Thursday, 23 May 2013

Leeds households make big savings on energy costs

Energy bills across Yorkshire will be reduced by over £800,000 following the region’s largest collective fuel switch.

Householders in Leeds, Bradford, Kirklees, Wakefield and York banded together with their local authority and Community Energy Direct to source the best deal from gas and electricity suppliers.

Working with the consumer organisation Which?, the councils and Community Energy Direct saw almost 7,000 households sign-up to the collective switch, which closed on 1 May.

1,354 Leeds residents now stand to collectively save £136,564 a year. They join thousands of residents in five neighbouring areas taking the total savings to £805,000. Average household annual energy savings are £137.

Another 1,000 families have been reassured that they are already on the best deal available for them.

Councillor Mark Dobson, executive member for the environment, said:

“There’s no doubt that by clubbing together we’ve been able to negotiate a great deal for our residents. People power has definitely paid off, with many householders now saving a significant amount of money at a time when energy bills are spiralling out of control.

“Even if people didn’t want to join the collective on this occasion there is still merit in shopping around for the best energy deal or even switching payment method. And once on the best deal for you, you can capitalise on savings even further by using energy wisely.”

Hugh Goulbourne, a director of Community Energy Direct, said:

“The savings of almost £1 million across the five areas clearly demonstrates that when householders band together in a collective way they can help each other to save.

“Some homes will be making an annual saving of more than £500 on their energy costs simply by switching from a cash account to a quarterly direct debit account.

“We are very pleased to be making these significant savings which will ease the pressures on so many households, especially those people living on fixed incomes who were finding it such a struggle to make ends meet.”

The Community Energy Direct - Energy Smart program was launched in February and ran its collective switch scheme for three months. It was supported by the Cheaper Energy Together fund operated by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC).

Plans are already being drawn up for future collective energy switching and energy saving initiatives across the region.

Detailed analysis of the households which have been offered better energy deals is now being completed and will be detailed in a report to go to DECC.

Initial analysis shows the following:

Area Registered households Total savings by payment type    Offers by type    
  Cash Direct Debit Pre-payment Total Cash Direct Debit Pre- payment Total
Bradford 1,262£160,029£114,410£39,250£313,6891261,0191171,262
Kirklees 1,582£22,413£122,817£18,284£163,5131481,3211131,582
Leeds 1,354£8,755£115,783£12,027£136,564741,198821,354
Wakefield 1,191£18,044£112,439£11,605£142,0881201,000711,191
York 328£1,287£28,730£6,246£36,2641629022328
Rochdale 71£124£3,639£2,034£5,7964511671
Other 100£888£10,311£1,441£12,64013798100
Totals 5,888£211,539£508,128£90,886£810,5535014,9584295,888

So, in Leeds, a total of 1,354 households joined the collective switch. Those who used to pay by cash can save a total of £8,755 by making the switch to the new account offer; those paying by direct debit can save £115,783; those on pre-payment deals can save £12,027. This makes a total energy cost saving in the Leeds area of £136,564.

Rochdale Boroughwide Housing joined the five Yorkshire areas in the program, and 100 people who lived outside the region also signed-up.

Note to editors:

Community Energy Direct is based in Leeds. For more information visit

Energy regulator Ofgem predicts that energy prices will rise by 60% to 2016 and that the number of homes in fuel poverty (spending more than 10% of household income on energy) will rise from 13% to 16% in the same timeframe.

A community energy co-operative approach enables local people, within a distinct area, to join together and ensure that they are all on the best possible deal for them.

Community Energy Direct is setting up energy smart programmes in six local authority areas across northern England, training and supporting local energy champions so that they can work with local authority and housing partners to continue to drive down energy bills for thousands of households.

Which? is a consumer champion. It works to make things better for consumers. Its advice helps them make informed decisions; its campaigns make people’s lives fairer, simpler and safer; its services and products put consumers’ needs first to bring them better value.

Community Energy Direct – John O’Grady 07805 933324
Leeds City Council – Amanda Burns 0113 395 1577

Images of Tour de France legend Bernard Hinault in Leeds

See above a selection of images from yesterday's visit to Leeds by five-time Tour de France winner Bernard Hinault and Director of the Tour de France Christian Prudhomme.

The star guests, accompanied on the visit by the Leader of Leeds City Council Councillor Keith Wakefield and Chief Executive of Welcome to Yorkshire Gary Verity, met schoolchildren from across the city at Kippax North School, Brigshaw High School and Carr Manor Community School.

The visit was part of the build-up to Leeds being the host city for the Grand Départ of next year's Tour de France in July 2014.

Full captions for each image are available on request. The image directly above at Carr Manor Community School shows Bernard Hinault (centre, on bike) with (left to right): Leeds City Council cycling champion Cllr Roger Harington, Leader of Leeds City Council Cllr Keith Wakefield, Leeds City Council executive member for children's services Cllr Judith Blake, Director of the Tour de France Christian Prudhomme and Chief Executive of Welcome to Yorkshire Gary Verity.

For more information on the Grand Départ in Leeds and Yorkshire visit or follow @letouryorkshire on Twitter.


For media enquiries please contact:
Roger Boyde,
Leeds City Council press office,
Tel 0113 247 5472

Dementia strategy launched in Leeds

National Dementia Awareness Week has been marked in Leeds with the launch of a strategy to help the city achieve its aim of being a dementia friendly community.

The Living Well with Dementia in Leeds Strategy was approved at yesterday’s (Wednesday 22 May) first meeting of the Leeds Health and Wellbeing Board.

Leeds City Council made a formal commitment to becoming a dementia-friendly community back in March 2012, as part of a nationwide initiative led by the Alzheimer’s Society and the Department of Health. Since then, representatives from voluntary and community groups, including neighbourhood networks, have worked with the council and the NHS to develop a list of priorities for improving health and social care for people with dementia in Leeds.

The Living Well with Dementia in Leeds Strategy provides an overview of local services and an action plan for the next three years. It sets out what local organisations are doing and are planning to do, in order to improve quality of life and care for people with dementia, families and carers.

Councillor Adam Ogilvie, executive board member responsible for adult social care said:
“Our vision is for Leeds to be the best city in the UK, and as part of that, we have also made a commitment to become a dementia-friendly community.

“Dementia is one of the greatest challenges facing our ageing society. Research shows that one in three people over the age of 65 in the UK will develop dementia, with hundreds of thousands more being affected by the condition through a family member or friend.

“This strategy will provide us with a citywide approach to address some of the stigmas attached to dementia, and promote the idea that the condition is everyone’s business. With strong support networks in place from the earliest possible stages of dementia, people’s wellbeing will be maintained for longer and those living with the condition will be able to live better lives.”

Some of the positive things that are already happening in health and social care in Leeds are as follows:

• Extra investment into NHS memory services.

• Leeds Teaching Hospitals Trust’s ‘Forget me not’ scheme to support patients with dementia and their carers, to find out more about patients’ preferences and habits, and preserve a familiar environment important to patients.

• Leeds City Council investing in more carer support.

• Leeds Teaching Hospitals Trust ensuring that staff are trained in dementia, and Leeds Community Healthcare NHS Trust supporting staff through “dementia champions”.

• Leeds Community Healthcare NHS Trust enrolled nine support workers onto the course ‘Best practice in dementia care’ run by University of Stirling. The course helps staff develop existing skills and gain new knowledge and understanding which will improve their caring for people with dementia.

• Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust achieved its target for screening patients over 75 years old attending hospital for early signs of dementia.

Local services in Leeds have been pioneers for many important developments, including memory services; specialist services to support people with dementia in hospital, and to return home from hospital; peer support; dementia cafés and activities offered by voluntary and community groups. However, there is a great deal more to do to improve awareness, diagnosis and support; to ensure dementia is considered alongside other health conditions and needs, not in isolation; and to develop the workforce to provide person-centred care.
Work has also taken place to engage with a wide range of businesses and organisations outside of health and social care, who may previously not considered that they also have an important role in helping people to live well with dementia.

Additional info
Leeds City Council teamed up with Leeds Involving People and Leeds Alzheimer’s Society to put on a social and involvement event at Leeds Civic Hall on Tuesday, 21 May. Around 150 people attended, which included people living with dementia and family members / carers, members of Leeds Involving People and professionals. During the morning there were talks and discussions, which highlighted the difficulties posed by dementia, but how diagnosis and support from services and activities can make a real, positive difference. This was followed by lunch and a very successful and sociable afternoon dance.
For more information about Dementia Awareness Week in Leeds, please visit the Better Lives in Leeds blog here

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

Leeds sports superstars say school dinners pack a punch

Picture caption: Olympic boxing Champion Nicola Adams and Danny McGuire from Leeds Rhinos showing their support for the child friendly Leeds campaign.

Two sporting superstars from Leeds have joined forces with Leeds City Council to remind families to make sure they take up the free school meals they are entitled to.

Olympic boxing champion Nicola Adams, and Leeds Rhino Danny McGuire have both agreed to be Child Friendly Leeds ambassadors with a specific focus on free school meals.

Both Nicola and Danny went to school in Leeds and have grown up to be sporting role models for children of the city.

As part of the ambassador role, Danny and Nicola have agreed to support Leeds City Council’s campaign to encourage every child who is eligible for a free school meal to take up the offer.

In Leeds there are around 20,000 pupils who are eligible for a free school meal, but around 4,500 of those do not take up their entitlement. As well as making sure each child gets at least one, health and nutritious meal a day, it would also save parents around £10 a week – which adds up to nearly £400 each school year.

Olympic boxing champion and child friendly Leeds ambassador, Nicola Adams said:“I think this campaign is fantastic. Eating healthy is really important – it gives you energy to do your lessons during the day and it gives me the energy to be able to do my training, without the right meals and the right vitamins and minerals I wouldn’t be able to be where I am today. If you eat right you can study hard and train hard as well.

“I think it’s really important that people take up the free meals, getting kids to eat a really healthy meal, and the extra money they save can be used elsewhere too.

“I think’s it important for kids to have someone to look up to, I would have loved to have someone like me or Danny McGuire to look up to, thinking that if I eat healthy and train hard I can achieve anything that I want to.”

Danny who was also born and bred in Leeds, went to the same primary school as Nicola – Richmond Hill. It’s also Danny’s testimonial year at the Leeds Rhinos.

Danny Maguire said: “It’s a real honour to be a child friendly Leeds ambassador. I’m proud to be from Leeds and representing Leeds throughout my careers at different sports, at Rugby and football and cricket, so it’s great to give something back. I think as a whole it’s a fantastic city, we’ve got everything you can imagine, we’ve got great sports teams, we’ve got great city, and great people, I feel proud and fortunate that I’m from Leeds.

“Financially there are hard times across the country, so I think it’s important that people, who are eligible, do take it up the free school meals. They are healthy and the kids should be getting the energy for school in the afternoon. I’d advise as many kids to take up the free school meals as possible.”

Child friendly Leeds ambassadors inspire others to make Leeds a better place for children and young people. Children’s Commissioner Maggie Atkinson, a champion for children across the whole of the UK, is also a child friendly Leeds ambassador. There is also a steady stream of ambassadors coming forward from Leeds schools, colleges and organisations such as the NHS and West Yorkshire Probation Service.

Councillor Judith Blake, executive board member responsible for children’s services said: “It is great to have Nicola and Danny on-board – they are true role models for our children and young people. But you don’t have to be famous to be Child Friendly Leeds ambassador; you just have to be proud of our city and willing to help us make it a better place for our children.

“In Leeds we are committed to making sure our school lunches are tasty and healthy, as well as making lunchtime comfortable and fun for everyone. Yet everyday children are still missing out on their free school meal.

“There’s no stigma attached to free school meals anymore, so I want to encourage people to check to see if they are eligible and make sure they take up what is rightfully theirs.”

Businesses and organisations across the city are also being asked to make a child friendly Leeds pledge, and say what they’re going to do to make Leeds the best city for children. This could include building stronger links with local schools, arranging for staff to become mentors to young people in care, helping to promote and support foster care across their workforce and looking at how they can change their services to make them more child friendly.

Since the campaign started last summer, well over one hundred ambassadors have already signed up, and 134 organisations have made child friendly Leeds pledges. To find out more, please see:, and follow the campaign on twitter @child_Leeds

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

Families urged to take up free child care places for two-year-olds

Thousands of low-income families with two year old children are being urged to find out if they are able to benefit from free childcare places in a scheme offered across Leeds.

Childcare providers, including childminders, pre-schools, children’s centres and private nurseries, now have the opportunity to offer quality play and learning experiences to all eligible two year olds, thanks to additional funding from the government.

The free early educational entitlement will fund childcare for all eligible two year olds across the city. By 2015, over 4000 two year olds will be eligible for places.

Nursery providers who want to find out more about the free child care places for eligible two year olds can attend one of two events organised by Leeds City Council.

The first event will be held on Tuesday 4 June 2013 from 6.30 pm to 8.30 pm at Pudsey Civic Hall and the second event will be held on Tuesday 11 June 2013 from 9.30 am to 1.30 pm at Leeds Civic Hall.

The overall aim is to raise attainment among the eligible children, but a key element of the scheme is to support parents involvement in their children’s learning at home by taking part in courses at their local children’s centre, to help them support their children’s learning, as well as building their own confidence and skills.

Councillor Judith Blake, executive board member responsible for children’s services said:
“This is excellent news for families in Leeds, enabling parents and carers to take advantage of training opportunities and return to work incentives, whilst accessing the free childcare places.

“The money coming to Leeds through this grant will not only benefit eligible two year olds and their families, but will also provide over 1000 new job opportunities in the childcare sector.

“We are working hard to bring everyone together to make Leeds a child friendly city – a place where children are valued, supported, enjoy growing up, and look forward to a bright future.”

Roadshows will be held at children’s centres and libraries across the city over the summer to enable parents to find out more about the places. Details will be announced shortly.

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

New learning opportunities for adults

As part of Adult Learners’ week this week there are lots of opportunities available for people wanting to gain new skills in Leeds.

The celebration will include a range of events in various locations across Leeds where learning opportunities from beauty , gardening and maths skills to confidence and self-esteem lessons will be available to try.

The activities are listed on the Adult Learners’ Week website at,  along with other opportunities available throughout the year.

Currently there are over 1100 community learning courses offered in Leeds across 250 venues. Each year between 7,000 and 9,000 people enrol on the various courses to gain new skills, knowledge and generally to enjoy further learning as adults.

Case Study – Stacey Buckley
Stacey had always wanted to work in childcare and had previously started a course, but withdrew after losing her step mum. A couple of years later Stacey found out she was pregnant, but lost the child early in the pregnancy. Both these events hit her hard and had a big effect on Stacey’ emotional wellbeing and her confidence levels.

Stacey later found out she was pregnant again, but was so concerned about protecting her child that she would not go out or take her anywhere that was not totally necessary. The Family Outreach team contacted Stacey and convinced her to attend the family learning course.

When she first attended the class she was very shy and timid, and did not engage fully in group tasks. Stacey got really embarrassed when asked a question or for her views and opinions, but as she continued she became an active more vocal and valuable member of the group.

Stacey initially gained a level 1 progression award in Supporting Children’s Learning, after completing two Family Learning courses she went on to do a family health course before progressing and achieving a CCLD level 3 childcare qualification at Leeds City College. This required Stacey to find a placement which the children’s centre agreed to.

Stacey is now qualified at level 3 and has been successful in obtaining full time childcare assistant position at the children’s centre.

Stacey said:
“The learning courses have been a great help to me, increasing my knowledge and skills in different areas and increasing my confidence greatly.

“I have really enjoyed meeting new people and gaining a set of new skills, and look forward to continuing my learning.”

Councillor Lucinda Yeadon, Leeds City Council executive board member for skills said:

“Community learning courses offer a great way to build confidence in areas ranging from basic computing through to French or even singing - and with no age barrier to accessing these opportunities everyone in the city can get involved, meaning learning is open for all.

“Such learning opportunities allow people of all ages to gain new skills and learn for fun or get a new qualification, as well as helping people get back into work.

“Many of our learners experience great satisfaction through trying something new, be that through increased confidence or the new skills they obtain.”

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