Friday, 12 February 2010

History-maker Alicia dives into the record books

Caption: Alicia Blagg after claiming victory and an action shot from her performing at the British Gas National Diving Cup (if shots are used please credit

A young diver from Leeds is hot on the heels of wonderkid Tom Daley after making history at the British Gas National Diving Cup last weekend.

City of Leeds diver Alicia Blagg performed superbly at the event in Sheffield to become the youngest-ever double English National Champion at just 13 years of age.

The young star from Woodlesford in Leeds only missed out on breaking World Champion Daley’s overall record for youngest-ever English National Champion, which he set in 2007 during his meteoric rise to glory, by a matter of weeks.

Alicia continued the form which saw her impress at the CAMO Invitational event in Montreal before Christmas as she headed a field including Olympian Hayley Sage in the both the preliminaries and the final to clinch victory in the Women’s 1m Springboard event.

After achieving individual glory, Alicia then teamed up with City of Leeds clubmate Rebecca Gallantree to also win the Women’s 3m Synchronised event to complete a dream double.

Alicia is part of Leeds City Council’s Diving Training Scheme based at the Aquatics Centre at the John Charles Centre for Sport, and is coached by Edwin Jongejans, who is himself a former world champion.

Alicia first served notice of her talent with a fifth-place finish at the age of just 12 in the British Championship last year, and her achievement is also notable as she is the first diver selected by British Diving for their Talent Identification Scheme who has gone on to become a senior national champion. The scheme was set up in 2002 to identify potential star divers at the 2012 Olympic Games with Alicia being selected for it in 2004.

Alicia’s success was the highlight of a stunning event for the City of Leeds female squad, as they dominated the competition by winning of all of the disciplines.

Olympian Rebecca Gallantree continues to go from strength to strength after her appearance in Beijing as apart from teaming up with Alicia to win she also claimed victory in the Women’s individual 3m Springboard event and together with Southampton’s Stacie Powell also won the Women’s Platform Synchronised title to secure an impressive three gold medals.

City of Leeds also claimed a 1-2 finish in the Women’s Platform event as Helen Galashan put in a stunning performance in the final to rise from sixth place in the preliminaries to take the title, while clubmate Sarah Barrow showed she is on her way back after a lengthy back injury by taking second place in her first competitive appearance in a year.

Other notable performances saw Suzanne Collins and Jenny Cowen claim silver medals in the Women’s Platform Synchro while 14-year-old Hannah Starling earned a bronze medal in the Women’s 3m Synchro.

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

“Congratulations to the whole City of Leeds squad for these amazing results. We are all immensely proud of Alicia for her fantastic achievement, but Rebecca and all our female divers also deserve a huge amount of credit as they dominated their events.

“The City of Leeds squad and their coaches Ady Hinchliffe, Edwin Jongejans and Jenny Leeming are the ideal example of what can be achieved when skills, talent and enthusiasm come together in the right facilities and environment. They are a wonderful success story which everyone in Leeds can rightly be very proud of.”

Notes to editors:

Leeds City Council’s Leeds Diving Training Scheme is managed by Adrian Hinchliffe and has been running since 1986. The scheme provides opportunities in the sport of diving for all ages and from recreational to elite level. In total there are over 300 people taking part in the scheme on a daily and weekly basis, making it one of the biggest diving programmes in Britain.

For further information about the scheme contact Adrian Hinchliffe at, Edwin Jongejans at or call 0113 395 7363.


For media enquiries please contact:
Roger Boyde, Learning and Leisure Media Relations Officer,
Tel 0113 247 5472, Email:

Award-winning photographer heading for Leeds

Caption: Andy Rouse's stunning work and the man himself in action

The man behind the stunning collection of wildlife images currently on display around the Ice Cube on Millennium Square is to make a special visit to Leeds later this month.

Award-winning photographer Andy Rouse, whose amazing shots of wildlife living in the Arctic and Antarctic form the free large-scale exhibition ‘Edge of the Circle’ around the temporary ice rink in Leeds city centre, will be appearing at The Carriageworks theatre on Friday 26th February to talk about his career and how the exhibition came about.

Doors will open at 7pm for the event, which is open to anyone aged 16 and over. Advance tickets can be purchased for £7.50 each from The Carriageworks Box Office or by calling 0113 224 3801. Admission will also be available on the night if space allows, with tickets on the door priced at £9 per person.

Andy’s appearance forms part of the 10th anniversary celebrations of the Ice Cube in Leeds, which is the largest temporary outdoor ice rink in the UK. Organised by Leeds City Council’s Events Team with support from media partners 96.3 Radio Aire and the Yorkshire Evening Post, this year’s Ice Cube also features the ‘Ice Edge’ café and gallery shop which offers a range of prints, gifts and merchandise based on the exhibition as well as a viewing area to watch the action on the ice.

The Ice Cube is open every daily until Sunday 7th March 2010, with up to seven public skating sessions available every day between 10am–9.30pm Monday to Saturday and 10am-7.30pm on Sundays.

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

“We are thrilled that Andy Rouse will be coming to Leeds to give an insight into how he took the amazing photos you can see around the Ice Cube. It promises to be a great night out and I’m sure keen photographers of all ages and abilities will be particularly fascinated to hear from one of the very best.

“With half-term coming up a trip to the Ice Cube offers the perfect way to have a great time. You can also take a look at the stunning free exhibition and also book your place at Andy’s talk to hear from the man who took the pictures, so together that would make for a really memorable Ice Cube experience.”

The ‘Edge of the Circle’ exhibition is presented by street gallery creators wecommunic8, whose previous displays ‘Earth from the Air’, ‘Spirit of the Wild’ and Leeds 800th birthday celebration images enjoyed phenomenal success being seen by an estimated 750,000 people on Millennium Square, Briggate and Victoria Gardens.

Photographer Andy Rouse said:

“I always love taking the stage and speaking to audiences. For the show I will pick my favourite moments from the many close encounters that I have had and try to bring them to life in words and pictures. So why not come along, have a good night and hopefully be inspired!”

Discounted tickets for the Ice Cube are available for all LEEDSCard holders, BreezeCard members and group bookings for non-profit making organisations and there is also a special family ticket available.

For further details on session times, pricing, online booking and up-to-date information visit the website at or call the box office on 0113 224 3801.

For media enquiries please contact:
Roger Boyde, Learning and Leisure Media Relations Officer,
Tel 0113 247 5472, Email:

Investment boost for adult social care

Plans to plough an extra £4.5million into supporting the city’s vulnerable older or disabled people over the coming year have taken a step forward after council chiefs approved initial budget proposals today.

The increase will help to meet the rising demand for care and maintain front-line services, and comes in spite of the recent difficult economic climate, which has seen a marked drop in the council’s income.

An extra £2million has been set aside for direct payments and individual budgets, which more and more people are using to build care packages to suit their particular needs.

There will be an additional £1.9million to provide a new re-ablement service across the city, and extend the range of alerting systems which help people live safely in their own homes.

The 2010/11 budget set by the council provides £1.9million to continue to roll-out the Independent Living Project, which will provide new flats and bungalows for people with mental health issues or learning disabilities, following the closure of outdated hostel-type accommodation. This includes £0.9million for additional staffing to provide the support that the tenants of the new properties will need.

The city’s neighbourhood networks, which support older people in their own communities, will receive an extra £360,000, and the new seven day meals service will spend an additional £150,000 so that it can be expanded to cover the whole of the city.

Councillor Peter Harrand, executive board member with responsibility for adult social care said:
“In spite of the recession, Leeds City Council has continued to give the highest priority to its most vulnerable citizens by shielding them as much as possible from the effects of the difficult economic climate. Adult social care, its partners and suppliers will need to continue to find ways of operating more efficiently, to make sure that the majority of our funding can be spent on critical services.”

However, Councillor Harrand warned of difficult times ahead brought about by rapidly increasing demands on services from an ever-growing elderly population in the city.

He said:
"We will have to take some stringent measures to balance our books over the coming year. The current and future climate for the public sector - and social care in particular - is difficult and will become even more challenging as far ahead as anyone can predict. Society will have to take a radically different approach to the care of older people; the present arrangements cannot be sustained for many more years."


Notes to editors

The proposed budget will be presented to full council for final approval on 24 February.

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

Council pledges more investment in children’s safeguarding

Senior councillors have agreed a £6.2 million boost for Leeds children’s social care services.

At today’s meeting of Leeds City Council’s executive board (12 February), members considered proposals to allocate significant extra investment to increase the number of social workers for children and young people.

In responding to a recommendation made by the council’s children’s services watchdog earlier this month, the council’s interim director of children’s services proposed to direct investment towards a range of advanced and front line social worker posts over the next two years

The investment is part of a wider approach to improvement, which also involves looking at how social workers are supported and how cases are allocated and handled. The aim is to give social workers more time to concentrate on working directly with children, young people, and their families.

The recommendation by the Children’s Services Scrutiny Board called for an increase in the resource allocated for social care staffing in this year’s budget proposals, with the aim of reducing the number of cases that social workers manage at any one time.

Councillor Stewart Golton, executive board member responsible for children’s services said:
“Over the past year we have faced a number of challenges and this investment reflects our commitment to strengthen and improve services for vulnerable children and young people in Leeds.

“The recommendation from the scrutiny board is helpful and ties in with the investment we were already planning for this crucial area of work. Our proposals for how this money will be used take a pragmatic approach over the next two years, that will help us support the workforce, reduce caseloads and ultimately improve safeguarding through a higher quality of service’’.

As well as the focus on front line social workers, the additional funding will also be used to help meet the cost of providing the right type of residential care for those children and young people with the most complex needs.

The budget also recognises the increased demand for foster care placements and provides investment in the fostering services to support the training and recruitment of foster carers in Leeds as well as additional placements outside the city when these are needed.

For media enquiries, please contact:
Emma Whittell, Leeds City Council Press Office, on (0113) 2474713

Green light given to Gildersome and Richmond Hill school expansions

Gildersome and Richmond Hill primary schools could be expanded to provide an additional 420 places after Leeds City Council approved initial plans.

The council’s executive board agreed today (Friday) for Education Leeds to publish statutory notices about the expansions which will see an additional 210 places created at Gildersome Primary School from 2011 and a further 210 places created in Richmond Hill from 2012.

The expansions are necessary to meet the increased demand for places caused by a rising birth rate and an increase in the number of families moving into both areas.

Plans would see Gildersome primary extensively refurbished and expanded while Richmond Hill primary would be rebuilt following the decision to close nearby Mount St Mary's Catholic Primary School in July 2010 due to a lack of demand for Catholic places.

Gildersome Primary School would be expanded from one class of children per year to two from September 2011. This means 60 pupils would be admitted into two classes in reception in 2011 and pupil numbers would increase from 210 to 420 children over seven years as the year groups move through the school. The expansion will accommodate the additional pupils.

Richmond Hill Primary School would increase the number of classes of children from two per year to three from September 2012. This means 90 children will join the school in three reception classes in 2012 and the school would reach its capacity over seven years as the year groups move through the school. The new school building will be designed to accommodate 630 pupils instead of the planned 420.

Councillor Richard Harker, executive board member for learning at Leeds City Council, said:
“We are committed to providing the best education for every child and young person in Leeds. Education Leeds has worked closely with both schools and the local communities and the expansion of Gildersome and Richmond primary schools will ensure that even more children benefit from the fantastic education available.”

Chris Edwards, the chief executive of Education Leeds, said:“If given the go-ahead, the expansion of these schools would provide the same brilliant level of education to even more local children. As well as a fantastic learning environment, the schools would also provide first class facilities for the local community to use.

“We would work closely with both schools throughout any changes. Both the expansion of Gildersome primary and the rebuild of Richmond Hill primary would be carefully managed to ensure the transition for staff and pupils is as smooth as possible.”

Statutory notices - which will include details of how people can respond to the plans - will be put up in both schools and published in the local press. The executive board will make a final decision in the summer.


For media enquiries please contact:
Jon Crampton, Leeds City Council press office, 0113 3951577

Expansion of 17 primary schools moves a step closer

Proposals to expand 17 primary schools across Leeds from September this year have taken a step forward after Leeds City Council approved initial plans.

Additional places are needed across the city as a result of a rise in the number of children being born in Leeds and the number of families moving into the area.

Education Leeds has carefully planned for the expansions - which are also proposed to happen in 2011 and 2012 - and held a number of public consultations to gage opinion as well as consulting with headteachers and governors at the schools involved.

After considering the outcome of the consultation, Leeds City Council’s executive board today (Friday) gave Education Leeds permission to publish legal notices about the expansions. It will make a final decision on the proposals in the summer.

The 17 primary schools which are proposed to expand are: Beeston, Blenheim, Brudenell, Ebor Gardens, Greenmount, Highfield, Hugh Gaitskell, Ireland Wood, Ingram Road, Iveson, Mill Field, Moor Allerton Hall, New Bewerley Community School, Swarcliffe, Victoria, Whitkirk, and Thorner Church of England.

The plans include increasing the number of children each school can accept into each year group (its admissions limit) as well as increasing the amount of space available in the schools to accommodate the additional children.

At some schools, this will mean changing the way the school’s facilities are used, and at others it will mean adding extra rooms. Where extra rooms are needed Education Leeds would provide modern, high-quality accommodation - built to last for decades – which will include all facilities needed by staff and pupils.

Councillor Richard Harker, executive board member for education at Leeds City Council, said:“The 17 primary schools are in the right locations to meet the demand and will receive our full support so that every child receives the best education possible.”

Chris Edwards, chief executive of Education Leeds, said:
“We have worked closely with the schools involved to ensure they are able to expand in time to meet the demand from September this year. These are the first of many schools proposed to expand and, if agreed, will ensure the brilliant education in Leeds will be available to even more children.”

There will also be additional Special Educational needs (SEN) places at Whitkirk and New Bewerley schools. Both will have ‘enhanced community provision’ for up to 14 children with complex physical and medical needs which can be accessed by all children regardless of their needs.

Statutory notices - which will include details of how people can respond to the plans - will be put up in all 17 schools and be published in the local press. The executive board will make its final decision in the summer.


For media enquiries please contact:
Jon Crampton, Leeds City Council press office, 0113 3951577

The gas is definitely greener when you’re collecting Leeds’ bins

A gas-powered refuse lorry that produces 60% less carbon dioxide is making bin collections in Leeds that little bit greener.

After a successful six-month trial, the bio-gas-powered Econic 2628LLG is now a permanent feature on Leeds’ bin routes – the council is the first in the UK to add such a vehicle to its refuse fleet.

The 26-tonne truck is fitted with a purpose-built 279hp engine and special tanks to carry its compressed bio-gas fuel, but is otherwise similar to a standard, diesel-engine truck.

A third of all the greenhouse gas emissions from the council’s vehicle fleet comes from its refuse trucks. Officials worked closely with the Energy Saving Trust to measure the council’s carbon footprint and identify areas where reductions could be made.

An added bonus of being gas-powered is that the lorry is much quieter than a normal refuse vehicle, meaning it’s caring for the environment in different ways.

Councillor James Monaghan, Leeds City Council’s executive board member for environmental services, said:
“One of the big contributors to the council’s carbon footprint is our refuse collection fleet and so making a change here can drastically cut our CO2 emissions.
“This new gas-powered lorry is just one of the new technologies we’re looking at to help cut our emissions – it does the same work as a diesel-powered lorry but with 60% less CO2.
“This shows that we’re working hard to reduce our impact on the local environment.”

Bin lorries have such a large carbon footprint because the engines have to be kept running to drive the bin-lift and compacting machinery on the back.

The lorry’s tanks have a 600 litre capacity, which equals approximately 96kgs of gas at 200 bar pressure. Through trials so far, it is estimated this to equal a range of between 75 and 80 miles.

Even taking into account the transport costs of the bio-gas that powers it, the vehicle still produces 60% less carbon dioxide that similar trucks. The council is currently looking for a more local source for the gas, which would cut the amount of CO2 the vehicle produces to a total of 80%.

Notes to editors:
Broadcast-standard rushes from the embedded video are available - please contact Michael Molcher at Leeds City Council Press Office for more details

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