Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Volunteer for Leeds

Council chiefs have given the go ahead to plans to make 2010 the Leeds Year of Volunteering.

The proposals will provide an opportunity to celebrate and promote volunteering in the city, with its main aim being to engage every Leeds citizen in a volunteering opportunity during 2010.

The council are already working with Voluntary Action Leeds to develop a year-long programme of events to promote volunteering. The first of these is an art competition, which is open to all children and young people in the city, and will provide illustrations for each of the 10 themes of volunteering. These will then be used to promote the event throughout the year. The competition ends on 23 October.

It is also proposed to expand the city centre volunteer centre, which currently operates just two days a week from an office inside the main city library. The new centre will open for longer hours to effectively match people interested in volunteering some of their time with organisations, charities and groups who need a helping hand.

Councillor Richard Brett, leader of the council said:
“There is already an amazing amount of good work going on in the city, but we want to encourage more people to get involved.

“Volunteering is a really positive experience for those who take part, and can provide a real boost to people’s confidence, whilst helping them to develop new skills that can transfer into the workplace.

“It also gives people a real sense of belonging to the communities that they live and work in.

“We hope that the 2010 Leeds Year of Volunteering will encourage more people to get involved in activities in their communities and help to improve the quality of life for local residents,”

Volunteering provides a range of benefits to individuals and to the wider community. It helps to unlock talent and creativity and allows people to build new skills, confidence and independence that can transfer into their working lives. It also helps them to develop a sense of belonging to their community. Volunteering activities are also a great way to encourage harmony within communities.

Volunteering is beneficial for organisations and companies that provide services to citizens. The council already have hundreds of volunteers involved in a wide range of activities such as school governors, mentors working with young people in schools and youth services, working on environmental projects with parks and countryside, archiving for museums and galleries, helping out during the Leeds International Film Festival, providing a books at home service through the local libraries, and supporting people to live independent lives through adult social care.

Anyone interested in getting involved with volunteering in Leeds or wanting to organise activities during the year should contact Natasha Mort at Voluntary Action Leeds on 0113 213 2595.

For further information about the art competition and sponsorship opportunities and benefits throughout the 2010 Leeds Year of Volunteering, please contact Jane Stageman on 0113 247 4352.

Additional info

The four aims of the year of volunteering are:
 To celebrate and promote volunteering
 To increase community engagement through volunteering
 To create more volunteers and volunteering opportunities
 To deliver a quality volunteering experience

The ambition is to engage every citizen of Leeds in a volunteering opportunity during 2010.

For media enquiries, please contact;
Claire Macklam, Leeds City Council press office (0113) 395 1578

Takeaway owner’s bill of £13,000 for filthy and dangerous conditions

Caption: Some of the filthy conditions uncovered by inspectors at Mill Hill kebab shop.

The owner of a city centre takeaway who ignored warnings that his business was filthy, was infested with pests and present a significant risk to public health has been ordered to pay more than £13,000.

At Leeds Magistrate’s Court on Monday, Raja Muhammad Ali, who ran the Mill Hill Kebab takeaway at 4 Mill Hill, Leeds LS1 5DQ, was fined £9,000 and ordered to pay full costs of £4,016, plus a victim surcharge of £15. He had pleaded guilty to all seven environmental health offences.

Magistrates heard that Ali, of 63 Gladstone Street, Bradford BD3 9NP, had already been advised that he needed to take action about conditions at the shop.

But when an environmental health officer carried out another inspection on 9th December 2008, he found poor drainage and infestations of insects.

Loose floor coverings had gross deposits of grease, dirt and debris - including food and dead insects. A wall was so dusty that when food trays were leant against it, they left marks on the dirty surface. Other surfaces such as a sink where food was washed and the hand wash basin were also dirty.

Dirt had accumulated on a chopping board used with pizza toppings and the board was damaged so that it was not easy to clean. Old cardboard boxes were being used to cover work surfaces to soak up grease. Items used to handle food were not clean, including the kebab shaver and a pizza slicing wheel that were each covered in old food.

Food was seen to be at risk of contamination when attempts were made to clean a kebab grill whilst the kebab meat was still in the unit.

The court heard the business had been visited on previous occasions before but there had been insufficient action by the business to comply with the legal requirements. This was despite the service of legal Hygiene Improvement Notices on Ali and a written warning.

Even just last month, the council had to write to Ali to again warn him about conditions at the takeaway.

Councillor James Monaghan, Leeds City Council’s executive board member for environmental services, said:
“The conditions described to the court are nothing short of shocking and I am pleased that this has been brought to court.
"It is clear that warnings were ignored, putting the health of the public at greater risk.
"Although conditions were not so severe that we could use our legal powers to close the takeaway immediately, we will continue to rigorously enforce the law and use all the powers at our disposal against businesses which choose not to comply with hygiene requirements.”

For media enquiries, please contact:
Michael Molcher, Leeds City Council press office (0113) 224 3937

Council presses ahead with plans for a Leeds Arena

Leeds City Council will confirm at a meeting today of its executive board, that the Leeds Arena project will progress as planned to the existing time-table. This is despite the Government asking for further work on the business case before it allows Yorkshire Forward to invest in this important regional facility.

The announcement follows the release on Friday last week of a press release issued by a Government department* stating that the business case for the project requires further work before support could be given to Yorkshire Forward to invest in the project.

The council is concerned that the Government's delay in approving the current proposal could cast doubts as to whether the Leeds Arena will actually go ahead. However, the arena is Leeds' priority development project and the city council is determined that the project will proceed, with or without the Government's approval.

Councillor Andrew Carter, Leeds City Council executive member responsible for the Leeds Arena, said:

"The development of an arena in Leeds is our number one priority and we are fully committed to bringing this ambition to life within the already published timetable. Whilst the Government may wish to delay its own funding approval, we are confident that we have the ability to proceed, irrespective of the Government's position on this matter.

"The reality is that the Leeds Arena project matches pound for pound investment by other regional development agencies in other arena schemes, for example, the Liverpool Arena, and represents good value for money in terms of the tax payers of Leeds."

The council has indicated that it is committed to maintaining further dialogue with both Yorkshire Forward and the Government to resolve this issue, but it will in any event agree a reserve funding mechanism at its executive board meeting today, Wednesday, 14 October.

While the detail of the alternative funding mechanism will remain confidential until the government has come to a final decision on Yorkshire Forward's proposed funding mechanism, it will provide the citizens of Leeds with an assurance that the Leeds Arena can be developed irrespective of whether the government approves Yorkshire Forward's proposed funding package. The council is confident of Yorkshire Forward's continuing support and will be discussing its reserve plan to ensure that the current timetable is maintained.

Commenting on the opposition to the Leeds Arena from Sheffield MPs, Councillor Carter said:

"It is widely known that Sheffield has received over £90million more than Leeds in the last ten years from Yorkshire Forward - Leeds has never questioned how Sheffield has spent the money allocated to them and it is interesting to note that they have chosen not to prioritise any of this money to further develop the Sheffield Arena.

"We are not concerned how Sheffield wishes to prioritise Yorkshire Forward funding in their area and what we do ask is that they stop interfering with priority projects in Leeds.

"The Leeds Arena is this city's number one development scheme. It will provide huge regeneration benefits for the whole of the city and help Leeds become the world class city we all aspire it to be - and Leeds City Council is fully committed to delivering it. The fact is that Leeds will have a world class arena in operation as planned by 2012."

Notes to Editors

*The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS).

A report on the council's alternative funding proposals for the Leeds Arena will be presented to the council's executive board at its meeting on Wednesday 14th October at 1pm at the Leeds Civic Hall. Please note that the paper and subsequent discussion will be exempt from public scrutiny for reasons of commercial sensitivity.


For media enquiries please contact:
Sara Hyman, Leeds City Council press office (0113) 224 3602

Statement about workforce planning document story in the Yorkshire Post

A Leeds City Council spokesman said:

“This document – which is in draft form - is not about job cuts – it is about how the council plans for the future.

“It was written earlier in the year, has not been updated since and does not yet reflect changes which have happened in the last few months.

“Workforce planning is an ongoing process and is vital if the council is to react to the changing needs of Leeds residents.”


For media enquiries, please contact:
Andy Carter, Leeds City Council press office (0113) 395 0393