Monday, 12 July 2010

‘House of horrors’ lands firm with £21,000 bill

A ‘house of horrors’ has left a property firm facing a bill of more than £21,000.

When Leeds City Council officers made a routine visit to 61 Gathorne Terrace, Chapeltown, Leeds, in August they discovered a defective fire alarm system, seriously damaged fire doors, broken windows, exposed electrical wiring, staircases without handrails, broken glazing and damaged kitchen units.

Vital safety certificates were also absent, and tenants were left without heating when Southwind Developments Limited – which owns more than a dozen rental properties in the Leeds area – failed to pay a gas bill.

On Thursday at Leeds Magistrates Court, Southwind directors Saleem Aslam and Zulfiqar Ahmed pleaded guilty to nine breaches of the Management of Houses in Multiple Occupation (England) Regulations 2006 regarding the conditions of the house – they were fined a total of £17,015 and ordered to pay £4,476.73 in costs to the council.

The council’s HMO Licensing Team had made the routine visit to establish how many tenants were living in the property. The owner of a HMO has a duty to manage and maintain such properties in a way that is not prejudicial to the health and wellbeing of their tenants.

Not having a working fire alarm system meant that tenants would not receive early warning in the event of a fire. Damaged fire doors would then mean an undetected fire could spread unchecked onto escape routes potentially trapping people inside the building.

After notifying Southwind Developments about the dangerous conditions at the property and requesting they provide current gas safety and electrical certificates, council officers returned only to find the property was found to be in the same perilous condition. Tenants reported that they had been left without heating and hot water after Southwind had failed to pay their gas bill.

In court, Southwind Developments legal representative blamed the condition of the property on the tenants but magistrates said that it was the responsibility of the owners to maintain it.

Councillor Peter Gruen, Leeds City Council’s executive board member for housing, said:
“We have a very large rental sector in Leeds and vast majority of landlords ensure that their properties are well maintained and their tenants safe. But when we find a landlord that has failed to do so we must take action.
“Blaming tenants is not an answer – it is a landlord’s responsibility to look after their property.
“I hope the size of this fine sends out a very clear message that conditions such as these are simply unacceptable.”

The specific offences and fines were as follows:
Failed to ensure that fire alarms were maintained in good working order – £3,000
Failed to ensure that all means of escape in the HMO were maintained in good order and repair – £3,000
Failed to provide local authority with latest Gas Safety Record – £3,000
Failed to provide local authority with latest Electrical Installation Test Certificate – £3,000
Did cause the tenants gas supply to be interrupted – £1,000
Failed to maintain living accommodation (broken glazing in bedroom skylight) – £1,000
Failed to maintain common parts of the HMO (damaged kitchen unit & worktops in shared kitchen) - £1,000
Failed to maintain common parts (exposed wiring from a light pendant on landing) – £1,000
Failed to maintain common parts (handrail missing on staircase) – £1,000.

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

VIDEO: Grand opening of £5m joint service centre



A grand opening of a state-of-the-art £5m joint service centre combining council and health facilities in Harehills took place today (Monday 12 July).

The new centre, known as The Compton Centre, will transform access to council services for local people by providing them in new, modern facilities all under one roof.

On Monday it opened its doors to Leeds City Council services including a new, larger library and a new customer services team providing help and advice with benefits, council tax, housing, social care, environment-related issues and Leeds Credit Union enquiries.

Also located at the centre is a Jobshop where people can get help with getting back to work or receive advice on training. In addition to this, NHS Leeds Community Healthcare’s Primary Care Mental Health Team will provide counselling and support to any patients referred to the service by their family doctor (GP).

The historic frontage of the old Compton Road Library has been preserved, and a new modern extension constructed, with many environmentally friendly features.

The Compton Centre is one of two new joint service centres in the city: the other one is being built in Chapeltown and will open in the autumn. Both centres have been provided by Community Ventures Leeds Limited, a public private partnership joint venture company jointly funded by Leeds City Council and NHS Leeds.

The Compton Centre now offers the following facilities:

• A Leeds City Council customer service team providing help with housing services, benefits advice, council tax, social care and environment issues, plus advice and information on Leeds City Credit Union products and services and East North East Homes Leeds housing services
• A new larger library with a wide range of new books, free internet access and learning sessions, plus regular activities and events
• Registrar Services - registrar surgeries will take place at the centre.
• Employment training and advice from Jobshop
• Appointments with a Welfare Rights advisor for advice on all government benefits
• Surgeries by the Chinese Advisory Service
• NHS Leeds Primary Care Mental Health Team (referral only).

£1million for house adaptations will help more people lead independent lives

Leeds City Council is being asked to approve plans for £4.6million from the city’s Housing Revenue Account (HRA) budget to plough into housing schemes across the city.

Adaptations to council homes have been made a priority and £1million has been allocated to this work across the city.

After an assessment, the council installs items that ensure the tenant can continue to live independently in their own home. These can range from minor work such as installing ‘grab rails’ next to baths, to larger work such as stair lifts, hoists or even house extensions.

However, there is greater demand for the service than the council has been able to afford. This extra money will allow hundreds more adaptations to be carried out, clearing a backlog and meaning work can be carried out more quickly.

Councillor Peter Gruen, Leeds City Council’s executive board member for housing, said:
“Adaptations can make a profound difference in people’s lives.
“This extra money will mean more people can live independently in their own homes and we can clear the backlog of work that has built up.
“Making sure people can lead independent lives in their own homes is a priority for us and I hope this injection of funding will ensure that those who need help can receive it. I will be leading a review with Cllr Lucinda Yeadon, executive board member for social care, to make sure people get the best deal possible in this city.”

Adaptations improve the quality of life for tenants by allowing them to stay in their own homes for longer, reducing demands on services and the need for residential care.

The remainder of the money will be used to undertake fire safety and security work at multi-storey blocks, improve non traditional housing, provide energy efficiency and support the council’s key regeneration schemes.

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

Schools celebrate their successes at Leeds United Learning Zone

Children who have boosted their education, confidence and self esteem after taking part in an after school sports club are to celebrate their achievements this week.

Around 150 pupils from six schools have attended the programme at Leeds United’s Elland Road stadium over the past 10 weeks as part of the national Playing for Success initiative.

Focusing on literacy, numeracy and ICT, as well as boosting confidence and self esteem, the project is designed to narrow the gap between the most and least advantaged children and young people in the city.

**********MEDIA OPPORTUNITY**********
Media are invited to attend the celebrations at Elland Road on Tuesday 13 July at 6pm. Please call 0113 3951577 or email jon.crampton@leeds.gov.uk to confirm attendance. On the night, please go to the Lorimer Suite in the East Stand. Pictures will be available after the event if you are unable to make it.
**********MEDIA OPPORTUNITY**********


The Lord Mayor of Leeds, Councillor Jim McKenna, will be attending and presenting awards along with Leeds United ladies players Carla Cantrell and Sophie Walton.

Everyone who has taken part will receive a certificate for effort, attainment, teamwork and attitude as well as complimentary tickets for Leeds United’s first match of the season against Derby County.

There will also be an outstanding pupil prize and a special Billy Bremner award for effort and attitude with prizes including a Leeds United shirt and MP3 player.

Councillor Jane Dowson, executive board member for learning at Leeds City Council, said:
“We are committed to boosting the skills and outcomes of every child and young person in Leeds. This programme is a great way of helping to achieve this in a fun and educational way. Everyone who is receiving certificates and awards should be proud of their achievements and thoroughly deserve this praise and recognition.”

Chris Edwards, chief executive of Education Leeds, said:“The many after school clubs across the city do tremendous work in helping to improve our children and young people’s outcomes, skills and achievements. The Playing for Success initiative in Leeds is recognised nationally for its successes in narrowing the gap between different communities and making a difference. Congratulations to everyone receiving certificates and awards.”

The six schools which will be celebrating on Tuesday are: St Phillip’s Catholic primary, Middleton St Mary’s C of E primary, South Leeds Academy, Mount St Mary’s Catholic High School, Hugh Gaitskell primary and the Broomfield SILC.

Playing for Success is a national initiative which is organised in Leeds by Education Leeds, Leeds City Council, Leeds United and the Department for Education. More than 1,000 pupils from 50 schools have taken part in the out-of-hurs club at Elland Road in the last two years.
ENDS
For media enquiries please contact:
Jon Crampton, Leeds City Council press office, 0113 3951577
Email: jon.crampton@leeds.gov.uk

Space theme for Summer Reading Challenge



Picture caption: young readers with their medals and certificates

With schools breaking up and children wondering what on earth to do with themselves the Summer Reading Challenge is encouraging them to fill their spare time by take a giant leap into libraries.

This Summer’s challenge is igniting children’s imaginations with the theme of space. Last year the initiative proved to be a hit with 750,000 children aged four to 11 taking part nationwide.

The drive partly promoted by the Reading Agency is just one of many exciting schemes Leeds Libraries are developing to help children love reading – and it is free.

Leeds City Council’s chief officer for libraries, arts and heritage Catherine Blanshard said:

“The Summer Reading Challenge introduces children to one of the best free resources for improving mental agility and it’s right on their doorstep – local libraries. They are an invaluable source of information that help to develop life skills.

“Holidays provide spare hours which are a great opportunity for keen readers to keep their skills sharp and for those who take less of an interest in reading to pick up an engaging read and really discover the joy of a good book.”

Kids are asked to read six or more books of their own choice and certificates or medals are awarded to every successful child. They can sign up at their local library from Saturday 17th July.

Leeds libraries and information service will be hosting over 50 free events in libraries over the summer, starting with the blastoff event at the newly built Compton Centre on Saturday 17th July 1.30pm-3:30pm where children will be invited to build rockships.

An interactive website has been set up linking children with top authors and illustrators giving them space to talk about their favourite books and to share reading ideas. They can log on at www.spacehop.org.uk to get inspired. Well know children’s authors will be leaving regular blogs on space hop over the coming months.

Once again this year there are also large print Summer Reading Challenge materials available for visually impaired children, thanks to the support of the RNIB National Library Service.

ENDS

For media enquiries please contact:Daniel Johnson,leisure communications officer, tel: 0113 247 8285, email: Daniel.johnson1@leeds.gov.uk