Thursday, 3 June 2010

Reaching for the stars means prospects are bright

One of the organisations that looks after Leeds’ council housing has been praised by government inspectors – who said they now expect even better things to come.

West North West Homes Leeds has been assessed as ‘good’ by the Audit Commission and awarded a two star rating – up from its previous one star rating.

One of the three Arms Length Management Organisations (ALMOs) that manage and maintain the city’s social housing stock, West North West Homes Leeds (WNWHL) has ‘promising prospects for improvement’, according to the Commission’s independent report released today.

On a scale from zero to three stars, the Audit Commission inspection team gave the service a ‘good’ two star rating because tenants are involved in decision making and services meet the needs of most customers – especially those of vulnerable tenants.

There was also praise for the significant improvements being made to thousands of council homes to bring them up to modern standards, as part of the massive Decent Homes scheme.

Cathy Clelland, chair of the West North West Homes Leeds board, said:
“We have done a lot in the last eighteen months to improve from a one star rating to two stars.
“So we’re delighted that our hard work has been recognised. Our focus is and always has been on our tenants – even with the huge effort to bring all our homes up to modern standards.”

Strengths identified by the report included:
• clear information for customers and comprehensive service standards;
• services are delivered to meet individual needs, particularly for vulnerable tenants;
• successful delivery of housing management and property maintenance services to most customers;
• customers are involved in driving service improvement in all areas; and
• the services provide value for money and significant savings have been made.

Weaknesses included:
• some customers wait too long for repairs and adaptations to their homes;
• performance in recovering rent arrears is weak; and
• some sheltered schemes for older people have poor quality accommodation and the support service they receive is inflexible.

To help the service improve, inspectors made a number of recommendations. These included:
• Improvements to ensure office locations and opening hours suit local people
• Improvements in planning and performance management to ensure they focus on the things which matter most to customers

Copies of the report are available from West North West Homes Leeds Ltd or from the Audit Commission website at www.audit-commission.gov.uk

Notes to editors:
West North West Homes Leeds
is one of three Arms Length Management Organisations (ALMO) which manage and maintain council housing on behalf of Leeds City Council. It is wholly owned by the council, which retains ownership of housing stock and sets rents.
West North West Homes Leeds covers the areas of Otley, Pool, Bramhope, Guiseley, Yeadon, Cookridge, Rawdon, Holt Park. Tinshill, Horsforth, Kirkstall, Burley, Armley, Bramley, Pudsey, Woodhouse, Wortley, Farnley, and New Farnley.

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

Bars and clubs line up to be named as 'Best Bar None'

Managers and staff from top bars and clubs in Leeds will be joining the celebrations when the winners of the city’s Best Bar None Awards for 2010 are announced later this month.

A total of 78 clubs and bars have entered for the awards – up more than 30 per cent on last year.

The awards are organised by Safer Leeds – the city’s Crime and Disorder Reduction Partnership. They cover a number of categories including Best Bar, Best Club, Best Pub and Best Door Team. There is also a Radio Aire Listeners’ Award.

The shortlists have been drawn up by a panel of students studying for degrees in Hospitality and Hotel Management at Leeds Metropolitan University working alongside Safer Leeds staff. The final results will be revealed on Sunday 13th June at a ceremony at Alea Casino.

The judges take into account a number of factors including good training, effective management, the number of violent incidents and the results of test purchases. They will also be looking for venues that have improved year on year or who offer something outstanding that sets them apart from other establishments

Jim Willson, Safer Leeds’s Chief Officer for Drugs and Alcohol, for said:
“These awards really do encourage responsible management in our pubs and clubs in Leeds. We have some great places to drink and dance in Leeds and we want people to be able to enjoy themselves knowing they are in a safe, well-run venue.
“I’m particularly delighted that the number of entries has increased so much – showing that the pub and club managers want to run their businesses professionally and responsibly.”

The awards are sponsored by Radio Aire, Diago, Britvic, Bewley’s Hotel and City Dweller magazine.

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

Dead dodo leaves living legacy in Leeds


Photo: curator Clare Brown with a Carolina parakeet, which became extinct in the early 20th century

The dodo may be long dead but its legacy lives on in Leeds as part of a collection of extinct species preserved to help protect the future.

Dodo bones reside at the Leeds Museum Discovery Centre alongside Tasmanian Wolves, Carolina Parakeets, Great Auks and many other specimens of species no longer around. The Centre – part of Leeds Museums and Galleries – also cares for many examples of wildlife on the edge of extinction.

As World Environment Day (WED) is marked on Saturday (June 5) special focus is being placed on the Leeds collections to demonstrate how easily entire groups of animals can be wiped out.

This year’s WED theme is about biodiversity and organisers are keen to highlight how human activities are polluting water, destroying natural habitats and ultimately influencing climate change.

The museum in Leeds has been collecting since 1822 and so the species represented in the collections represent an important snapshot of how world wildlife has declined over the past two centuries. In that time we have seen species like the Tasmanian Wolf become extinct and others, like the Giant Panda, brought to the edge of extinction.

At the Discovery Centre, natural science curator Clare Brown explained why it is important to preserve the sometimes ancient animals for posterity.

She said:

“We can learn a lot from investigating why species become extinct and our collection here is not just valuable in terms of interest, it also preserves crucial DNA and other scientific information for future generations. Knowing where and when an animal or plant died can help conservation efforts in the field – our specimens are ambassadors for living species.”

Cllr Tom Murray, executive member with responsibility for environmental issues, said:

“The Discovery Centre team do an excellent job in looking after and enabling research and investigations of these rare collections, both on behalf of the city and with wider benefits for the planet. We hope that highlighting what they do wakes people up to their own responsibilities towards the environment.”

Communities around the globe will be marking WED with activities like tree-planting, car-free days, bird-watching trips and park clean-ups. Leeds City Council and local groups run events all year round that give you the chance to learn more about and help conserve the places and wildlife you can find on your doorstep.

In June you can find out about the herbs the monks at Kirkstall Abbey used to make cures, get close up and personal with native species of newts in Pudsey Park and head over to Chevin Forest Park to take part in their Springwatch event. Or you can enjoy a stroll through one of Leeds’ eight nature reserves, seven major parks and many more local green spaces where you can spot local wildlife.

There are plenty of practical things that people in Leeds can do to help. One way is to sign the Leeds Climate Pledge www.leedsinitiative.org/environment to show that you care about the impact of climate change.

Another great way of doing your bit locally is to volunteer for one of the many environmental projects in the city during the Leeds Year of Volunteering. There is a wide range of different schemes across the city aimed preserving plants and landscapes that are home to a variety of birds, bugs and animals. For further information go to www.leedsyearofvolunteering.co.uk or call 0113- 395 0405.

You can also find further information about nature reserves, parks, countryside walks and events and conservation volunteering at www.leeds.gov.uk or call 0113- 395 7400.


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

ENDS