Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Rail transport master plan to drive better deal for Leeds commuters

Council and transport leaders and providers are joining forces to devise a master plan to determine the future of rail transport in the Leeds area and beyond.

Leeds City Council and Metro, the passenger transport executive, have forged a partnership with Network Rail to drive forward plans to secure the best possible facilities for the city’s train users.

The three organisations, working with business leaders, will pool their resources through a joint programme board to achieve their ambition of ensuring Leeds has the most modern rail infrastructure and train services it can get.

It will set a fresh vision for Leeds Station- a key gateway to the city used by over 100,000 people every day. Board members will consider whether current plans will deliver what is needed for passengers and for the city’s ambition to be the best city in the UK.

The board will drive projects such as the one providing a new southern entrance to the city centre railway station and ensure Leeds is central to future Network Rail plans for east-west and north-south rail services.

The joint-working approach comes as the Government last week confirmed plans for a high-speed rail link between London and Birmingham and its extension to Leeds and Manchester. The group will also work on how to best capitalise on the recently-confirmed electrification of the trans-Pennine rail track between the two big northern cities. Leeds City Council chief executive Tom Riordan will chair the board.

Cllr Richard Lewis, Leeds City Council’s executive member for development, said:
“This new partnership is a real breakthrough in terms of how we plan rail transport to fit in with the city’s development. I’m very pleased that our chief executive, Tom Riordan, will be chairing this new group.

“By joining forces with Network Rail and Metro we are in a stronger position to both understand how Leeds can capitalise on its rail links and to lobby more powerfully for the best rail deal we can for the city region. A strong transport infrastructure and services will be crucial in under-pinning our ambition to be the best city in the UK.”

Phil Verster, route managing director for Network Rail, said:
“Leeds is one of the biggest cities on the LNE route and is an important transport hub for the north. It is also a dynamic, growing economy in its own right.

“Plans such as the northern hub demonstrate that Network Rail is committed to driving economic growth through improving the railways across the north. Working with partners in Leeds we will seek to make sure we deliver the best possible service for rail passengers in the city and the wider region.”

Metro director general Kieran Preston said:
“Firmly focused on improving the travel experience for rail passengers in Leeds the new board complements the work we are doing to improve rail services for the Leeds City Region and across the North of England.”

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


Council moves up the ranks in equality index

Leeds City Council has retained a top 100 place in the Stonewall equality index again this year.

The council has been ranked 37th – up 43 places from last year – in the campaign group’s annual index of Britain’s leading employers for lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) staff.

The criteria for this year have been amended to allow a better distinction between ‘very good’ and ‘very best’. The council were commended for how well it engaged with the LGB community, which showed a significant improvement from last year and for having openly gay role models across the council.

Over 360 organisations made a bid to be featured in the latest Stonewall Workplace Equality Index , collectively employing more than 1.9 million people.

Tom Riordan, chief executive of Leeds City Council said:
“It is brilliant news that we have been placed in the top 50 of the Stonewall index. This demonstrates the hard work put into making equalities a top priority both by the excellent team leading this work, but, as importantly, by all our employees whose differences are welcomed and valued in the council.”

Councillor Alison Lowe, equalities champion for Leeds City Council, said:“It is fantastic news that we have moved so far up the Stonewall list this year, and it is a real credit to everyone involved.

“The council is committed to not only tackling discrimination in the workplace, but also ensure that equality and diversity is a key part of the make-up of the council."

The LGB staff network, which is open to all staff within the council, was set up to provide a supportive environment where LGB employees can meet to discuss issues which affect their community and them as individuals.

Madeline Lasko from Stonewall said:
“Congratulations to Leeds City Council for their performance in this year’s Workplace Equality Index. Achieving such a high rank is a particularly impressive achievement as the criteria for this year’s Index was revised to be the most rigorous and challenging yet. We recognise the work done by Leeds City Council in improving the working environment for its lesbian, gay and bisexual staff, and the important role played in this by the LGB staff network.”


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

Nowhere to go for benefit cheat with £90k in the bank

A Leeds man who claimed over £20,000 in benefits whilst having up to £90,000 in his bank account has been tagged by Leeds Magistrates court yesterday.

Mr James Boyce, 60, of The Crescent Tingley, was given a four month curfew order at a hearing at Leeds Magistrates Court yesterday (Tuesday 17 January), after pleading guilty to illegally claiming £17,500 in housing benefit and £5,000 in council tax benefit, between 2003 and 2011.

The curfew order will mean that Boyce is restricted to his home address between 7pm and 7am every day for four months.

Boyce pleaded guilty after admitting failing to declare that he received a large lump sum from a property sale, as well as money from a private pension.

In passing the sentence the magistrates’ commented that Boyce had committed a serious offence, which could have resulted in a custodial sentence. But they acknowledged that Boyce had submitted an early guilty plea, and had already repaid all the money he had illegally claimed, so the sentence would be reduced to a four month curfew order.

Steve Carey, chief revenues and benefits officer for Leeds City Council said:
“Claiming benefits that you are not entitled to is stealing, and is taking money away from people who really need it. We will not hesitate to prosecute people who abuse the benefits system.”

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