Thursday, 3 February 2011

Council announces proposal for new gymnastics base

The John Charles Centre for Sport could become the new home for gymnastics in Leeds under a proposal being developed by Leeds City Council.

The council’s sport and active recreation service is proposing to convert the indoor athletics element of the Bowls and Athletics Centre at the leisure complex into a state-of-the-art new base for gymnastics in the city.

Promising initial talks have been held with key stakeholders to create a dedicated new facility which would cater for recreational gymnastics for people of all ages and abilities as well as being a training base for elite-level gymnasts.

The City of Leeds Gymnastics Club which oversees elite-level gymnasts are currently based at Leeds Metropolitan University’s Carnegie sports centre in Headingley, but by moving to the John Charles Centre for Sport they would be able to significantly expand and become a new improved club capable of also hosting recreational gymnastics and running the centre themselves, resulting in a saving of approximately £300,000 per year for the council.

Governing body British Gymnastics have already indicated their support for the move, which would make Leeds a leading city in terms of gymnastics provision in the country.

The bowls element of the Bowls and Athletics Centre would be unaffected by the move, but the current indoor athletics facilities would be removed as the space and equipment needed for gymnastics and athletics are incompatible.

Discussions are to take place with current athletics users, those from Leeds City Athletics Club, England Athletics and Sport England to consider the impact and any possible alternative training provision, but the adjacent outdoor track and facilities will still be available for their use.

The centre had 7,700 visits by athletes in the last 12 months, compared with an estimated 30,000 expected visits per year by gymnasts of all ages and abilities if the change were to take place.

Leeds City Council executive member for Leisure Councillor Adam Ogilvie said:

“While it is important to stress this proposal is at an early stage, this move would help to put Leeds at the forefront of both recreational and elite gymnastics in the country.

“We will now begin more detailed consultations with all the key stakeholders and parties involved, but we are keen for this major council facility to be used more than it currently is and this proposal would help make that happen.”

British Gymnastics development director Mark Gannon said:

“Gymnastics provides the fundamental movement skills for a lifetime in sport and British Gymnastics work with clubs and any strategic partners that enable greater access to gymnastics.

“The club already runs a successful elite programme for Men's Artistic gymnastics and want to build on this success. A facility that allows greater access to the community, and that is fully managed by the club, would enable children and their families to experience the fun and excitement of the many gymnastics-based activities that are now available, such as freestyle gymnastics and cheerleading, as well as the opportunity to excel in an Olympic sport.

“British Gymnastics will continue to work with both the club and the Leeds City Council on the proposed move.”

Following the latest discussions, a report will be prepared and presented to the council’s executive board to decide how the project proceeds.


For media enquiries please contact:
Roger Boyde, Leisure media relations officer,
Tel 0113 247 5472, Email:

Proposals for future of Leeds Crisis Centre to be discussed by council chiefs

Council chiefs will be asked to approve plans to close the Leeds Crisis Centre at a meeting of its executive board next week.

The centre, based at Spring Road in Headingley, provides free, short-term counselling and support for adults. Despite its name, it is not a crisis intervention service for people with severe mental health problems or who may be feeling suicidal. This is the role of the NHS Crisis Resolution and Home Treatment Service. The crisis centre offers a rapid response and short-term counselling to people who are struggling to cope with their daily routine because something stressful has happened in their lives.

In recent years, the NHS has invested heavily in mental health services under Increasing Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT), which has resulted in their services being provided in a variety of different ways and becoming much more accessible to people.

The government has just announced that an additional £400m funding will be available through the ‘No health without mental health’ strategy to help the NHS continue to expand and improve access to these services.

Counselling services are not a statutory function of local authorities, and there is no evidence that any other council in the country provides them. It is now widely accepted that counselling and crisis intervention services are functions of the NHS and not local authorities, and we are working closely in partnership in respect of future services.

The crisis centre has 17 staff and costs the council £696k a year to run. It received just 1435 referrals last year of which over 65% were redirected to other forms of primary and secondary care within the NHS. In comparison, NHS talking therapies took 21,796 referrals and NHS secondary mental health services took 21,264 referrals. The centre took 121 out-of-hours calls last year compared with the ‘Connect’ helpline, which took 5,256 calls in 12 months. Only 504 people actually received a counselling service from the Leeds Crisis Centre last year.

Phil Corrigan, executive director of strategy and commissioning programmes (nurse director), said:
“NHS Leeds has invested an additional £2 million into counselling services for the last two years as part of a national programme known as IAPT (Improving Access to Psychological Therapies). This compliments the citywide NHS Primary Care Mental Health service provided by NHS Leeds Community Healthcare (LCH), and is delivered by a consortium of three third sector agencies and LCH. The consortium has recently introduced a more streamlined booking system to ensure people are seen more quickly. The system provides greater choice for patients so that they can decide when and where they are seen with some appointments available immediately. There are currently a small number of early evening appointments and Saturday morning appointments are planned to be delivered from April 2011. Commissioners are currently reviewing the service structure and will be considering options to improve access out of hours this year.

“NHS Leeds has been working closely with Leeds City Council to understand what the impact of these proposals will mean for local people. In addition NHS Leeds has been working to identify what gaps may exist in current services and how these can be filled. We want to reassure people living in Leeds we are committed to ensuring that mental health services in the city meet their needs.”

Chris Butler, chief executive of the Leeds Partnerships NHS Foundation Trust said:
"Our Crisis Resolution and Home Treatment (CRHT) service is a specialist team of mental health and social care professionals who respond to serious psychiatric emergencies by providing intensive home-based treatment and support.

"It is a 24-hour a day, seven-day a week service. We are confident that we have the capacity to deal with any additional referrals which may result from the proposed closure of the Leeds Crisis Centre safely and appropriately. We can see people very quickly and on the same day if a person needs it. People with less serious problems can, as now, be referred by their GP to Leeds Community Healthcare’s Primary Care Mental Health Worker service. NHS Leeds has also invested in improving access to psychological therapies for people with less serious mental health problems.

"GPs, who are the main source of referrals to the Leeds Crisis Centre, know that we are the first point of contact for people who are at serious risk and in need of emergency help. It is our role to ensure that people in Leeds that are experiencing a psychiatric emergency receive the most rapid and appropriate form of assessment and treatment either in the community or in hospital settings."

Councillor Lucinda Yeadon, executive board member with responsibility for adult social care said:
“The budget challenges that we are facing at the moment are devastating. The council needs to find savings of £150m over the next four years as a result of the government’s spending cuts, and we have no choice but to look closely at all the services we provide.

“We have some really tough and painful decisions to make and it is really difficult to justify continuing to spend this amount of money on a service that is actually the function of the NHS.

“Leeds Crisis Centre has provided an excellent service for over 20 years, and we know that it is valued by the people that have been helped by it. However, to our knowledge we are the only council that provides this kind of service, and these needs are met by the NHS in the rest of the country.

“Our local NHS mental health services have increased significantly since the local authority service commenced, and with the additional NHS funding just announced by the government, access to IAPT services will improve further.

“Following consultation with the PCT, Leeds Partnership Foundation Trust (LPFT) and Leeds Community Healthcare, we are confident that there are sufficient alternative counselling and support services available through the NHS and other organisations in the city.”

The majority of referrals to the centre come from the postcodes closest to where it is based; LS6 and LS16, plus LS27 and LS11 which are covered by an outreach service. Large parts of Leeds receive little service, with several postcode areas each accounting for 1% or less of the total referrals received by the centre, with people’s needs being met through other NHS services.

Consultations with staff, service-users and stakeholders have been underway since December 2010. All representations have been and are still being acknowledged, and current service users have been offered one-to-one meetings with senior managers from adult social care. So far one person has taken up this offer.

The counselling service at the crisis centre is short-term and time-limited so if the proposals are approved no more new referrals will be taken. Existing service users will complete their counselling; no-one will have their sessions taken away.

The council are in discussion with NHS mental health services to see what redeployment opportunities may be available for staff at the centre.


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

Proposals to modernise mental health services in Leeds

The council’s executive board will be asked to approve plans to modernise mental health day services in Leeds at their meeting next week.

If approved a detailed consultation with service users will begin on how to meet their individual needs within the new model of delivery.

The plans will see a move away from traditional ‘building-based’ day services to more individualised support, which will help people to get involved in social activities, access training or education, or get back to work.

The ‘i3 project’, a comprehensive consultation about mental health day services in the city, sought the views of service users and other interested parties, and has informed the proposals.

The 'No health without mental health' strategy, announced by the government outlines a new emphasis on early intervention and prevention to help tackle the underlying causes of mental ill-health. Central to these plans is an additional investment of around £400m to the NHS over the next four years to expand and improve access to their Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) service.

The range of mental health community services currently provided directly by the council are three day centres, the community alternatives team, social enterprise-type services based around gardening and cooking, three supported living units and the Leeds Crisis Centre. A number of similar services are funded by the council and provided by voluntary organisations in the city.

Firstly, if approved, the proposals would see a move away from traditional services delivered from three buildings to having a tiered level of service with one day centre (operating from the new Lovell Park Centre) providing an intensive recovery service, supported by a larger city-wide community alternatives team (CAT), an employment support team and a social enterprise development programme. Expanding community support services will enable more people to access the service, and release funds currently tied up in buildings to allow a greater number of venues based out in local communities to be established.

Secondly, it is proposed that from this service and from those provided by the voluntary sector, a new coordinated system of mental health day services will be created in partnership with NHS Leeds via a competitive tendering exercise. This re-commissioning is expected to deliver cost efficiencies in the region of 25% and deliver an overall better quality service.

The final phase will be a review of council-provided supported accommodation, as many other specialist providers locally and nationally already provide these services. At present, there are three hostels in Leeds for people experiencing mental illness, which are being replaced by the independent living project. A further report detailing options for the future of supported accommodation will be presented to executive board in July 2011.

A separate report gives details on the proposals to close the Leeds Crisis Centre. Counselling services are not a statutory function of the council, and there is no evidence that any other council in the country provides them. It is widely accepted that counselling and crisis intervention services are NHS functions, not those of a local authority.

Councillor Lucinda Yeadon, executive board member with responsibility for adult social care said:
“Our day centres have provided a good service for many years, but through the comprehensive consultation exercise about what our day services should look like, many of our service users and partners in the voluntary sector have told us that they would like to be supported in other ways.

“Increasingly, people want services which are more tailored to their individual needs, and we want to support them by offering a service that promotes independence rather than dependency, and focuses on the aspirations of service-users helping them to get back to optimal health.

“Due to the government’s Comprehensive Spending Review, adult social care budgets are tighter than ever. By working with NHS Leeds and our voluntary sector partners, we strongly believe that we can develop a high quality, efficient service for the future that meets people’s needs effectively.

“Making these changes will ensure that services are available to help people to recover or to better manage their condition, and enable them to take part in activities which are available to everyone – like education, training and employment.”


Additional info

There are currently 50 different mental health day services in Leeds, provided by four different types of agency. About 2000 people are registered with 14 day services, with around 200 people using more than one service at the same time.

The whole service costs £2.5m a year, split between the council and NHS Leeds (the council pays £2.25m, rest paid by NHS Leeds).

Participants in the ‘i3 consultation’ (2005-9) included local day centre staff and users, Leeds Mind, Dosti, Leeds Housing Concern, Making Space and Touchstone.

The community alternatives team (CAT)
The CAT has been in existence since 1996 and was originally designed to offer a complementary service to day centres, in recognition of the fact that not everybody with mental health problems would want or need to access a day centre.

It supports people to improve their mental health by helping them to put in place things we all take for granted, such as friendships, social activities, volunteering and taking steps to get back to work. Some groups are supported by staff and some are user-led with support from staff on a consultative basis. They frequently help people to join mainstream community groups eg. local walking groups.

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

‘Painful’ decisions unveiled in council’s proposed budget

With Leeds facing a £90m shortfall in funding, due to an unprecedented cut to the council’s government grant and growing pressures on vital services, council leader Keith Wakefield says “painful decisions will have to be made”.

He has stressed that the priorities for the council leadership are:
• protecting vulnerable people and prioritising services for those most at risk;
• promoting jobs and skills;
• protecting funding community safety;
• protecting the local environment.

Plans to tackle the enormous challenge facing the city will be put to the council’s executive board next week before going to full council on 23 February. Councillor Wakefield will urge colleagues to back the plans which aim to tackle a £50m cut in government funding, at a time when the authority already faces £40m cost pressures in essential service areas.

Councillor Wakefield said:
“I have been committed to public services all of my life, working in and representing local government for 40 years. However, the government’s massive spending reductions, the like of which have not been experienced since the 1980s, leave us with no choice other than to reduce services.

“Leeds, like many other northern cities, has received one of the worst settlements in the country and we’re left to deal with the consequences. Unfortunately, this is just the beginning - in 2012/13 we know we will have to make savings of at least another £25m.

“No-one can deny that difficult decisions must be made. However, our priority, first and foremost, is to make sure that the most vulnerable people in Leeds are protected.

“Drafting our proposed budget has meant taking some very tough decisions. We cannot sustain our current service levels – the money simply isn’t there to do that. Some services will reduce, many others will be reorganised and delivered differently in future.

“We also recognise that many people will be struggling in what are very difficult economic times. For this reason we will be investing an extra £800,000 in jobs, skills and access to financial services.

“The work to prepare the budget was a ‘team effort’ with over 2200 residents responding to a consultation questionnaire and over 2500 ideas were submitted by staff. We have also worked closely with the trade unions, partners, the business sector and voluntary, community and faith groups.

“For the first time, leaders of all political groups have come together to consider the challenges and options available to us”.

The proposals for managing the £90m shortfall, include a range of measures to reduce the cost of running the council:

• Reducing the number of staff the council employs by 1500 by 31 March 2012 and by a total of 3000 by 31 March 2015.
• Cutting the chief executive’s pay by five per cent
• Cutting ‘special responsibility’ allowances for councillors by three per cent
• Freezing pay for staff
• Freezing basic allowances for councillors
• Reducing the number of senior managers the council employs by 25 per cent
• Cutting ‘back office’ operations by 16 per cent, saving £13.6m
• Reducing the spend on communications by £600,000
• Cutting marketing and advertising budgets by almost 40 per cent
• Saving £25m by spending less and spending smarter
• Reducing the cost of office accommodation and buildings by £6m
• Reducing the council’s legal budget by £1m

Councillor Wakefield continued:
“We’ve done all we can to reduce the cost of running the council - but it’s not enough to manage the spending reductions being imposed on us.

“We’ve had to look at all areas of the council and identify how we can deliver further savings to meet the remaining funding gap, whilst continuing to protect services to vulnerable people.”

The further proposals include:

In adult social care, the council has pledged that the most vulnerable people in Leeds are supported in their local communities and have access to personalised services enabling them to live healthy, safe and independent lives.

In future, the emphasis will be helping people live safely at home for as long as possible. Health, wellbeing and social care services will be brought together, supporting preventive services to avoid hospital admission or the need for residential care. As a consequence, it is anticipated that 13 buildings will close.

There has been a significant reduction in national grants and funding for children’s services, both through the government’s emergency budget in 2010 and also in the 2011/12 settlement. However, children and young people are a priority for the council and whilst there will be a number of measures taken forward to deliver savings, overall children’s services will receive a larger share of the overall budget available.

In sport, the under-used East Leeds leisure centre will be closed and community groups will be offered the chance to take it over. The opening hours at Garforth leisure centre will be reduced initially before facilities are also offered up for transfer to community groups to take them over. Bramley Baths opening hours will be reduced. At Middleton leisure centre the pool will close later this year but there will be major investment going into the leisure centre as a whole, including enhancing the sports pitches and providing new changing facilities.

There will also be a new charge for attending the Opera in the Park event.

Grants to arts organisations will be cut by up to 15 per cent, the council will stop its contribution to the Leeds city centre free bus and the number of libraries the authority runs is currently being reviewed.

Garden waste collections will be suspended for three months of the year in future.

The council will also look to what extra opportunities it has for advertising income.

Two under used hostels - Hollies and Richmond Court will also close, but services will still be offered to Leeds’ homeless residents.


Notes to editors

In addition to the measures above it is proposed that the Leeds City Council element* of council tax be frozen for 2011/12. Therefore, the Leeds element of the bill for a Band D property will remain at £1123.49 for the coming financial year.
*This excludes the figures (precepts) for the police, fire and rescue service and any town, district or parish councils.

For media enquiries please contact:
Andy Carter, Leeds City Council press office (0113) 395 0393