Thursday, 6 January 2011

Make music your New Year’s resolution

With all sorts of New Year’s resolutions being made – this year why not make one which will be music to your ears?

Leeds music centres are giving people the chance to make a New Year’s resolution to learn a musical instrument – or even re-discover an old one, perfect whether you have a child who needs lessons for a musical present or you need help embarking on your own hobby.

The centres have classes, orchestras, bands and ensembles for players at all levels from beginner upwards, and singing groups for those with or without experience. Enrolment begins this weekend so there’s no better time to discover or re-discover your musical talent!

They cater for all ages from three to 93, and provides a friendly, enjoyable environment where you can share a love of music with others.

Councillor Jane Dowson, executive board member responsible for education said:

“Musical training improves dexterity, focus and your overall mood and well-being. This year, you can find out if you have musical talents you never even knew of, re-discover those you thought you'd lost, or finally learn the instrument you always wanted to!”

There are a huge range of groups and classes – from fun groups for under-5s to rock/pop song-writing, concert bands, orchestras, jazz bands, DJing and many more.

The centres are run by Education Leeds and Leeds City Council so the rates are affordable and instruments can be hired at a very reasonable cost from most centres, so you can give it a try before you buy!

Cllr Dowson added;
“There really is something for everyone at Leeds music centres, whatever level you are or what your passion is. From total beginners who want to try out a new instrument, or experienced musicians who want to join a group our music centres offer expert tuition with a warm welcome.

And it's not just for children as well, the whole family can join in the fun.”

There are nine music centres across the Leeds area, and classes are held Saturday mornings and some evenings during the week.

Enrolment begins Saturday 8 January. For more information, visit or call the Artforms office : 0113 2304074.

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

National recognition for talented Leeds care leaver

Picture caption:
(l-r) Connexions personal advisor Christine Westgarth and Jakie Wilson, chief officer for children's social care at Leeds City Council, present Chris Bevan with his certificate from the Keep Dreaming Awards 2010"

Care leaver and talented composer Christopher Bevan was short-listed for a national award for inspiring other young people in care to raise their aspirations.

Chris, 19, who is currently studying Geology at The University of Plymouth, first went in to the care of Leeds City Council when he was four years old. He was nominated for an achievement award at the national Keep Dreaming Awards 2010, by his Connexions personal advisor, after he created a piece of music to inspire other care leavers and children in care.

At the annual Leaving Care conference in Leeds last June, Chris wanted to make a contribution to the event as a way of showing other care leavers just what can be achieved if you are really focussed on your goals. To inspire other young care leavers he composed and produced a piece of music which was performed at the conference and accompanied by a short film. The piece is titled, Music for the Youth: Dream Big.

Christine Westgarth, Chris’ Connexions personal advisor said:
“Chris put a tremendous amount of time and effort into this piece of work, despite having to deal with other issues and technical problems in producing his music. However, he never gave up and the final result was a credit to him and to the people who supported him during this time.

“Myself and his pathway planning advisor at Leeds City Council decided to nominate him for this national award as we both felt that Chris deserved recognition for all his hard work.”

Chris was short-listed in the category ‘outstanding contribution for performing/ creative arts’.

Chris is amongst just five per cent of care leavers who go onto higher education. That figure is around 40 per cent for other young people.

Jackie Wilson, Leeds City Council’s chief officer for children and young people’s social care said:
“Chris is a very impressive young man and a fantastic role model for young people in care. He is proof that with self determination and support from the people who look after you, being in care does not mean you cannot be successful in whatever you want to do.

“He is not only doing brilliantly academically he is also nurturing his talent, I’m sure he will have a very bright future.”

After first going into care aged four, Chris stayed with several foster families and then was moved to Inglewood Children's Home in Otley at the age of six where he remained until he was 17. Chris says that he could not have achieved his goals if it wasn’t for the massive amount of support that his carers gave him in bringing him up.

Chris said:

"It took a few years for me to feel settled at Inglewood but it really was a good place to grow up, my experiences there were really positive.

“The carers there are like family to me."

Councillor Judith Blake, executive member responsible for children’s services said:
“We have such fantastic staff who work with children and young people throughout their time in care, and help them prepare for life after being looked after by the council. Chris should be very proud of his personal success and all the people who have helped care for him and supported him over the years, should be very proud too.”

Chris’ talent for music was noticed when he attended Prince Henry's Grammar School in Otley. He started singing lessons, joined the choir and bands and was given the lead roles in some of the schools drama and musical theatre productions. His talent for composing music was noticed when his grandmother bought him a piano, aged 14.

Academically he did well too, passing eight GCSEs and A levels in geography, geology and drama.

Chris is keen to challenge the stereotype that care leavers cannot be successful, and acts as a role model to other young people facing the same problems he did.

Chris says:
"Just because we’ve been bought up in care, it doesn't mean we can't be successful.

"This is what's driven me. I saw only one way to change my life and make it better and that was through education. I was given a lot of support by the teachers at school and at home.

"I want other care leavers to think 'a care leaver has done this' so they will feel inspired."

Leeds City Council’s Pathway Planning team supports 16 – 23 year olds who are about to leave or have recently left local authority care. The team’s main aim is to help them with the transition from being a looked after child into adulthood, which can involve helping them find accommodation, training or employment and help them with health, finance and any other issues a parent would normally be there for.

Chris is really keen that other young people in care stay positive about what they can achieve he says:
"It is important that young people in care can realise and develop whatever skills they may have, in order to set yourself up for a positive and hopeful future, a future that you are in control of, a future that is the result of decisions you make now. The idea of big achievements such as going to university, college, making new friends and even been happy may sometimes seem out of reach, but they are well within reach if you decide to make it so. Never forget to dream big and to do big things."

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

2,000 city centre parking spaces free again this Saturday

Free parking at car-in Leeds is set to continue this Saturday – with 2,000 spaces free in car-parks around the city centre.

In a boost to local businesses in the continuing post-Christmas sales period, parking at a ‘ring’ of car-parks just outside the city centre – including the city’s biggest multiple-storey car-park – will be free.

Parking in these car parks will be free on Saturday 8 January:
• Woodhouse Lane – 1,272 spaces
• Quarry Hill – 400 spaces
• Meadow Lane / Hunslet Lane – 90 spaces
• Maude Street – 35 spaces
• West Street – 238 spaces

The same car-parks were free in the Saturday before Christmas, as well as over the festive period, in a measure aimed at boosting local trade.

Councillor Tom Murray, Leeds City Council’s executive board member for environmental services, said:
“There was a great response from shoppers to the free parking at Christmas and New Year, so we’re continuing with 2,000 parking spaces free on this Saturday.
“I hope it encourages people to visit the city, support local shops and enjoy some of our restaurants and bars.
“By making these car-parks free on some of the busiest shopping days of the year, we’re hoping the local economy will receive a very welcome boost.”

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

Final call for families to apply for primary school places

Families with children who will start primary school in September 2011 are being reminded they have until 15 January to apply for their preferred schools.

Previous years have shown that those who apply late may miss out on a school place even if they have older children already at the school which can be upsetting for parents and children and make childcare arrangements difficult.

To avoid this, Education Leeds is urging families to submit their preferences by Saturday 15 January. While traditional application forms are also available from primary schools, nurseries, libraries and children’s centres, the quickest and most efficient way of applying is the secure, safe online admissions process at Families which apply online will also be sent an email confirming their preferences have been received.

All primary school offers will be made on 20 April 2011 but parents using the paper form will have their offer letter sent out by second class post on the offer day so parents should expect to receive this a few days later.

Councillor Jane Dowson, executive board responsible for learning, said:
“In the last school year, 550 applications for primary school places were made after the offer date and before the start of term. It’s far more difficult to allocate places in these circumstances and families which do this risk not being able to send their child to their preferred school.

“It’s essential that preferences are made by the deadline on 15 January and that three schools are listed - including your local school - to ensure every child and young person has the best chance of attending their preferred school.”

Nigel Richardson, director of children’s services, said:
“Unfortunately school places cannot be guaranteed and families which send their forms in late, or do not submit a form at all, are often unable to send their children to one of their preferred schools. Therefore it’s strongly recommended that families list all three preferences, including their local school, and submit their applications to us by the 15 January deadline.”

Figures for admissions in September 2010 show the percentage of families offered their first preference was 86.2 per cent while the percentage offered one of their three preferences was 96.7 per cent.

For more information about admissions visit or call Education Leeds on 0113 2224414. Advice is also available from the local authority choice adviser, who can answer questions on applying for primary school places, by calling 0113 3950596.


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

Sunday collection as bins boss pledges to sort service

Special Sunday bin collections in Leeds this week will spearhead a major push to get the city’s reorganised refuse collection service back on track.

As crews are working on clearing the city’s backlog, including increased levels of waste produced over the Christmas period, the councillor at the head of refuse collection has pledged to iron out issues around missed bins and service performance.

Extra staff and managers are being drafted in to support the service to ensure the biggest reorganisation in 20 years delivers a modernised, more efficient system.

Refuse collectors will be working on Sunday to catch up on any unemptied bins so that from Monday next week they will be able to focus on normal daily collections.

Cllr Tom Murray, executive member for environmental services, said:
“We will sort out problems with bin collections and we will make this service work. The council is concentrating as much resource as it has available into making this happen and residents should see a clear improvement in the service very soon.

“The majority of our refuse collection crews are working very hard and continued to do so during the recent severe weather and I very much commend their efforts.

“Our aim has and always will be to deliver the best possible service we can in the most efficient way. It’s become clear that the issues we are now facing are more than teething troubles and we are pulling out all the stops to get this sorted.”

Agreed changes to binmen’s pay come into effect this month which mean that an element of what they receive is dependent on their performance and completion of daily tasks, and a reminder letter outlining the details of this is being issued to staff.

A review of how the service has operated so far is taking place and from Monday an extra two collection crews are being restored.

As part of the big push managers are working hands-on to help support crews and 30 staff have been drafted in temporarily from the council’s parks section to help out. Garden waste collections have been suspended for now and their crews transferred to black and green bin collections.

Residents are urged to report it if their bin has not been collected within 48 hours by calling 0113- 222 4406.

For media enquiries please contact:
Donna Cox, Leeds City Council press office (0113) 224 3335


Leeds Centre for Integrated Living to become user-led organisation

Council chiefs have given the go ahead to plans to establish the Leeds Centre for Integrated Living (LCIL) as an independent user-led organisation.

The centre opened in Armley in 1998 and employs 20 people. It is run by a management committee of disabled people working in partnership with the council’s adult social care department.

There are several centres for integrated living in the UK. They assist disabled people to take part in mainstream society by providing their own services and by working to make general facilities and services accessible. Their role is to ensure that disabled people are able to make the same choices as everyone else about where they live, who lives with them and what they do in their daily lives.

LCIL services are available for all disabled people in Leeds. Services and support include a direct payments support service called ASIST, project and partnership work, and accessible meeting facilities.

Most centres for integrated/independent living across the country are run independently of their respective councils by people with disabilities. This model of working was considered by the LCIL’s management committee in 1998, but at the time they felt that it was more appropriate to adopt a partnership model with them acting as advisors until the service became more established. The centre is now a well established and successful organisation, with the management committee being fully equipped to take on board full responsibility for the centre.

In July 2009, the LCIL management committee voted unanimously to work towards becoming an independent, user-led organisation.

Over recent years disabled people have highlighted the importance and benefits of them having control of key services that support disabled people’s independence. One of LCIL’s main activities is a very successful service called ASIST (actively seeking independence support team), which is used by people who receive direct payments, personal budgets and the independent living fund. The service supports people with all aspects of recruiting, managing and paying personal assistants. It is currently working with 589 customers and has played a major role in increasing the numbers of people in Leeds who choose self directed supported to meet their assessed personal care and daily living needs.

Councillor Lucinda Yeadon, executive board member with responsibility for adult social care said:
"This is a significant development for disabled people in Leeds.

“Its vitally important that people with disabilities are involved in making decisions about the issues that affect them, and the fact that LCIL will now be managed by its users means they are ideally placed to champion the needs and rights of disabled people in the city.

“I am confident that this change will empower disabled people in Leeds, give them more choice and support, and result in making our city an even more inclusive place.”

Susan Morrell, manager of the LCIL said:
“We have an experienced and committed team of staff at the centre who will continue to provide excellent services for our customers. They are looking forward to working with the new management board.”

Linda Boadle, chair of the LCIL management committee said:
“The committee is excited about this opportunity, and to be working with staff at the centre to open up even more possibilities for disabled people in Leeds.”


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

Beat the petrol rise blues by car sharing

Caption: Car sharers from across the region.

Leeds City Council is encouraging motorists to visit a car sharing website which could see them save hundreds of pounds a year.

Motorists bracing themselves for January's increases in fuel duty and VAT are being encouraged to visit the Leeds car sharing site – CarShare Leeds to see if they can ease the burden on fuel and parking costs.

Leeds’ successful website – – was launched in 2003 and has gone from strength to strength since, with over 3,000 members signed up to date.

Everyone that registers on the website receives a pen, car air freshener, and bottle opener keyring or a sticky note pad.

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

“CarShare Leeds is completely free to use, and it only takes five minutes to sign up and search for suitable matches.

“Car-sharing can make a huge difference to your wallet, and also to traffic and congestion in the city centre -but there are still many drivers who are unaware of how easy it is to find people to share with.”

In addition to the CarShare Leeds website, there are hundreds if not thousands of informal car sharing arrangements in place in the city, and the council would like to see more of these being officially registered.

Leeds City Council works in partnership with to run the CarShare Leeds website. To register for free go to


For media enquiries, please contact;
Cat Milburn, Leeds City Council press office (0113) 247 4450

New modern service for sight and hearing impaired people in Leeds

Services in Leeds for people who are deaf or hard of hearing, and blind and partially sighted are set to be modernised following a review of current provision.

The review included extensive consultation with more than 350 service users and stakeholders, with the results highlighting the need to update the way that support is provided to people with sight and hearing impairments in the city.

As a result of this, and also because these services had never been subject to a competitive process before, the council’s adult social care department made the decision to go out to tender for two new separate services. Interested providers were invited to a bidders day in March 2010, where the council outlined their vision for how the services might look in the future.

The brief advised that the new service should deliver a more personalised way of supporting people in their local communities, and offer a wide range of activities to attract people from all different age ranges and cultural backgrounds.

Two organisations submitted bids for the Leeds deaf or hard of hearing service (LDHHS) and three organisations submitted bids for the Leeds severely sight impaired and sight impaired service (LSSISIS), including the current provider of both services.

Following completion of the procurement exercise, adult social services will be awarding new contracts for both services to be effective from April 2011.

Bid Services will be awarded the contract for the Leeds deaf or hard of hearing service. They are a UK registered charity that works with deaf, deafened, hard of hearing and physically and sensory disabled people across the UK. They have a long, successful history of service delivery, and currently provide a similar service in Birmingham to the one specified for Leeds.

The contract for the Leeds severely sight impaired and sight impaired service will be awarded to the Leeds Vision Consortium (LVC) a collaboration between Action for Blind People and the Wilberforce Trust. Both these organisations currently deliver services at a national or regional level, and together have proven experience of delivering similar services to those specified in the council’s tender.

Both of the new providers are very experienced in delivering these types of services. They will work closely with everyone to make sure that things continue as normally as possible during the changeover period.

Staff that are currently employed by coHearentVision (the current service provider, formerly know as the Leeds Society for Deaf and Blind People) will have the chance to transfer to the new services, and these discussions will be taking place over the next three months. It will be up to the staff whether they decide to transfer or not.

Councillor Lucinda Yeadon, executive board member with responsibility for adult social care said:
“The review that we carried out of these services suggested that they were underused and would benefit from being modernised to encourage more people to engage with them.

“The expectations of hearing and sight impaired people have changed over the years, and not all of them are satisfied in simply attending a centre to meet up with other people each week. They want a service that will provide activities and opportunities to help them to get the most out of what is on offer in their local communities, the city of Leeds and beyond.

“coHearentVision have provided an excellent service for deaf and blind people in Leeds for over 30 years, and I would like to thank them for all they have done. These new providers will build on that work and provide a more modern service going forward, helping us to make sure that the needs of individuals are met appropriately.”

Additional info

Bid Services is a UK registered charity working with deaf, deafened, hard of hearing and physically and sensory disabled people across the UK. Services they provide include care management, supporting people, equipment services, BSL interpreting, deaf awareness training, employment, deaf care, palliative care, duty social work services, information and guidance, British Sign Language Level 1,2 and 3 courses and residential homes that support deaf people with additional needs based in the West Midlands area.

Bid Services hold a variety of contracts and have a long successful history of service delivery and currently provide a similar service in Birmingham to that specified for Leeds. They also have significant experience in managing TUPE transfers and their mobilisation plan demonstrated they had a very clear understanding of the implications for change if they were awarded this contract.

LVC (Leeds Vision Consortium) is a collaboration between Action for Blind People and the Wilberforce Trust. Action for Blind People is one of the largest charities in the UK providing confidential support for blind and partially sighted people in all aspects of their lives. The Wilberforce Trust, as well as supporting those tenants living within their supported housing schemes, also provide domiciliary care and support and rehabilitation services to individuals living within their own homes.

Both organisations are currently delivering services at either a national or regional level and together have proven experience of delivering similar services to those that have been placed out to tender by ASC. As a consortium they have a signed agreement in place between both organisations for the duration of this contract. They also have premises that are available for this contract based in the city centre which will provide ease of access to their services.

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

Council takes big steps to reduce Leeds’ carbon footprint

Leeds City Council has taken big steps to reduce the city’s carbon footprint by cutting overall emissions across the organisation.

It has reduced emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) by 3.64% by a variety of methods including increased recycling, energy-saving improvements in council buildings and greater use of environmentally-friendly fuels in vehicles.

Details were outlined in the council’s annual environment statement at its executive board meeting yesterday (January 5). This is externally verified and demonstrates the council’s commitment to fulfilling its responsibilities to the local environment.

Highlights included:
• A reduction of 42kg per home in the Rothwell area in the amount of rubbish going to landfill thanks to the food waste recycling trial;
• Modernising the council fleet to include vehicles such as bio-methane-fuelled refuse trucks has reduced vehicle emissions by 5.65%;
• Leeds was ranked the most sustainable city in Yorkshire- and sixth in the UK- in the annual Sustainable Cities Index;
• Electricity use in council buildings went down by more than 5 million kWh (kilowatt hours);
• Less than 26% of waste from council buildings is being sent to landfill thanks to improvements in recycling;
• Sustainable Schools programme expanded to schools all over the city.

Councillors also heard about potential challenges to environmental improvements in Leeds, such as uncertainty over government funding for major projects like the Next Generation Transport and Flood Alleviation schemes, rising energy costs and the managing of future development and growth in a sustainable way.

Cllr Tom Murray, executive member for environmental services, said:
“I am delighted at the progress we are making with our environmental responsibilities. The council is the largest employer in Leeds and any reduction in its energy consumption will have an impact on the city’s overall environment.

“We have a clear commitment to work to reduce that impact. We do this both by operating efficiently and in our provision of services- an example being our aim to provide insulation for around 90,000 homes in the city.

“Leeds City Council has a significant part to play in the local environment, both in how it conducts its own operations and as an example to other organisations and people across the city.”

For media enquiries please contact:
Donna Cox, Leeds City Council press office (0113) 224 3335