Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Council looks to help tenants affected by under occupancy

Leeds City Council is looking at ways to reduce the number of people who are being penalised for the under occupancy of a house.

The council is looking at the possibility of re-designating the number of bedrooms in a wide range of council homes across the city so as to reduce the amount of people who may lose out on their housing benefit.

As part of the new welfare changes that are now in place, those tenants under occupying a house will receive up to 14% less housing benefit if they are assessed to have one additional bedroom and up to 25% if they are assessed to have two or more additional bedrooms.

Councillor Peter Gruen, Leeds City Council executive board member with responsibility for neighbourhoods, planning and support services said:

“As part of our ambition to be the best city in the UK we want to make sure people can live comfortably in our city without the worry of not being able to pay their rent.

“Under the new welfare changes, tenants under occupying a house by one or more bedrooms will have their housing benefit reduced, therefore making it more difficult to pay the rent each month.

“Officers at the council will be investigating the possibility of re-designating 398 three-bedroom low rise flats to two bedrooms, 341 five bedroom houses with a downstairs bedroom to four bedroom houses and 126 two bedroom multi storey flats to one bedroom.

“These properties are being looked at because they fall into the highest percentage of properties that are currently affected by under occupancy and fall into low demand when finding new tenants. These properties also present a feasible option for re-designation due to the current layouts.

“If the council is able to re-designate all 865 properties that we are currently looking at, it will mean the households affected will not have to find additional funds and will not find themselves in a place of hardship.

“The council will benefit from this scheme through the savings that could have been associated with the additional resources such as legal costs and additional staff that come with chasing rent.”

For media enquiries, please contact;

Cat Milburn, Leeds City Council press office (0113) 247 4450

Statement regarding the latest position on the children’s heart surgery unit at Leeds General Infirmary

The following statement has been issued by the Chair of the Joint Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee (HOSC) for Yorkshire and the Humber Councillor John Illingworth, concerning the latest position on the current suspension of children’s heart surgery services at Leeds General Infirmary.

Chair of the Joint Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee (HOSC) for Yorkshire and the Humber Councillor John Illingworth said:

“Following a briefing update we received this morning, we understand the matter is to be discussed at a NHS England risk summit tomorrow (Thursday). At this summit we are hopeful that the issues which resulted in the temporary closure will be fully addressed and that these critically important services will be immediately restored.

“Our prime concern throughout this process has been the welfare of the children concerned and limiting the anxiety of their parents and families, and we hope the restoration of services in Leeds will remove the current uncertainty and provide some comfort to them at this exceptionally difficult time.

“While our sole focus at this point is on bringing about the restoration of services as quickly as possible, we do have a number of questions to ask about how this whole process has played out and we will be seeking answers to those questions in the weeks and months to come.”


For media enquiries, please contact;
Roger Boyde, Leeds City Council press office (0113) 247 5472

Lower Kirkgate to benefit from £2million refurbishment

A major programme of repair and refurbishment has taken a step further towards becoming a reality for the lower Kirkgate area of Leeds.

On Thursday 4th April Leeds City Council and the Heritage Lottery Fund will launch a new townscape heritage initiative to invest over £2million in this historic area of the city to repair and refurbish existing business premises and bring back into use vacant properties including the iconic grade II* First White Cloth Hall.

******* Media opportunity ********

All media are invited to the launch of the Lower Kirkgate townscape heritage initiative on Thursday 4 April at 11.30am on Lower Kirkgate. Cllr Richard Lewis and Dr. Fiona Spiers will be launching the initiative. Please call the press office on 0113 247 4450 to arrange attendance.

******* Media opportunity ********

Kirkgate is Leeds’ first street, and therefore a site of historic value. The buildings that can be seen today illustrate the city’s 19th century development, and there is even evidence of an Anglo-Saxon settlement in the area.

The fabric of the street has deteriorated over many years with a number of properties vacant or underused, in contrast with its surroundings. The lack of investment up until now is due in part to the high cost associated with the refurbishment of heritage rich buildings and by the blighting effect of the First White Cloth Hall. It is hoped that the scheme will serve to develop this part of the city through providing funding assistance to encourage private sector investment, transforming lower Kirkgate into a vibrant and distinct leisure and retail destination within the city centre.

The Lower Kirkgate Townscape Heritage Initiative (THI) adds to the two ongoing THI schemes in Armley and Chapeltown, making Leeds the only city in the country with three schemes.

It is anticipated that work on site will start in early 2014..

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

“Leeds City Centre really is bucking the national trend, and has a huge amount of developments popping up at the moment, with many more in the pipeline.

“This said we want to make sure the whole of city is keeping up, and this part of the city in particular is very much in need of refurbishment.

“We have many wonderful listed buildings and beautiful historic places in the centre of Leeds and it is important we keep these alive, whilst also making sure any disused buildings are brought back into use for any businesses that may wish to come to the city.

“This initiative will not only bring a historic part of the city back to life, but will also provide jobs in the construction industry, improve on the heritage of the city and secure private sector investment in the long term, which will in turn create more jobs.

Dr. Fiona Spiers, regional director of the Heritage Lottery Fund said:

"The First White Cloth Hall and the area around Kirkgate is absolutely central to the history and heritage of Leeds. Heritage Lottery Fund is delighted to be involved in the regeneration of this area through the Townscape Heritage Initiative, which should bring new life and activity to the area, and help those who live and work there learn more about their historic surroundings.’’

Notes to editors:

Townscape Heritage Initiative is a nation wide scheme which offers grants that help communities to regenerate Conservation Areas displaying particular social and economic need.

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