Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Lord of the Rings star encourages Leeds pupils to tackle bullying

Caption: Sir Ian McKellen talks to young people from Ralph Thoresby High School during today's visit to discuss tackling homophobic bullying. (Picture Bob Jones/Ralph Thoresby High School)

Sir Ian McKellen visited two Leeds schools today as part of a national tour to tackle homophobic bullying.

The star of X-Men, Lord of the Rings and The Da Vinci Code visited Ralph Thoresby High School and Otley Prince Henry’s Grammar today (Tuesday 14 December) on behalf of the lesbian, gay and bisexual charity, Stonewall.

As part of the visit, he took part in assemblies, chatted to pupils and promoted Stonewall’s national campaign to tackle homophobic bullying.

Commenting on the visits, Sir Ian McKellen said:
“Until I visited secondary schools recently, I hadn’t realised how much anti-gay bullying goes on, throughout the education system. By talking frankly about my own life as a gay man and listening to the concerns of staff and students, parents and governors, I hope the visits arranged by Stonewall may make a difference in the classroom and the playground and also give confidence to gay students about their lives in the future.”

Councillor Jane Dowson, executive board member for learning at Leeds City Council, said:
“There is no place for bullying in our schools and we are committed to reducing it whenever and however necessary. It’s not often we have the opportunity to welcome an international film and stage star to help us tackle the issue and I’m sure Sir Ian McKellen’s visit has reminded our young people that they have the power to stop bullying of any description.”

Chris Edwards, chief executive of Education Leeds, said:
“We want our schools to be welcoming and inclusive places where all children and young people feel safe. Any form of bullying is not acceptable and a lot of work is carried out across the city to tackle it.

“Sir Ian McKellen is a Hollywood film star and was instantly recognised by our young people. By visiting these two schools he has raised the issue of homophobic bullying - and bullying in general - and made young people think about how they can stop it happening in their school.”

The tour of schools is a benefit to all members of Stonewall’s Education Champions Programme, which supports local authorities in helping their local schools to prevent and tackle homophobic bullying.

Members who will be visited by Sir Ian McKellen also include schools in Wigan, North Yorkshire, Bristol, Cambridge, Newcastle and several London boroughs. The programme currently has 42 members.


Notes to editors:

Recent YouGov research for Stonewall found that nine in ten teachers say their pupils currently experience homophobic bullying, but nine in ten have never received any training on how to tackle and prevent it.

For Stonewall information please contact Gary Nunn, communications officer, on 02075931856 / 07985439660.

For media enquiries please contact:
Jon Crampton, Leeds City Council press office, 0113 3951577
Email: jon.crampton@leeds.gov.uk

Statement regarding mental health services

Leeds City Council’s executive member for adult social care has confirmed that more discussions need to take place on proposals to modernise mental health services in the city, before they are progressed any further.

Councillor Lucinda Yeadon, executive board member with responsibility for adult social care said:
“It has become clear that we need to hold more discussions before we are in a position to implement the proposed changes to mental health services in the city.

“As a council we are facing unprecedented budget pressures and have to find a way of providing services to meet the needs of vulnerable people in Leeds in the best and most financially viable way possible. We are determined to do this in a way that gives the people of Leeds a voice in our decision making, and it is clear in this case that more discussion needs to take place to enable that to happen.

“We need to look closely at mental health services in the city that are duplicated or that have become outdated, and consult with stakeholders to develop a high quality, efficient service for the future.”

Notes to editors

The proposals have been deferred until the executive board meeting in February 2011.

For media enquiries please contact:
Claire Macklam, Leeds City Council press office (0113) 395 1578
Email claire.macklam@leeds.gov.uk

CANCELLED – Media Opportunity – Actors discover a whole new world

Due to unforeseen circumstances the media opportunity planned for today(Tuesday 14 December) at 3:45pm with the cast of Aladdin coming to Kirkgate market has been cancelled.

As soon as we have a new date planned, we shall post details on the virtual newsroom.

The 'gift of life' this Christmas

Road safety officers will be treading the boards this week as they perform ‘The Gift of Life’ pantomime in a number of primary schools across Leeds.

The 20-minute play is fun and entertaining, and takes the form of a traditional Christmas panto, but includes serious road safety messages about the importance of children staying safe when on or near the city’s roads.

The performance features Christmas favourite Santa Claus, Rudolf the ‘rapping’ reindeer, ‘Scary Mary’ the Christmas fairy, Neil Downe and his mum, Ida.

******************** MEDIA OPPORTUNITY ********************
All media are invited to the performance of ‘The Gift of Life’ pantomime at Lowtown Primary School, Kent Road on Thursday 16 December at 10.00am. The pantomime lasts 20 minutes and Leeds City Council Road Safety Officers and the cast and crew will be available for interview at the end of the performance. Please call the press office on 0113 247 4450 to arrange attendance.
******************** MEDIA OPPORTUNITY ********************

Councillor Richard Lewis, Leeds City Council executive board member with responsibility for development said:

“The pantomime is a great way for our road safety team to get a very important message across to young children about the danger on our roads.
“The pantomime reminds the young people to think about their own safety and to always be aware of the dangers that are around them.”

Leeds City Council’s road safety team work across the city to reduce the number of children injured on local roads. This year they have delivered relevant education or training to over 50,000 young people to help them to stay safe on the roads.


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

Council house fraudster evicted after crackdown on illegal subletting

A man who illegally sub-let his council home has been evicted.

Abisha Mushango has been evicted from his Halton Moor Avenue home in the Halton Moor area of Leeds, which he sub-let to his cousins for two years.

The fraud was uncovered when officers from East North East Homes Leeds (ENEHL), which manages and maintains council homes on behalf of Leeds City Council, visited the property as part of the annual audit of council housing and suspected that the people living in the property were not the registered tenants.

It was confirmed by the tenants that Mr Mushango had been living in Birmingham with his family while they paid the rent on the property to ENEHL using his rent card.

The case was heard on 26 November at Leeds County Court where ENEHL applied for possession of the property where it was granted with immediate effect.

In their closing statement, the judge commented that Mr Mushango had told a Housing Officer that “he can do what he wants with his council house” adding “I wish to state that he cannot and I hereby give immediate possession forthwith”.

This investigation was part of an initiative currently being led by Leeds City Council to crack down on unlawful sub-letting across the city.

Councillor Peter Gruen, Leeds City Council’s executive board member for housing, said:
“I commend ENEHL’s strong approach as the council finds this type of behaviour by landlords entirely unacceptable.”

Angelena Fixter, chair of the East North East Homes Leeds board, said:
“ENEHL takes its role in detecting and preventing fraud very seriously and will not tolerate any abuse of the system.
“We are determined to take action against those who attempt to abuse the housing system and we will prosecute where appropriate.
“There is a chronic shortage of social housing in Leeds and we are committed to ensuring that social housing is allocated to those in genuine need.”

Unauthorised subletting of council properties can have a major effect on communities and Leeds City Council and its Arms Length Management Organisations has a duty as a responsible landlord to know who is in its properties to prevent abuse of the housing system and fraud from occurring. Cracking down on illegal subletting of council properties frees up homes across the city for people on the waiting list.

Cases of illegal subletting can be reported in confidence to 0113 2476681 or e-mail enehl.enquiries@enehl.org.uk.

Notes to editors:
East North East Homes Leeds is one of three Arms Length Management Organisations (ALMOs) 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.
East North East Homes Leeds manages 19,000 council-owned residential properties in Boston Spa, Burmantofts, Chapel Allerton, Chapeltown, Collingham, Gipton, Halton Moor, Harehills, Linton, Meanwood, Moor Allerton, Moortown, Seacroft, and Wetherby.

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