Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Statement on the decision to suspend the review into the children's heart surgery unit at Leeds General Infirmary

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

“We very much welcome today’s announcement by the Secretary of State for Health to formally suspend the Safe and Sustainable Review which recommended the closure of the children’s congenital heart surgery unit at Leeds General Infirmary.

“We are pleased that the Independent Reconfiguration Panel has officially recognised the flaws in the original review process, and we would be happy to work with all parties to ensure any future review is conducted in a transparent, thorough and fair way.

“We will now take time to reflect on the full detail of the IRP's report, and would again thank all those that have contributed to the work of the JHOSC as we look to ensure the best possible long-term care can be delivered for children and their families across Yorkshire and the Humber.”

ENDS

For media enquiries please contact:
Roger Boyde,
Leeds City Council press office,
Tel 0113 247 5472
Email: roger.boyde@leeds.gov.uk


Council reveals ambitious plans to tackle poverty in Leeds

Senior councillors will next week discuss ambitious plans to tackle poverty and the effects of the Government’s welfare changes for many people across the city.

At a meeting of the executive board next week (Wednesday 19 June), members will also discuss proposals to tackle the problem of payday and high cost lenders and create a new city-wide anti-poverty strategy.

The board will also hear how key services will work together and be organised specifically to offer a streamlined service to tackle all the issues around poverty and deprivation.

Helping people out of poverty and tackling the impact of welfare reform is one of the top priorities of the leader of Leeds City Council, Councillor Keith Wakefield, he said:
“Poverty is the most important challenge our city is facing. Its effects can be devastating and far-reaching which is why we are taking dramatic steps to tackle it. We are not only making our services more accessible to those most in need, we’ll also be joining up with partners from voluntary and advice organisations to make sure that the support we provide together can lift people out of poverty.

“We are already seeing that welfare reform is leading to an increase in rent arrears and council tax areas for a significant number of people, and this is only going to get worse. We are soon going to see a situation where people who have less money to manage their day to day costs will get into increased debt and will need to access credit facilities, which often means use of payday lenders or other expensive borrowing, which can often spiral out of control.

“We want to do all we can to help get people out of poverty and prevent others entering poverty. The best way to do this is by helping people find employment opportunities, make sure they have easy access to all the essential advice and support services they need and promote sensible lower-cost borrowing options.

“This isn’t an easy task but we must put our citizens first, to give the whole city a chance of a successful future.

“The new ‘Citizens and Communities’ directorate will lead the delivery of our work on tackling poverty and deprivation working closely with colleagues across the council and partner agencies. We will be looking to make services more accessible to those most in need of support. We will be providing more intensive support to help people manage their finances better, including tackling high cost lending and providing cheaper alternatives. We’ll also be doing much more to help local people access training and employment opportunities. We see accessibility, financial inclusion and employment as the three key issues to address to help people out of poverty.”

Plans are underway, including the development of a co-ordinated welfare rights and advice service and the development of a city-wide anti-poverty strategy.

In the first instance the anti-poverty strategy will prepare the city for further welfare changes; develop new activities and initiatives to tackle high-cost lenders and seek to maximise employment and training opportunities for local people to help get them out of poverty. It is proposed that a wider strategy is developed over the coming months, to incorporate income maximisation, affordable housing, employability, jobs, child poverty issues and related health matters.

Cllr Wakefield added:
“We are especially concerned that people will start turning to pay-day lenders, high cost loans and illegal money lenders with phenomenally high interest rates, which can lead to debts spiralling out of control and increased related health issues.

“We want to make sure everyone knows these aren’t the only option, so we will be increasing our support for credit unions, and low-cost borrowing options like Leeds City Credit Union and the Headrow Money Line, as well as making sure people can get easy access to good financial advice.

“We are keen to develop a high profile campaign to raise the issue of payday loans, and have been looking at the options of working with our local sports teams to help promote more manageable forms of lending.”

At next week’s meeting, members of the executive board will also look at how the Government’s welfare reform changes are impacting on child poverty in Leeds. Around 4,200 children are being directly affected by the new rules about spare rooms in council and Housing Association tenancies, whose parents will receive less housing benefit for living in a home which is deemed too large. The changes will also affect children who visit to stay over with separated or divorced parents – no extra bedroom is allowed for these visits under the new rules. 27,844 children also live in families who have seen their council tax support reduced. The latest figures from the Department for Work and Pensions shows that around 2,000 children will be affected when the benefit cap is rolled out in August this year. There is also a risk that, certain families will be worse off when Universal Credit comes into force. This includes single parents under 25 and single parents with a disabled child (except for those children classed as severely disabled).

The council has already put in place arrangements to limit the impact of welfare changes on children, including giving priority for Discretionary Housing Payments to tenants who need an extra room to accommodate access arrangement for children, as well as making sure no foster carers lose out. The local council tax support scheme also protects single parents with children under 5 from any reduction in support. A casework team has also been established which is made up of staff from the benefits team, Families First, children’s services, housing options, the ALMOs and Jobcentre plus, to identify options for supporting families affected by the benefit cap.

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

Street lights could be switched off to save energy and money

Street lights in Leeds could be switched off at certain times each night to save the council energy and money.

Members of the council’s executive board will determine if some lamps can be switched off between midnight and 5.30am when they meet on Wednesday 19 June.

If agreed, the change would apply to around 8,000 of the city’s 92,000 street lights. Only street lights that meet certain criteria on safety and road safety grounds will be considered for the partial switch off.

The public was consulted on the proposals between February and April this year. Based on that feedback, additional criteria to where the night-time switch off could apply was added.

The council stands to save over £1 million over the next 10 years in energy bills with the proposed switch off. Even with energy efficient street lights that make the most of the latest technology, the council’s electricity bill for street lighting comes in at £3.97 million a year. Energy costs are expected to continue to increase.

The change will cost £376,864 to implement.

Councillor Richard Lewis, executive member for development and the economy, said:

“Although these proposals are aimed at helping us cut emissions and save money to be invested in other essential council services, road safety and the impact on crime has to be our top priority.

“Careful consideration has been given to the proposals and we’ve taken on board the feedback of residents to provide extra reassurance.

“The approach to partnership working and amending proposed switch off times and locations show that we are continuing to provide best value services that reduce our impact on the environment while maintaining safety.”

The report outlines the assessment criteria to be met before any streets lights could be turned off, to ensure they avoid:
  • roads with a significant road traffic accident record during the proposed switch off period.
  • areas with above average record of crime during the proposed switch off period.
  • areas with a police record of frequent anti-social behaviour during the proposed switch off period.
  • areas provided with CCTV local authority/police surveillance equipment.
  • areas with sheltered housing and other residences accommodating vulnerable people.
  • areas around 24hr operational emergency services sites including hospitals.
  • at formal pedestrian crossings, subways, and enclosed footpaths and alleyways where one end links to a street that is lit all night.
  • areas where there are potential hazards on the highway such as roundabouts, central carriageway islands, chicanes and traffic calming features.
  • Where bus stops are in use during the proposed switch off period.
If agreed, it’s anticipated that lights will start to be switched off from October 2013. Around 3,250 lights on traffic routes will assessed against the criteria at this time. The assessment would be carried out by a partnership made up of the council, emergency services, crime reduction, community safety and road safety representatives.

From March 2014, 4,750 residential street lights would be assessed and switched off if appropriate. The switch off would be completed by September 2016.

The impact of any switch off on levels of crime and road safety would be monitored and lights would be switched back on if there is any adverse impact.

Warning signs would be placed to give people advance notice of the partial night-time switch off and road markings would be upgraded or installed in switch off areas to maintain safety.

In addition, funding has been set aside so the council and Safer Leeds could provide advice to communities on precautions to protect themselves and their properties if they are significantly concerned that a street light switch off will affect them.

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

ENDS

Rifles Regiment take to the streets of Leeds

Caption: The Rifles Regiment


The public are invited to show their support for The Rifles Regiment as they march through the streets of Leeds this weekend to exercise their right to the freedom of the city.

On Saturday 22 June 300 Riflemen will take part in a Freedom Parade from 10.45am, starting in Millennium Square. Leeds City Council is pleased to host the Rifles' Parade in the week leading up to Armed Forces Day on June 29.

The parade will march down Calverley Street, the Headrow, along Vicar Lane to King Edward Street, to Briggate and then across the Headrow and back up Calverley Street to Millennium Square where the Lord Mayor of Leeds and The Deputy Lieutenant, will take the salute.

The parade will consist of 2 guards from 3 RIFLES, a guard from D (Rifles) Company 5RRF which will include the Doncaster Platoon, the Regimental Officer’s Club, the Regimental Association, E (Rifles) Coy ACF, Batley Grammar School CCF and The Rifles Band and Bugles.

The parade will be followed by a Civic reception for those on parade and invited guests.

The Lord Mayor of Leeds, Councillor Tom Murray said:

“It is great to be able to welcome the Rifles Regiment to the city of Leeds at the end of June.

“I am sure the Regiment will see plenty of support on the streets of Leeds, and it will give people the chance to show their support for our armed forces.”


The Assistant Colonel Commandant The Rifles, Maj General TP Evans CBE DSO said:

“I am sure you are aware of the antecedent regiments, The King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry and The Light Infantry, and of the number of soldiers from Yorkshire who joined those regiments and who are now in The Rifles.


“The KOYLI were granted the Freedom of Leeds on 20 Oct 1946. This was then conferred to The Rifles on 1 Aug 2008. Thank you to the good people of Leeds for allowing The Rifles, to exercise the Freedom of Leeds”.


After the parade the Rifles Band and Bugles will perform at a Charity Concert on behalf of “Care for Casualties”, The Rifles Charity on the evening of Saturday 22 June 2013 at The Refectory, Leeds University. Tickets cost £15 per person and are available from: The Rifles Office Yorkshire Tel 01977 703181 or by e-mail at: DINF-RIFLES-RHQ-AOPontefract@mod.uk.

Notes to editors:

The Rifles is the biggest Regiment in the British Army. They consist of five regular and two territorial Battalions and three independent territorial sub units, including D Coy 5 RRF on parade today. The Rifles cap badge is worn by nearly 25 percent of all Army Cadet Force units (ACF).


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