will be on offer. Representatives from Job Centre Plus, Citizens Advice Bureau, health services and family outreach workers will be available to discuss their services with and children who attend the centre will also be doing a musical performance to entertain the guests. (Members of the media are welcome to attend this event from 1pm on Friday 18 September).

On Wednesday 16 September Swarcliffe Children’s Centre is holding a Teddy Bear day to encourage families who don’t currently use the centre to come along to see what is available. For younger visitors there will be face painting and craft activities, and parents and carers will be able to learn about the other services on offer at the centre, including Job Centre Plus and a childcare back to work advisor.

As well as holding two drop-in coffee mornings for the local community, Meadowfield Children’s Centre at Meadowfield Primary School Halton Moor, is inviting families who use the centre to share their stories to help them put together a book called ‘How my centre helps us’. During the week, staff at Meadowfield will also be launching a competition to design a logo for the centre.

Little London Children’s Centre is holding a celebration open afternoon on Thursday 17 September between 3.30 and 6pm, to let parents and the wider community see what happens at the centre. Representatives from partner organisations including Barnardo’s will also be attending.

Richmond Hill Children’s Centre (under 3s) is inviting local families to attend an informal drop-in session between 3.30 and 5.30 on Wednesday 16 September, to find out what facilities are on offer.

Staff at Harehills Children’s Centre have prepared a storyboard display to demonstrate the progress the centre has made during the three years it has been open. The storyboard will be on display at the centre throughout Sure Start Children’s Centre week and later in the month it will be on display at a local community forum.

Councillor Richard Harker, executive member responsible for Early Years said:“Leeds Sure Start Children’s Centres are already proving very popular with families across the city. This week will provide a great opportunity for families who have not yet discovered the wealth of services on offer, to visit their local centre, meet with staff and see for themselves how the centre can meet their needs.”

Between them, the 48 centres across Leeds provide almost 3,000 early education and childcare places, and have a reach of 30,000 families.

For media enquiries, please contact:
Emma Whittell, Leeds City Council Press Office, on (0113) 2474713
Email: emma.whittell@leeds.gov.uk

A National Care Service - join the Big Care Debate in Leeds

Thursday 24 September, 1.00-4.30pm, Sullivan Room, Leeds Town Hall
Monday 28 September, 9.30am-1.00pm, Sullivan Room, Leeds Town Hall
Thursday 1 October, 1.00-4.30pm, Albert Room, Leeds Town Hall

Leeds people are being invited to join a nation-wide debate on the future of care for an increasingly ageing population, as people are living longer and need different kinds of support in later life.

The government has produced a consultation document, Shaping the Future of Care Together on the reform of the adult care and support system in England.

Care and support helps people do everyday things like living in their own homes, working, shopping and caring for families – things which most of us take for granted.

The current system was designed back in the 1940s, when life expectancy was shorter and social attitudes and expectations were very different. The government says it urgently needs updating.

Shaping the Future of Care Together is the government’s vision to build a National Care Service that according to ministers is fair, simple and affordable for all adults in England. It sets out options for service reform and radical suggestions for how a new system could be organised and paid for.

The consultation, known as the Big Care Debate will continue until 13 November 2009 and the government wants to hear as many views as possible.

Leeds City Council’s Adult Social Care directorate is introducing the debate in the city and has arranged for three half-day seminars where people will be able to hear presentations on the proposals and have their views recorded.

Councillor Peter Harrand, Leeds City Council’s Executive Board Member for Adult Health & Social Care said:
“This is the most important debate around adult social care for 60 years. The outcome of the consultation will have far-reaching effects on how we care for people in later life – and, importantly, on how it is paid for.

“This is a debate that should not just be confined to older people, but should involve young people too, as it is their care which is at stake.”

It is hoped to involve all groups with an interest in caring for adults: older people, young people, existing and future service users, care providers of all kinds, voluntary organisations and health and social care professionals. The sessions will be on:

Thursday 24 September, 1.00-4.30pm, Sullivan Room, Leeds Town Hall
Monday 28 September, 9.30am-1.00pm, Sullivan Room, Leeds Town Hall
Thursday 1 October, 1.00-4.30pm, Albert Room, Leeds Town Hall

Admission to the seminars is free and people wanting to attend should contact Val Gant by telephone (0113 224 3521) or email val.gant@leeds.gov.uk to book a place Light refreshments will be provided.

Note for editors:
A copy of Shaping the Future of Care Together can be found online at www.careandsupport.direct.gov.uk


For media enquiries please contact:
John Donegan, Leeds City Council Press Office (0113) 247 4450
email John.Donegan@leeds.gov.uk