Thursday, 1 October 2009

Homeowners hit by recession can still turn to £1m mortgage relief fund

A £1m fund aimed at aiding homeowners hardest hit by the economic downturn is still looking for people to help.

The Golden Triangle HomeSave Plus Scheme has been created by the Golden Triangle Partnership, which aims to help homeowners living in the areas of high house prices between Leeds, Harrogate and York.

The scheme, launched in January of this year, has been developed to help prevent eligible homeowners who are in financial difficulty from losing their homes. A robust assessment ensures that the public funding is only directed to those who need it the most.

So far the scheme has prevented three homeowners from losing their homes. A total of 100 enquiries have been received – the majority of homeowners receiving advice and assistance, with alternative solutions found to avoid their homes being repossessed.

Some homeowners experiencing financial difficulty may be unaware of the help that is available or may think that the assistance being offered is ‘too good to be true’. A high profile radio advertising campaign begins this Saturday on stations across the area to let people know about the HomeSave Plus scheme.

And while this scheme targets the so-called Golden Triangle of high house prices between Leeds, York and Harrogate, a city-wide Leeds mortgage relief scheme is up and running.

The Partnership aims to continuously improve the scheme and has recently responded to feedback from homeowners by increasing the property price cap from £275,000 to £350,000, which reflects the high property values in the Golden Triangle area.

The Partnership welcomes the various government interventions, such as the pre-action protocol and the introduction of the Government’ National Mortgage Rescue Scheme, which are going some way in reducing the numbers of homeowners being repossessed.

Homeowners living in the Golden Triangle area, and experiencing financial difficulty, should always in the first instance contact their lender.

Councillor Les Carter, Leeds City Council’s executive board member for housing, said:
“I want to make it quite clear who this scheme is for – it’s for ordinary people and families who are having problems paying their mortgage because of the recession or unemployment, not for people who own £1m houses.
“The house prices of the Golden Triangle hide the fact that there are hundreds, if not thousands, of working people in the area who struggle to make ends meet.
“The process takes time, but the help is there and we’re appealing for people to come forward and apply. Even if it turns out that we can help in a different way, with advice or other support, then it’s worth not losing your home.”

For further information about the scheme and to check eligibility, homeowners should contact their local council, who will explore all their housing options and their local CAB or other qualified money/debt advice agency who will provide advice and undertake a financial assessment.

Notes for editors
The Golden Triangle area is the area between Leeds, York and Harrogate which suffers from very high house prices – leaving many local people unable to afford their own homes.

In terms of affordability, the Golden Triangle area is comparable to outer suburbs in greater London – in addition there are large differences in income levels compared to house prices - lower in the north but higher in the south.

Who is eligible?
• Homeowners who have suffered a recent loss of income
• Homeowners who have a property worth less than £350,000
• Homeowners who have at least 3% equity in their property
• Homeowners living in the designated areas of the Golden Triangle
• Only when all available options have been explored and exhausted will a homeowner be eligible to be considered for help under the scheme. Mortgage Rescue may not be suitable for everyone
• Homeowners in financial difficulty and at risk of losing their home due to a recent change in their circumstances
• Homeowners eligible for assistance under Options One and Two below must be able to demonstrate that they can afford home ownership on an ongoing basis
• The local CAB or other money/debt advice agencies will provide advice and undertake a financial assessment.

Successful homeowners will be assisted with one of the following:
Option One
– Equity Loan to clear arrears on mortgage and/or secured loan and future monthly mortgage and/or secured loan payments. This will be for a period of up to a maximum of 12 monthly mortgage/secured loan payments
Option Two – Equity Loan to clear arrears on mortgage and /or secured loan and to include a lump sum to reduce the balance outstanding on the mortgage and /or secured loan, reducing future monthly mortgage/secured loan payments to an affordable level
Option Three – Equity Loan to clear arrears on mortgage and /or secured loan and payment of future monthly mortgage and/or secured loan payments to enable a planned sale of a property.
Please note the maximum loan available for all options is £35,000

Contact Numbers
To check eligibility for the scheme - homeowners should approach their local council or Citizens Advice Bureaux or advice agency.
Local Council CAB
Leeds 0113 2224412 0844 477 4788
Harrogate 01423 556699 01423 567150
York 01904 554500 0844 826 9705

For further information about the scheme, homeowners should contact Guinness Northern Counties on 0845 6037604 or the Golden Triangle Partnership on 0113 2475885.

Eligible areas of the Golden Triangle
To qualify, homeowners will need to live in the Golden Triangle area of either the Harrogate District, City of York or the following areas of Leeds – Thorner, Scarcorft, Barwick, Harewood, Bardsey, East Keswick, Shadwell, Otley, Pool in Wharfedale, Arthington, Wetherby, Collingham, Linton, Bramham, Clifford, Boston Spa, Thorp Arch, Walton, Bramhope, Garforth, Calverley, Weetwood, Adel, Roundhay, Alwoodley, Horsforth, Cookridge, and Scholes.

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

Meeting planned to try and resolve refuse strike in Leeds

This statement has been issued jointly by: Leeds City Council, GMB and Unison

Two trades unions and Leeds City Council are to begin fresh talks to try and find a way of resolving industrial action affecting street cleaning and refuse collection services in Leeds.

The GMB, Unison and the council have jointly agreed to meet on Monday morning (October 5th) to discuss possible solutions.

The strike action began on September 7th and is now in its fourth week.

Neil Derrick from GMB said:

“We are pleased that all sides are returning to the table.

“We believe there are ways of resolving this dispute and we welcome the opportunity to discuss those openly.”

Alan Hughes from Unison said:

“The time has come for us to start talking again and this is a logical next step.

“We are sure that there is a way to end this dispute and we are happy to explore the options available.”

Councillor Richard Brett, council leader, said:

“This joint agreement to hold exploratory talks is a very positive sign.

“We need to discuss the issue of efficiency improvements if we are to resolve this dispute.

“I have said all along that there are ways of bringing the strike to an end and I am hopeful the meeting with the GMB and Unison will be productive.”

Posted via web from Leeds City Council

It’s official – West North West Homes Leeds puts customers first

Putting customers first has meant an organisation that helps manage council homes in Leeds has become the first in the county to win the new government award for customer service.

West North West Homes Leeds is the first Arms-Length Management Organisation (ALMO) in the county to have successfully achieved the government’s Customer Service Excellence Award.

Assessors said that West North West Homes Leeds had a proper understanding of its customers’ needs and, therefore, provides services which are important to them, with information that is clearly understood and accessible.

Customers were satisfied that they were consulted on important issues, and that services were delivered on time and to an excellent quality. Levels of customer satisfaction were the highest for any of the three ALMOs that cover the city.

Gaining this accreditation is really important but it also means that West North West Homes will be aiming to retain this standard on an annual basis so commitment to customers will be maintained.

Cathy Clelland, chair of the West North West Homes Leeds board, said:
"This award means that we have been externally validated and that our mission to ‘put customers first’ is alive within the organisation.
"It is testament to the hard work of the staff who make sure customers’ needs are at the heart of everything they do.
"Achieving the award also puts us in an excellent position as we are currently preparing for our next audit inspection which will take place in March next year."

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

Film exhibition challenges people of Leeds to go green

A stressed out mole, a romantic dinner for two and a changing landscape come together in a new film exhibition designed to make viewers think differently about the environmental challenges facing Leeds.

The exhibition, Avert CO2de Red, showcases different environmental issues affecting Leeds and it’s residents and aims to inspire viewers to take action.

The films will be shown as part of 2009’s Light Night festivities, hosted by Leeds City Council and Europe Direct Leeds.

Light Night celebrates the spectacular wealth and breadth of creative activity in Leeds. Over one night, 60 city centre venues open up to host over 80 different arts performances, exhibitions, installations, and activities.

The films being exhibited were made as part of the 2008 Reduction Festival. Artists and filmmakers were challenged to create films to help inspire discussion on some of the bigger environmental concerns facing people today. The exhibition also features snippets from Europa, the European Commission’s audio visual service.

Councillor James Monaghan, executive member for Environmental Services and chair of the Climate Change Partnership said:
“Whilst climate change is a global issue, it affects all of us and how we live our lives. Many people and businesses across Leeds are becoming increasingly active and are taking practical steps to reduce their impact on the environment. However, some people may need some encouragement to kick start their environmentally friendly changes.

“These films were made as a way to prompt debates about how we as individuals and organisations can take action to look after Leeds. Climate change does affect us locally and I hope that viewing the exhibition will give people ideas and inspire them to take action.”

Avert CO2de Red is showing at Leeds nti, Old Broadcasting House, Woodhouse Lane, Leeds from 8pm on Friday 9 October. People attending the exhibition will receive a free ideas bag crammed with practical hints and items.

People will also be invited to take the Leeds Climate Pledge. The pledge encourages people to take action, no matter how small to reduce Leeds’ carbon emissions. The climate counter on www.leedsinitiative.org/environment shows the world exactly what the people of Leeds is doing about climate change.

If people sign the pledge with their own specific action, they will be entered into a prize draw and stand the chance of winning a prize bundle of energy saving goodies worth over £250 to help them go even further in reducing their impact on the environment.


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


Notes to editors:
Light Night is organised by Leeds City Council's Arts and Regeneration Unit, which aims to create opportunities for local people to take part in the cultural life of the city, support local artists and arts organisations working in communities, and promote partnership working within the arts and cultural sector.
Europe Direct Leeds is part of a network of 16 centres in the UK, 500 across Europe which aim to act as an interface between the EU and its citizens at local level. Europe Direct Leeds can help with general questions on every aspect of Europe including:
o EU facts and figures
o Travelling, studying and working or retiring in European Union (EU) countries
o How the EU works and how EU decisions affect the UK
o Information on funding opportunities
o Free publications, brochures and guides on all aspects of the EU
o Freephone access to the Europe Direct call centre on 00 800 6789 10 11
o European policies, programmes, legislation and directives

ENDS

Distraction devastates




A lifetime of grief could be the dreadful price paid for a split-second of thoughtlessness near busy traffic.

That’s the message that Leeds council wants to get across to young people with a campaign aimed at saving lives on the region’s roads.

Studies of road accidents in West Yorkshire have shown that a major factor in many road traffic collisions is pedestrian distraction.

Whether the distraction is caused by mobile phones, personal music players, too much alcohol or simply a momentary lapse of concentration – the consequences of a serious road accident can wreck the lives of everyone involved and, all too often, it is the pedestrian who sustains serious or even fatal injuries.

Some families never recover from losing a loved one in such circumstances, which is why five West Yorkshire councils: Bradford, Leeds, Wakefield, Calderdale and Kirklees, have joined forces to launch a campaign to raise awareness of the risks.

The ‘Distraction Devastates’ campaign is chiefly aimed at young adult pedestrians who make up the bulk of the victims of this type of accident.

Eye-catching posters will be displayed in telephone boxes, on buses and in other prominent places in the city, and particularly in the Hyde Park and Headingley areas to target the student population returning to the city after the long summer break.

Councillor Stuart Andrew, lead member responsible for road safety said:
“Many young people are totally unaware about the dangers of being distracted while crossing the road.

“They are often listening to music or talking on the phone and are completely oblivious to the traffic around them. All too often this lapse in concentration can have terrible consequences.

“The aim of this campaign is to get young people thinking about the dangers they face every time they cross the road.”

ENDS

Additional information

464 pedestrians were injured on the roads of Leeds in 2008, 114 of whom were either killed or seriously injured.
For further statistical data, please contact the council's accident studies team by email: accident.studies@leeds.gov.uk

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

Red carpet treatment for winners of Leeds’ own ‘gardening Oscars’





Captions: Premier Award winners Mr and Mrs Reynolds Best Garden, as well as pupils from Bardsey Primary School, collect their awards. Also, some of the winning gardens.


The winners of the annual East North East Homes Leeds Best Kept Gardens competition - billed locally as the Oscars of community gardening – have been rewarded at a specially-arranged awards ceremony.

Local gardeners flocked to the ceremony, held at Leeds Civic Hall, to hear the results of the popular competition which attracted around 90 entries this year.

Sponsored by partner organisations of East North East Homes Leeds, including Leeds-based affordable housing and regeneration firm Lovell, the competition was not just for experienced gardeners – people new to gardening were very much encouraged to enter.

Categories this year included Best Large and Small Garden, Best Floral Containers/Baskets and Best School and Community Gardens. Gold, Silver, Bronze, Highly Commended and Commended awards were up for grabs in each category with overall ‘Best in Show’ prizes on offer for the Best Garden and Best School Garden awards.

The awards were presented by Steve Hunt, Chief Executive of ENEHL, and the Lord Mayor of Leeds, Cllr Judith Elliott. The overall Best School Garden award was won by Bardsey Primary School and the overall Best in Show Garden prize was presented to Mr and Mrs Reynolds of Gipton by the Lord Mayor, along with Lovell regional training advisor Sharon Tyer and operations manager Simon Hogg, who helped to judge the competition. The Premier Award was also presented to Mr and Mrs Reynolds by the Lord Mayor.

The judges’ comments included “It is a pleasure to see how this garden has matured. Planting and health of plants is superb, and it has taken real vision to create this garden from waste ground in less than two years. A garden to be really proud of.” and “The combined enthusiasm of the children, the teaching staff and volunteers from Bardsey Primary School make this an outstanding entry.”

Angelena Fixter, chair of the East North East Homes Leeds board, said:
“This year sees a bumper crop of entries into the garden competition. Every entrant can be rightly proud of their efforts to promote their skills and demonstrate that ENEHL’s gardeners are a cut above the rest.
“When the competition started, little did we realise just what wealth of talent would emerge.
“From its humble beginnings with about 30 entries, this competition has grown with over 80 gardeners taking part, and is tribute to all those unsung heroes which make ENEHL what it is, one of the best floral areas in Leeds, well done to everyone.”

Sharon Tyer, Lovell regional training advisor and one of the judges of the competition, said:
“This is the second year in a row that we have been involved in ENEHL’s Best Kept Gardens competition and the standard of the entries this year is again excellent. We’ve visited a lot of fantastic gardens and it really has been tough to choose the overall winners. All of the residents that took part clearly put in a tremendous amount of time and effort.”

Lovell, which is based at the City West Office Park in Gelderd Road, Leeds, is currently carrying out a major housing improvement programme for East North East Homes Leeds.

List of winners:
Premier Award: Mr & Mrs Reynolds
Best in Show Garden: Mr & Mrs Reynolds
Best School Garden: Bardsey Primary School
Gold Awards: Mrs Angrave, Miss Waites, Mrs Reynolds, Mr Barrett, Mrs Gibson, Mr & Mrs Reynolds, Mrs Davey, Mr Dodsworth, Mrs Wilkinson, Mr Leite, Mrs Thompson, Mr Dodsworth, Mr Hebbron, Mr Harvey, Mrs Lewis, Mr Upton, Mrs Hodkinson, Mrs Barret, Mrs Sugden

Gold Schools: Bardsey Primary School, Moor Allerton Hall Primary School, Richmond Hill Primary School

Silver Awards: Mr Scott, Mrs Nelson, Mr Latham, Mrs Huggan, Mrs Clipstone, Mrs Bestwick, Mr & Mrs Walsh, Mr Grierson, Mr Upton, Mr Stanley, Mrs Hiley, Mrs Britton, Mr Thomas, Mr Reynolds, Mr Richardson, Mr Harmer, Mr Downes, Mr Addams, Mrs Firth

Silver School Gardens: John Jamieson School

Bronze Awards: Mr Wild, Mr Uttley, Mrs Brooks, Mr Wilson, Mr & Mrs Reading, Mrs Buttery, Mr Pollard, Mrs Brooks, Mrs Wilson, Mrs Rider, Mrs Stowe, Miss Burns

Bronze School Awards: Allerton CofE Primary School, 1st Cross Gates Brownies – Cross Gates Primary

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

Small businesses home and overseas set to benefit from funding

Small businesses in South Africa are set to get a boost with the news that Leeds City Council has secured funding to enable better sharing of business knowledge and advice between the city and its partners.

The council has secured funding of £40k to work with two South African authorities to help them to create a more sustainable local economic base by encouraging good practice both from local councils and amongst large companies in providing the opportunities for small local businesses to gain work.

Leeds City Council will work in partnership with Steve Tshwete Local Municipality, Mpumalanga Province and eThekwini Municipality (Durban) to help encourage and support the growth of local small, micro and medium sized enterprises (SMMEs) by spreading good practice from one municipality to another and out to businesses and other public sector organisations.

Small businesses in Leeds will also benefit from the project as the council will be sharing its guidance on good procurement practices with large corporate organisations in the city. The pilot project will encourage better procurement both as a tool to increase business competitiveness and to encourage the use of more local suppliers. The council’s procurement unit will be holding a workshop in January 2010 to provide companies with advice.

Councillor Richard Brett, leader of the council and executive board member with responsibility for international relations said:
“This project gives us a fantastic opportunity to share the good practice that we have developed to the benefit of small businesses in Leeds, with our partners in South Africa.

“We have already worked with Durban to improve their internal procurement practices and support the start up and growth of SMMEs in the area. This new project will give them the opportunity to share their expertise with other areas of the country and help to establish them as a regional centre of excellence.

“It will also help support services in Leeds to review and refine our practices to make sure that we are doing all we can to assist our own small businesses to bid for and win tenders in the city.”

ENDS
Notes to editor

As part of its international strategy Leeds City Council works with its South African partners to help overcome the barriers to economic growth and equal opportunities created by the Apartheid era.

This funding has been awarded under the Commonwealth Local Government Forum’s (CLGF) Good Practice Scheme. The CLGF is a DfID funded organisation that works to promote and strengthen effective democratic local government throughout the Commonwealth.

For further details about the forthcoming Leeds workshop please contact Joanne Hall on 0113 2474476.

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