Friday, 19 March 2010

Government inspectors acknowledge improvements in Leeds

Government inspectors have praised the progress being made to improve the safeguarding of children and to reduce the number of burglaries in Leeds.

In December last year both issues attracted ‘red flags’ under a new inspection process called ‘One Place’.

One Place combined reports prepared by the Care Quality Commission, Ofsted, the Audit Commission and Her Majesty’s Inspectorates of Constabulary, Prisons and Probation. The results were published on a new website.

Now, just four months on, the website has been updated to reflect the progress being made in Leeds with inspectors acknowledging the work done so far.

On the issue of burglaries they say:

“Key public services are working together to target areas of the city where burglary rates are highest, with a range of preventative measures.

“They are sharing intelligence, proactively managing offenders to try and cut re-offending, and improving security for homes and businesses.

“The early signs are that this work is making a difference as burglary rates are now more stable and the rate of increase is slowing down.

“This suggests that the work undertaken to date is starting to have an impact.”

And on children’s services they say:

“Following a full inspection of safeguarding and looked after children services, the council has introduced a detailed improvement strategy and is working with partners on a range of actions which aim to tackle this situation.

“Eight advanced practitioners have been appointed and a second wave of recruitment is underway.

“Social workers' caseloads have been reviewed and the council has invested additional money to increase the frontline workforce and bring caseloads to an acceptable level.”

Councillor Richard Brett, Leeds City Council executive board member for performance and improvement, said:

“I am delighted that the inspectors have been able to see the progress that we are making.

“We’ve been determined to make immediate improvements with the actions we have been taking to tackle the issues highlighted in December’s One Place report.

“The fact our progress has been acknowledged so quickly is welcome news.

“However, we realise that there is still lots of work to do before we achieve all of the improvements that are needed.

“It remains our goal to ensure we continue to provide efficient and effective services for the people of Leeds.”

ENDS
For media enquiries please contact:
Andy Carter, Leeds City Council (0113) 395 0393
e-mail: andy.carter@leeds.gov.uk

UPDATED: Gap in fencing closed near to where student drowned

A gap in fencing has been closed on the banks of the River Aire near to what is thought to be the scene of the drowning of student Matthew Wilcox last month.

Private landowners have closed the half-metre gap in the guard railing near Riverside Court after Leeds City Council wrote to them requesting the work be done.

Cllr Andrew Carter, Leader of Leeds City Council and executive member for development, said:

“We wrote to the landowners asking them to put an appropriate piece of fencing across this gap. Although this is not our land we must ensure public safety.

“We will also be looking at other areas of privately-owned land alongside the river which are accessible to the public to check whether there are any hazards. Our waterfront is a massive asset to the city and it needs to be safe for everyone to use.”

The body of 19-year-old Leeds University student Matthew was found in the river six days after he went missing following a night out.



For media enquiries please contact:
Donna Cox, Leeds City Council press office, 0113- 224 3335
Email donna.cox@leeds.gov.uk

ENDS

Leeds City Council targets more Chelsea success




Captions: Photos from the launch with television gardening presenter Christine Walkden with Leader of Leeds City Council Cllr Andrew Carter and with Patrick Hennigan of sponsors HESCO Bastion, along with a computer image of the completed garden

Leeds City Council today unveiled the first details of their most ambitious show garden yet which will take on the best of the best at this year’s prestigious Chelsea Flower Show.

This year’s garden was officially launched at a special event held at the council’s Red Hall Nursery in Leeds which featured a guest appearance by BBC television gardening presenter Christine Walkden.

Following a successful partnership with sponsors HESCO Bastion in 2009 which led to an impressive Silver Gilt Flora award at the Royal Horticultural Society’s flagship event for gardening excellence, the same team returns to Chelsea this year with Leeds’ biggest and most daring garden design to date.

The show garden which will be entitled ‘The HESCO Garden 2010’ is themed around celebrating the green linkages which connect the city centre to the countryside in and around Leeds, as well as the importance of protecting the local environment and raising awareness of the proven health benefits green spaces provide.

To demonstrate this the team have chosen a stunning snapshot of the iconic Leeds-Liverpool canal as the basis for the design, with the centrepiece being a lock gate which will allow water to run through it and into the canal. This is then flanked by three distinct sections – woodland, wetland and a floral meadow – which can all be found in green spaces in Leeds.

The Leeds-Liverpool Canal is the longest canal in northern England measuring 127 miles long and passing through 91 locks. It was built over 46 years, starting in 1765 when businessmen proposed a link from Leeds to Preston to transport woollen goods and limestone. It was then developed to run to Liverpool and throughout the 19th century was used as a key route for commercial transporting of stone, coal and a variety of other goods. Its influence declined when railways and roads were developed and its commercial use largely ended in 1964. Since then its popularity has grown again with a range of leisure activities being carried out on the canal.

The HESCO Garden 2010 has been designed and created by Leeds City Council’s Parks and Countryside Service with engineering design and support being supplied by our sponsors HESCO Bastion Limited, a Leeds-based company who are world-leading manufacturers of products used in civil engineering.

Maintaining the Yorkshire flavour the garden will be produced using locally-sourced materials from the region, with all the plants and flowers being grown in Leeds and HESCO products providing the structural framework for the garden.

The HESCO Garden 2010 will be on show at Chelsea from May 25-29 in the elite show garden category alongside gardens designed by some of the biggest names in the horticulture industry.

The event, held annually in the grounds of the Royal Hospital in London, attracts over 150,000 visitors from all over the globe as well as receiving extensive coverage from the world’s media.

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

“The RHS Chelsea Flower Show is one of the biggest annual events in the world and it is a huge honour for Leeds to be invited once again to enter a garden in the show garden category.

“In terms of raising the profile of Leeds as a city to an international audience, being at Chelsea brings massive benefits and we are all really excited by the design for this year’s garden as it is going to be our best yet.”

In addition to raising the profile of the city, entering a show garden at Chelsea also allows the council’s Parks and Countryside staff to pit their wits against the finest garden designers in the world, learning new skills and techniques which are then used every day to improve green spaces all over Leeds.

Sponsors and project partners HESCO Bastion said:

"HESCO are delighted to again be working with Leeds City Council at this year’s Chelsea Flower Show. Leeds has a long-held reputation for engineering excellence dating back to the industrial revolution; this year’s garden focuses on these engineering developments of the past, and the present, all of which contribute to the vibrancy of Leeds. HESCO is proud that our products carry on Leeds’ engineering tradition for innovation and design."

Young people in Leeds will also be part of The HESCO Garden 2010, as pupils from local primary schools will be learn about the value and importance of protecting green spaces through a special education project and competition.

Leeds City Council has enjoyed great success at Chelsea in recent years, with all seven previous gardens dating back to the first in 1997 earning bronze or silver category awards. Four of these gardens can now be visited by the public at sites around the city.

ENDS

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

National recognition for local council work

Leeds City Council has been singled out for national recognition for its excellent work helping poorer people avoid having to pay more for goods by going to people like loan sharks.

The annual report from the chief medical officer, Professor Sir Liam Donaldson, released last Monday (15 March) sings the praises of the council for its work with partner organisations towards eliminating the ‘poverty premium’ which sees people on low incomes pay more for essential goods and services.

Since early 2003, Leeds has been developing a strategy to tackle financial exclusion in the city and put in place mechanisms to help provide affordable alternatives to those charging a premium like loan sharks. This work was recognised nationally when in 2007 the council was awarded Beacon status under the theme ‘Promoting financial inclusion and tackling over indebtedness’.

Actions include investing in credit unions so that people have an affordable alternative to doorstep lenders, and working with other organisations to make sure that there is easy access to debt advice, benefits and welfare rights services.

Over the last few years the council has been working closely with NHS Leeds and the Department of Health because it is recognised that financial exclusion and poverty have a significant impact on peoples health.

Councillor Andrew Carter, leader of Leeds City Council said:
“The work we are carrying out towards financial inclusion is excellent, and we have made big steps forward in the last few years, especially since being awarded our Beacon status. We are making finance more accessible and helping to promote debt and money advice for those in need. Our work with the health services is an important part of this and there can be no greater accolade than having our contribution recognised by the Chief Medical Officer for the United Kingdom.”

“We are committed to continuing the excellent work we are doing in all these areas.”

Notes to editors:

The full Chief Medical Officer report is available at:
http://www.dh.gov.uk/en/Aboutus/MinistersandDepartmentLeaders/ChiefMedicalOfficer/DH_19

Page 67 of the report refers to the Leeds work.

Ends
For media enquiries, please contact;
Cat Milburn, Leeds City Council press office (0113) 247 4450
Email: Catherine.milburn@leeds.gov.uk