Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Spotlight on Leeds council budget

After a year of unprecedented financial challenge, a report published today (Tuesday 14 June) has confirmed that Leeds City Council made essential savings in 2010-11.

The budget has been a key priority during 2010-11 for a council that has faced both increasing demand for vital services such as social care and massive in-year Government spending cuts.

It is hoped that the 2010-11 financial performance will help keep the council ‘on track’ as it seeks to deliver £90m of savings this year. Maintaining financial discipline will also be hugely important if the council is to find the significant further savings it will need to make in the February 2012 budget.

The leader of council, Councillor Keith Wakefield, has warned that with over 1,000 staff leaving Leeds City Council through voluntary schemes last year, and further savings to make this year, the way in which public services are delivered will have to change.

Councillor Keith Wakefield, leader of Leeds City Council, said:

“This has been an incredibly difficult year. The massive in-year Government cuts came at a time when we were already facing huge financial pressure in areas such as adult social care and children’s services.

“It was therefore absolutely essential that we delivered savings in 2010-11. Failing to do so would have made it even harder to find £90m of savings this year.

“Residents in Leeds can be assured that despite the financial challenges, we will continue to do all we can to find innovative ways to protect public services, particularly for our most vulnerable residents and their families.

“However, the way in which those services are delivered will change as we simply cannot afford to continue to provide services in the same way as we do now.”

The Leeds City Council Financial Performance – Outturn 2010/11 report says that the council has had to deal with a £15m in-year reduction in revenue grants and £12m in capital grants.

Leeds also receives only £388 per head from the Government whereas authorities like Manchester or Liverpool receive more than £700 per head. Despite this the council has managed to keep council tax levels low.

2010/11 has been the council’s best year for council tax collection – 97.6% of billed amounts were collected by the end of March. This is the best performance of all the major cities in England and in all of West Yorkshire. The council has also made significant improvements in productivity through a 10% reduction in staff sickness levels.

The Leeds City Council Financial Performance – Outturn 2010/11 report and Financial Health Monitoring Reporting 2011/12 will be presented to the council’s Executive Board on the 22 June 2011. The meeting will be held at the Leeds Civic Hall at 1pm. Ends

For media enquiries please contact:
Sara Hyman, Leeds City Council press office tel: (0113) 224 3602
Email sara.hyman@leeds.gov.uk

Neighbourhood networks schemes in east Leeds

The council’s executive board will be asked to agree proposals to start a re-tendering process for the provision of neighbourhood networks in five areas of east Leeds at their meeting next week.

Despite the best efforts of council officers to facilitate negotiations and explore opportunities for partnership working, an agreement by the parties involved to deliver these services together has not been reached. In light of this, executive board will be asked to approve recommendations that a renewed tendering exercise is started to ensure that the long term future of neighbourhood network services for Burmantofts, south Seacroft, Swarcliffe, Richmond Hill and Crossgates and district can be secured.

Councillor Lucinda Yeadon, executive board member with responsibility for adult health and social care said:
“Our officers have been working hard over the past 12 months to try and facilitate a partnership model of working between Leeds Irish Health & Homes and the five existing east Leeds neighbourhood network schemes.

“Unfortunately, it has not been possible for the parties involved to reach an agreement, and we must now seek to bring to an end the uncertainties that are hampering the further development of services for older people in this area of the city.

“Thirty seven neighbourhood network schemes were awarded contracts last year, and these are doing a tremendous job in supporting around 25,000 older people in the city. We now need to finalise arrangements in the east to make sure that older people there can benefit from the improved investment and stability that these contracts provide.”

The original tendering process started in 2009, which invited all existing neighbourhood network schemes and new organisations to bid for five-year contracts. The aim of this was to make sure that the same high standards of care and support were being delivered consistently across the city, and the best possible outcomes for older people being achieved. It also offered greater security to the organisations, allowing them to plan ahead and develop their services in the knowledge that they have long-term funding, particularly in the current uncertain financial climate.

When concerns were raised in 2010 about the handling of the original commissioning exercise, the council halted proceedings and an independent review took place. This looked at why it had been decided to change how the funding for neighbourhood networks was awarded, how the resulting commissioning process was chosen, if this was implemented correctly, how the tender documents were evaluated and how the results of the process were implemented.

The review concluded that the commissioning process was sound. However, one of the recommendations made was that negotiations should be held with Leeds Irish Health & Homes and the five unsuccessful bidders in the east area to try and establish an appropriate partnership arrangement for the future delivery of these services.

Councillor Yeadon continued:
“We must now resolve this issue, which is why we are asking for executive board approval to start a re-tendering exercise for the provision of neighbourhood network services in these five areas of east Leeds.

“This is the only option left available to us to settle this matter. Current services will continue through an extension to existing contracts until the outcome of the proposed re-tendering process is put into place.”

Ends

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

Drop in session for help with benefits

An event to help people understand what benefits they may be entitled to will take place tomorrow in Chapeltown.

Leeds City Council in partnership with the Chapeltown Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) will be running a drop in session at the Reginald Centre in Chapeltown on Wednesday 15 June for anyone with questions about benefits.

Nationally around £20 billion of means tested benefits goes unclaimed every year. The benefits and tax credits system is complicated and this can put people off applying for the benefits they are entitled to.

On the day, Chapeltown CAB staff will be providing information on benefits and providing benefit checks for those who want to know if they can claim anything.

Steve Carey, Leeds City Council chief officer for revenues and benefits said:

“It is important that people are able to understand which benefits they are entitled to claim. Although the process can be complex, there is help available to anyone who believes they are entitled to claim.

“I would encourage anyone who has any questions to head down to the event at Chapeltown.”

Nick Morgan, Chief Executive of Chapeltown CAB, said:

“It’s great to be working with the Reginald Centre in this way. The day will be an ideal opportunity for people to find out more .

"Staff at Chapeltown CAB often help people claim benefits they don’t know they can claim: especially people who have a disability. For instance we recently helped someone successfully appeal against a DWP decision that they were not entitled to Disability living allowance and Employment support allowance. Altogether this made a huge difference to their weekly income of £238 plus housing and council tax benefit.”


Ends


For media enquiries, please contact;
Tel: Cat Milburn 0113 247 4450
Email: Catherine.milburn@leeds.gov.uk

Drivers warned of delays on Leeds Inner Ring Road

Drivers are being warned to allow extra time for weekend journeys into Leeds as vital work begins to repair a busy section of the city’s inner ring road.

Urgent repairs are needed to Woodhouse Tunnel which runs underneath Leeds University and Leeds General Infirmary. The work will involve replacing 800 square metres of defective concrete on the tunnel roof which has deteriorated because of salt used in road grit.

To minimise disruption Leeds City Council has arranged for the repairs to take place over 14 weekends beginning on Friday 24th June.

One side of the tunnel will be closed in each direction on the affected weekends, from 8 pm on Friday until 5 am the following Monday.

There will be a contraflow through the tunnels at these times and alternative routes will be signposted to alleviate traffic congestion. Information about the closures will also be carried on the newly installed traffic update screens on approaches to the city centre.

The council has consulted widely with a range of organisations to ensure disruption is minimised as much as possible.

A team of 70 people will be working round the clock over the weekends to complete the repairs in the allotted time. The works have been scheduled to avoid major city centre weekend events, where possible.

Councillor Richard Lewis, Leeds City Council executive member responsible for highways maintenance, said:

“This is essential maintenance work which cannot be delayed. We understand that it will cause traffic disruption and have done everything possible to minimise this and give people advance notice so they can prepare.

“This is the first time we have done this scale of work on this part of the road network since the early 1990s and we want to ensure that all who rely on this section of road are aware in good time of the scheduled closures and able to plan ahead.”

The work to Woodhouse Tunnel is just one part of a wide-scale repair plan for the whole of the Leeds inner ring road for which the council is currently bidding for Government funding.

Built throughout the 60s and 70s as the city’s principal inner urban motorway, the ring road carries on average 75,000 vehicles every day and its infrastructure now needs significant repair work.

At the time the ring road was built, it was one of the largest construction projects ever undertaken in the city and it pioneered cutting edge engineering techniques. It sank a road right through the middle of one of the busiest cities in the UK. The aim was to divert traffic away from the city centre and to build motorway links to surrounding areas and cities such as Liverpool, Manchester, Bradford and Hull.

Councillor Lewis added:

“Life in Leeds is almost totally dependent on the Leeds inner ring road. It is a massive asset to the city and the wider city region. It is the pulse of the city’s economy, yet most people use it without even thinking about it.

“It has served this city well for nearly 50 years and our priority is that it has the necessary repairs and maintenance work done to ensure it continues to serve our city for another 50 years.”
Ends

Notes to editors:


The weekend closures of two lanes of Woodhouse Tunnel will begin on each Friday of the following weekends:

24 June, 8 July, 15 July, 22 July, 29 July, 5 August, 12 August, 19 August, 2 September, 9 September, 23 September, 30 September, 7 October, 14 October. For each weekend closure the road will be closed from 8pm Friday to 5am Monday
If you would like to send a reporter to visit the tunnels to see the work in progress or talk to our engineers, contact the press office on the number below.


Ends

For media enquiries please contact:
Sara Hyman, Leeds City Council press office tel: (0113) 224 3602
Email sara.hyman@leeds.gov.uk

Dr Bike to get Leeds back on two wheels



Caption: A Dr Bike drop-in session

People in Leeds are being challenged to get back in the saddle as part of the UK’s biggest ever bike fix promotion.

Saturday 18th June marks the start of Bike Week and organisers are hoping that thousands of bicycles will be taken out of storage, fixed up and put back to use on roads and tracks right across the country.

Bike shops and Dr Bike services across Leeds are taking place in Britain’s Biggest Bike-Fix promotion, and will be happy to help you fix your bike. All you have to do is dig out your unused bike, from the shed or garage, and take it down to one the participating bike shops for a free Dr Bike safety check up and basic adjustment, plus a special Bike Week discount on any parts needed to get it back on the road.

Once you have your bike back on the road why not join one of the Bike Week rides in the city. Just visit the national Bike Week website at www.bikeweek.org.uk and search for Leeds to find your nearest ride.

For instance on Friday 24th June there is a large ‘Cyclists Breakfast’ at the City Station’s Cycle Point and White Rose Bar which will be open to all members of the public who cycle into the city centre that morning.
Everyone who attends the Breakfast will be able to register for a free Esporta Leeds VIP day in ‘The Light’.

Leader of Leeds City Council, Councillor Keith Wakefield, said;

“Cycling is making a comeback in many cities, and Leeds is no exception. With new cycle routes being opened across city all the time and excellent facilities like the Cycle Point in the centre of Leeds, it’s a great time to rediscover the benefits of travel on two wheels. I would encourage people of all ages to try the bike again for some healthy exercise and for getting around, as well as for the sheer fun of it.”

National Bike Week Week run from the 18-26 June 2011 and is organised by Team Green Britain Bike Week.

For more information on Bike Week in Leeds visit www.leeds.gov.uk/bikeweek

Individuals can take part by searching for rides and events across the UK at www.bikeweek.org.uk


Notes to editors:

The bike shops offering help with fixing up your bike are Dave Rayner Cycles in Rawdon and Garforth, Dirt Wheels in Otley, The Bike Shop in Crossgates, Woodrup Cycles in Burley, Edinburgh Cycles in Chapel Allerton, Evan’s Cycles Cycle Point and ‘The Bike Doctor’ working out of Horsforth. site. See www.leeds.gov.uk/bikeweek for the details of each offer.


Ends


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