Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Leader of Leeds City Council confirms Leeds support for the West Yorkshire Transport fund

At a meeting of Leeds City Council’s executive board today (Wednesday 24 April) members agreed to support the principle of establishing a £1billion ‘West Yorkshire Plus’ transport fund.

Councillor Keith Wakefield, leader of Leeds City Council said:

"Today’s decision underlines our commitment to maximise investment in regional infrastructure for the benefit of local people and businesses. It means local authorities, rather than central government, are at the forefront of regional decision making and as a result can respond more effectively to local priorities.

"Adopting this collaborative approach enables the local authorities involved to drive economic growth and job creation, while delivering much needed improvements to regional transport links.

"At long last we will be able to make progress on transformational projects, which have the potential to create up to 20,000 new jobs. What is more, we can provide better access to employment for some of our most deprived areas, where households are dealing with real poverty.

"In Leeds, as in partner authorities, we want to see local ambitions realised and we recognise that action taken by the combined authority has the potential to significantly assist in the rebalancing of the wider economy."

Notes
1.     The Leeds City Deal with government was confirmed in July 2012 and included a proposal to create a commitment to a £1 billion fund to invest in transport in West Yorkshire over the next decade.
2.     The Fund’s primary objective is to maximise an increase in employment and productivity growth by the completion of transport schemes across West Yorkshire, irrespective of boundaries.
3.     All West Yorkshire District authorities will be formally considering a report in the coming months which request an ‘in-principle agreement’ for the Fund and the indicative levels of financial commitments set out in the report.


‘Indie Street’ – report calls for more support for independent retail sector


Umesh Patel, proprietor of Gossip, an independent accessories and fashion store located in Central Arcade


A new report highlighting the key role of Leeds’ independent retail sector in maintaining the vibrancy and attractiveness of the city centre will be launched at an event taking place at Old Broadcasting House on Thursday 25 April 2013, 5.30-7pm.
The report, based on research commissioned by Leeds City Council’s economic development service and Leeds Metropolitan University, argues that the sector is a key ingredient of the city’s distinctive and diverse retail offer.

It points to the opening of Trinity Leeds, the proposed Victoria Gate development and the redevelopment of Kirkgate Market as presenting significant opportunities for the city’s strong independent retail sector to develop and expand.

The report calls on business support organisations to extend their reach to help more independent retail businesses prosper and grow, as rising costs and the growth of online sales continue to squeeze the high street.

Landlords also need to work more closely with tenants to promote their businesses, according to the report, and independent retail should be more strongly promoted as part of the city’s wider offer as a visitor destination.

Katie Rigarlsford, operations manager at QU2, Leeds Metropolitan University’s business incubator, said:
“Rising costs, fierce competition and growth of internet sales have taken a heavy toll on the UK high street, with independent retailers coming under increasing pressure.

“There’s a real need for traditional business support in the form of mentoring and financial advice, together with more sector-specific support with things like merchandising, customer service and in-store promotion.

“We also need to do more to promote business incubators to provide test trading opportunities, such as pop up shops, as well as low cost and flexible business premises for start up retailers. And there’s clearly an opportunity for independent retailers to make greater use of social media and e-commerce to grow their businesses and Leeds Met is in a great position to help with this through our enterprise office.”

A survey carried out as part of the research project showed that only 30 per cent of businesses surveyed had used any of the services provided by business support organisations such as the Chamber of Commerce, Federation of Small Business or the British Independent Retailers Association.

Independent traders interviewed by the research team said they also want training and advice on e-commerce and online promotion; more to be done to increase footfall to those areas of the city where their businesses are clustered; and links made with city centre festivals and promotion of the city’s independent retail sector as part of its offer and a tourism and visitor destination.

The report points to a number of initiatives set up to provide a platform for the city’s independent retail sector, which provide a model that could be used to grow the sector:
- Fabrication, a social enterprise operating from a pop up shop in The Light, which supports micro craft and fashion businesses
- Birds Yard, located on Kirkgate, which provides an outlet for independent fashion designers in Leeds
- Made in Leeds, the new store at Trinity Leeds which showcases the local fashion industry and talents of artists and designers

The report also calls for more support for independent retail within town and district centres across Leeds, where local shops and enterprise provide an important focus for communities.

Councillor Richard Lewis, Leeds City Council’s executive board member for development and economy said:
“Leeds is the UK’s third largest centre for retail employment, with around 8% of the city’s workforce employed in the sector, but as we have seen in recent months, it is a fiercely competitive environment and there have been many high profile casualties.

“Independent retailers make a major contribution to the city’s vibrancy and attractiveness. We need to support their entrepreneurial flair and, if we are going to reverse the trend of recent years, create more opportunities for independent and small traders to open new shops and succeed, both in the city centre and in local communities.”

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Additional info
Recommendations included in the report are based on research undertaken between November 2012 and March 2013. The report was commissioned jointly by Leeds City Council and Leeds Metropolitan University.

1. Key findings of the report:
• There are around 200 independent retail outlets in Leeds city centre, in addition to over 250 independent retail businesses in Kirkgate Market. Just over half of these are primary retailers, 25% are food outlets and the other 20% provide a range of personal services.
• Independent retailers are clustered in ‘pockets’ around The Calls, Kirkgate Market, Central Arcade, the Corn Exchange and Kirkgate Market.
• Only 30 per cent of independent retailers surveyed had used any of the services provided by business support organisations
• While 61% of shop owners and online retailers make active use of social media, only 10% of shop owners actively use e-commerce as part of their business
• Nearly three quarters would like training and assistance in developing e-commerce facilities. This includes those who are already have an online presence.
• 69% of those surveyed think Leeds is a good city for independent retail

2. Case studies:
A number of independent retailers were interviewed as part of the research project and a selection of case studies are included in the main report. Media interviews can be arranged on request:
• Umesh Patel, proprietor of Gossip, an independent accessories and fashion store located in Central Arcade.
• Lisa Proctor, proprietor of World of Dance, a gymnastics and dance wear retailer, recently relocated from the Victoria Quarter to Central Arcade.
• Beverley Zimmerman, owner of Memphis Belle, specialist fashion retailer stocking 40s and 50s fashions and a wide range of jewellery, fashions.
For media enquiries, please contact;
David Baggaley, Leeds City Council (0113) 247 7851
Email: david.baggaley@leeds.gov.uk

New offer gives well deserved recognition for council foster carers

Foster carers and young people who are leaving care are being given extra support and opportunities following agreement by senior councillors today.

Members of Leeds City Council’s executive board agreed new ‘corporate offers’ for foster carers and care leavers, at their meeting earlier today (Wednesday 24 April). The offers, which will begin later this year, set out a number of new discounts to help foster carers carry out their important role, details on how the council will help young people leaving care with their transition into adulthood, as well as what support is already available and what new developments are underway.

The new offers are part of the council’s on-going commitment to foster carers and care leavers and are set to be expanded as further discussions take place.

The council is the ‘corporate parent’ to 1372 ‘looked after children’ and is responsible for ensuring these children have the best possible start in life. Looked after children are the most vulnerable in society and research has shown these children have poorer outcomes than their peers.

The new corporate offer for foster carers provides carers with access to a range of support and services to help them in carrying out their important role with vulnerable children. It also provides recognition of the important contribution they make to the city.

Foster carers will be given free access to leisure and sports opportunities so that looked after children will be able to build confidence, self-esteem and skills to help their future development. The offer includes free Bodyline membership, free swims for the whole family, free swimming lessons, and free tickets for child friendly events being organised by the council. A range of shopping discounts will also be made available to foster carers, as well as MOTs by the council’s fleet services team.

The council has also changed its HR policy to be a ‘foster family friendly employer’ which includes providing better support to council staff who are foster carers including time off during the fostering process and for training.

Each year around 130 young people in Leeds leave care because they have reached 18. Many of these young people have been in care for a significant part of their lives and subsequently the council has a vital role to play to support them into adulthood. The corporate offer has been developed to ensure that care leavers are supported through this difficult transition and help them reach their potential and enjoy the same success as their peers.

The new corporate offer for care leavers includes help with obtaining training or employment, housing and setting up a home – including independent living skills, discounted or free leisure opportunities. Leeds children’s services is also working closely with partners and other council department to further develop the offer to include dedicated help with health issues, support in how to claim benefits, and making sure young care leavers have somewhere to go for any help and advice which young people would normally go to their family for.

Councillor Judith Blake, executive member responsible for children’s services said: “Children in care are often exceptionally vulnerable and need extra care and support to help them make the most of their lives. We know, as corporate parents, we can never replace parental love, but these children and young people rely on us to be there and provide not only a place to live, but also emotional support and the encouragement to succeed.

“Our foster carers provide an invaluable service, giving stable and supportive homes to children in care. Our new corporate offer demonstrates our on-going commitment to helping them achieve the best possible outcomes for the children they look after, as well as recognition that they are an integral part of our team. We hope to be able to continue to develop our offers to make fostering with Leeds City Council an even more rewarding experience.

“Last year we set ourselves the ambitious target of being truly Child Friendly City – a city which every child is proud to grow up in. And we have spent the past year setting the wheels in motion to achieve this. Our offers to foster carers and care leavers are just one way in which we are bringing council services together to make Leeds the best city for children and young people.”

The new offer for foster carers is set to come into action around September 2013.

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For media enquiries, please contact:
Emma Whittell, Leeds City Council press office, on (0113) 2474713
Email: emma.whittell@leeds.gov.uk

New bin collections start next week

More frequent recycling collections for 50,000 Leeds homes start next week.

The new bin service – which will see black bins emptied one week and green bins emptied the next – starts on Monday 29 April.

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MEDIA OPPORTUNITY

What: Councillor Mark Dobson will join a crew as they pick up recycling on one of the first, new collections. Interview opportunities are available with Councillor Dobson and photo opportunities available with Councillor Dobson and the collection staff.

Where: Fairburn Drive area, Garforth

When: Monday 29 April at approximately 12.15 for 20 minutes only.

Time with collection staff is strictly limited to 20 minutes - please contact Amanda Burns (0113 395 1577 or amanda.l.burns@leeds.gov.uk) to arrange interview/filming/photo requests. An exact meeting time and location will be confirmed on the day.

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People living in Kippax, Methley, Garforth, Swillington, Morley, Ardsley, Robin Hood, a small part of New Farnley and additional properties in Rothwell are now to receive the more regular recycling collections.

By 2015 the service will be rolled out to 80% of homes in Leeds when the council expects to save £2.5 million a year; funds that will pay for vital council services.

Councillor Mark Dobson, executive member for the environment said:

“Next week marks an important step in our plans to make recycling easier and to vastly reduce the amount of otherwise reusable items that go to landfill.

“It has taken a considerable amount of behind-the-scenes planning to get us to this point and we’re keen to get the service underway.

“Our experience of introducing this service in Rothwell in 2010 plus the lessons learned from previous route changes, means we’re taking a considered, staged approach to such a massive change.

“And there is plenty of support on offer to residents at road shows, in communities and online, to help make the transition to the new service a smooth one.”

Upping the frequency of green recycling bin collections has been led by demand from Leeds residents. During a consultation on the council’s waste strategy, people told the council they wouldn’t need their black bins emptied each week if their recycling bin was emptied more often.

As well as financial savings, enabling residents to recycle more at home will have environmental benefits; valuable resources will be turned into new goods and harmful carbon emissions from waste will be cut.

Details of the new service can be found at www.leeds.gov.uk/newbinservice or www.facebook.com/leedswastedocs or by following @leedswastedocs on Twitter.

To accommodate the more frequent collection of green bins, other homes not yet receiving the new service may find that their bin day has to change. Bin collection days can be checked at www.leeds.gov.uk/residents/Pages/Check-your-bin-day.aspx and will be updated with any revisions for the start of the service.

For media enquiries please contact:
Amanda Burns, Leeds City Council press office (0113) 395 1577
email: amanda.l.burns@leeds.gov.uk

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