Monday, 22 July 2013

Comment on birth of royal baby

The Lord Mayor of Leeds Councillor Tom Murray said:

“I would like to offer congratulations, on behalf of the city of Leeds, to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.

“We wish them happiness and the best of luck for the future with their new son.”


For media enquiries please contact:

Leeds City Council press office,
Tel: 0113 395 0244

Looking after someone else’s child or know someone who is? Let the council know

People who are looking after a child who is not a direct relative are being urged to let Leeds City Council know about the arrangement.

When someone looks after a child or young person who is not a direct relative it is called private fostering. It is important Leeds City Council is aware of these arrangements to ensure the safety and well-being of the child, and that their carers are getting the support they need.

Private fostering describes an arrangement when someone, who is not a close relative, cares for another person’s child for 28 days or more. Although this is done by private arrangement, legally the parent and the carer must notify the local authority where the child is going to live so that the local authority can ensure that the child is being properly looked after.

Nobody knows exactly how many children are privately fostered but in 2001 the Department of Health estimated that there could be as many as 10,000 in England and Wales. It is feared that some of these ’invisible’ children could be at risk of abuse, or victims of trafficking.

Leeds City Council is also asking people who work with children and the general public in Leeds to be aware of private fostering and notify them if they are aware of or suspect such an arrangement.

While most privately fostered young people will be well cared for, some may not. In some extreme cases they may be subjected to abuse and exploitation.

Councillor Judith Blake, executive member for children’s services said:
“Everybody has a role in keeping our children safe – whether you are a teacher, youth worker, neighbour or you just chat to other parents at the school gate. If you hear about a child who you think may be privately fostered please let us know so we can ensure the child is being kept safe and is getting the support they need.

“Private foster carers may also be eligible for free advice and support, so it is in their best interests to let us know about any arrangements they have.”

It is an offence not to notify the local authority of a private fostering arrangement, people who do so, could risk a fine. It is also important that the local authority is informed of any significant changes in circumstances of private fostering arrangement, such as a house move or if another adult moves in, to live in the same house as the child.

More information on private fostering can be found on Leeds City Council’s website or by contacting Leeds City Council’s private fostering service on (0113) 2474654

Case study:

Mykey is fifteen years old. He is a privately fostered young person who lives with his Private Foster Carer Carol. When he was 9 years old, Mykey became unable to continue living with his birth family and he was too young to care for himself. As Mykey’s neighbour Carol became concerned that he was underweight, had dull, thin hair and was poorly clothed.

Carol understood that Mykey deserved to feel safe and well cared for. She and her daughter Charlotte wanted to offer love and care to Mykey so Carol made an agreement with Mykey’s family that she should care for him under a Private Fostering Arrangement. Carol notified Leeds Children’s Social Work Service about the arrangement.

Within six months of living with Carol, Mykey’s appearance improved. He enjoyed good home cooking and gained weight and developed into a very healthy boy.

Mykey is an important member of Carol’s family and his relationship with Carol and Charlotte is that of a loving son and brother. Carol states “They are my kids – both”.

There were challenges Carol encountered as a Private Foster Carer, including financial difficulty in affording to care for Mykey and the need to move to a bigger house. As a Privately Fostered young person Mykey receives regular support visits from Social Work Assistant Ruth. Carol and Mykey describe Ruth as “very good and supportive”. Ruth is very proud of Mykey’s achievements and describes him as a successful young man who she is confident will achieve well throughout his life. Indeed Mykey is now a very confident and outgoing young man. He recently sat 15 GCSE’s and is currently awaiting his exam results. He has plans to attend College to study a two year extended diploma in Performing Arts and has further career aspirations to attend university to study teaching at degree level.

Carol proudly states “Mykey is self- sufficient – he’s brilliant. I’ve never had a bad report about him from anyone”. She has brought Mykey up to be loving and considerate of other people and strongly believes that all young people should contribute to a family home. Mykey is glad to give Carol a hand whenever one is needed and indeed, last year when Carol encountered a serious illness, Mykey and Charlotte were the ones who supported Carol.

Carol also believes in the importance of all young people learning to contribute to the wider society and she has taught Mykey a range of independence and life skills which will stand him in good stead at university and throughout his adult life.

Mykey’s advice to any young person who may encounter similar difficulties to those he encountered as a young child? “Talk about your problems to someone who will listen to you. Otherwise you might continue feeling secluded and lonely. When you finally settle with a family you get out of that unhappy situation. You feel a difference, a relief at the loss of the difficulties.” Mykey considers that thanks to Carol, he has developed the right morals to become a good parent and to contribute to the wider society. He is so happy he trusted Carol to care for him.

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

Take up of school meals on the up in Leeds

Every day, an extra 1060 children in Leeds are having a school dinner compared to last year, ensuring they get at least one, healthy nutritious meal a day.

This includes a six per cent increase in the uptake of free school meals, which means 580 extra children are getting the free school meal they are entitled to.

Leeds City Council’s catering service - Catering Leeds, has been working hard with schools across the city to raise the profile of free school meals, as well as reducing the stigma often attached to the free provision.

Parents and carers of all children starting primary and secondary school were given an advice leaflet and schools with low uptake were contacted directly to make sure that all parents are aware of how to claim their Free School Meals allowance.

Last week’s release of the national Independent School Food Plan, produced by Henry Dimbleby and John Vincent, demonstrated how Catering Leeds is leading the way on school meal provision, with two members of the council’s catering services being on the panel of experts which helped advise the authors.

One of the suggestions from the plan was to consider banning packed lunches, however Leeds created a packed lunch policy four years ago to help parents make the most nutritious choices for their children, which has been adopted by many Leeds schools. Catering Leeds also offer schools a healthy packed lunch as one of the options in their daily menu.

Councillor Peter Gruen, executive member responsible for neighbourhoods, planning and support services said:
"The work being done by our catering service to increase the uptake of school meals, and especially free school meals, is fantastic. They also encourage schools to look beyond lunchtime and include healthy food and nutrition in the whole school day by promoting growing clubs whose produce is then used in the school kitchen. They also carry out cookery classes to teach students and parents the value of healthy eating and how to make quick, affordable, healthy meals which taste great.”

Councillor Judith Blake, executive member for children’s services said:
“Providing great quality school meals is a high priority for the council because we believe nutrition is key to children’s academic success. We are pulling all the stops out to encourage school meal take up, including, most importantly children taking up their free school meal entitlement.”

Mandy Snaith, head of catering at Leeds City Council:
“Catering Leeds works closely with head teachers to put school food high up on the agenda of the school day. Work has included devising menus which meet individual school need, for instance halal menus where required and meeting special dietary needs for those children who require it. We have also invited parents in to sample the meals and this has proved hugely successful in increasing take up.

“In Leeds we provide as many freshly cooked dishes as possible and all our fresh food suppliers are local.

Catering Leeds also works closely with student council groups and in Leeds have adopted the School Food Ambassador programme, where students work alongside the cooking team to monitor meals, wastage and the whole dining experience.

The Independent School Food Plan, produced by Henry Dimbleby and John Vincent, which was released last week includes an action plan to promote further uptake of school meals.

• The report argues only 1% of packed lunches meet current nutritional standards for school dinners.

• It recommends cooking lessons for children under 14. It also recommends the Government move to look at implementing a revised set of simple food standards being applied to all schools, including academies and free schools (which are currently exempt from them).

• The report found enormous improvements in school catering since 2005 when Jamie Oliver initiated his campaign. The report also found best schools did a great job of weaving food education into the school, even growing and then cooking food in the school.

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

Enforcement trial reaches half way point

As a trial blitz on litter and dog fouling enforcement reaches the half way mark, the council is reminding people of the consequences of dropping rubbish and leaving dog mess.

Since 22 April, the council has taken a zero tolerance approach to anyone seen blatantly dropping litter in the city centre.

The trial is in direct response to people fed up with rubbish and dog fouling marring their streets. It is being run so the council can assess if the clamp down will alter people’s behaviour and help keep streets cleaner.

With hundreds of council litter bins available – which can also be used to deposit dog poo – and an annual £8million street cleaning bill, the council wants people to use bins rather than use dwindling resources continually clearing up after others.

Anyone seen deliberately dropping rubbish or leaving dog mess behind is being issued with a fixed penalty notice by dedicated environmental patrol officers.

The dedicated patrols are in addition to the work carried out by the council’s environmental action officers.

Since the trial began, 641 litter louts spotted blatantly dropping rubbish and 15 irresponsible dog owners failing to pick up dog mess have been fined by the dedicated patrols and council officers.

Most people have been unable to excuse their actions and have accepted the £75 fine.

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

“We’re only half way through the trial and we don’t want to draw any conclusions yet. We’ll assess if the patrols have had an impact on levels of cleanliness at the end of the trial in three months.

“When the trial started we were clear that this wasn’t about making money from fines. This is still the case. We’d much prefer it if people used the bins available for litter and dog mess so we wouldn’t have to issue fines or continually use resources clearing up after others.

“What we can say at this stage is that the people who have been stopped know they are in the wrong. It begs the question that if they know what they are doing is wrong, then why aren’t they using the litter bins available or picking up after their dogs?”

Issuing fixed penalty notices to people who fail to clean up after their dog requires the owner and their pet to be caught in the act. So far, 15 fixed penalty notices have been handed out by dedicated patrol officers and council staff to irresponsible dog owners.

The trial is allowing the council to test if the uniformed presence and zero tolerance approach will bring about the positive behaviours that the majority of residents expect to keep streets clean.

Levels of cleanliness are being monitored to gauge what impact the trial is having before decisions on the long-term future of littering and dog fouling enforcement are taken.

Notes to editors:

• From 21 April to 13 July 2013, dedicated environmental patrol officers have issued a total of 587 fixed penalty notices and council environmental action officers have issued 69 while carrying out a full range of duties. For the same period in 2012, council environmental action officers issued 61 fixed penalty notices.

• Cleansing and enforcement service level agreements based on local priorities across Leeds are also making a real impact. Efforts to provide education on litter and waste to local residents means communities are seeing improvements. Backed with enforcement action where these efforts are ignored has already resulted in successful prosecutions. The trial patrols will enhance this work.

For media enquiries please contact:
Amanda Burns, Leeds City Council press office (0113) 395 1577


Leeds gets ready to rock with The Boss at first direct arena’s big opening

Excitement is building and work is going on round the clock behind the scenes as Leeds prepares for this week’s opening by US rock superstar Bruce Springsteen of its £60m arena.

When the rock legend takes to the stage of the first direct arena on Clay Pit Lane on Wednesday (July 24) it will be a landmark moment for the city, as for many years Leeds has felt the need for an arena in a city of its size.

Leeds City Council acknowledged this and committed to ensure one was developed. The hugely-successful council project has resulted in the eye-catching building being completed on time and on-budget ready to welcome world-class acts to the city.

And as the Bruce Springsteen roadshow prepares to roll into town, Leeds is pulling out all the stops to make sure it is ready to receive him and his legions of fans.

Teams of special volunteer city ambassadors will be greeting people arriving at railway and bus stations and other key access points to the city to help direct them to car parks and to the gleaming new arena itself. They will also help with queries about where to eat, how to find taxis and cash machines and other questions about spending time in the city centre.

Bands of buskers will be creating a carnival atmosphere for gig-goers as they make their way through the city. A variety of musicians ranging from a gypsy jazz guitarist to boogie woogie band Alex Graham and the Concords will be performing in events spaces such as City Square, Victoria Gardens and Dortmund Square.

Special street food trading permits have been issued by the council to allow high-quality food outlets on pitches near to the arena- including an American yellow school bus transformed into a diner, a beach hut selling fish and chips and gourmet burger and curry wrap stalls.

City centre cleansing teams, which already operate around the clock, will have extra staff on duty and are putting in more litter bins and increasing focus on the roads around the main arena site.

Taxi marshals will help point people to available ranks and Merrion Way will be closed from 10pm to allow the car park in the Merrion Centre- one of two official arena car parks along with Woodhouse Lane- to empty as efficiently as possible.

Visitors can choose whether to park close to the arena in the two official multi-storey car parks, or a little bit further away to take leaving queues into account.

There are a total of 7,721 parking spaces within a 15 minute walk of the arena- 2,880 of these just five minutes away. Those arriving by public transport are advised to double-check all available routes and times.

Councillor Keith Wakefield, leader of Leeds City Council, said:“To welcome Bruce Springsteen to Leeds for our arena’s opening night is incredibly exciting and we intend to do the city proud. Visitors will find we have pulled out all the stops, along with our partners at SMG Europe, to make it an unforgettable, amazing experience.

“It has been no mean feat at a time of extended downturn in the economy that Leeds City Council and construction company BAM managed to complete the high-tech arena on time and on budget. SMG Europe are establishing it as a key venue for national and international artists and it has already been highlighted by US magazine Billboard as the one to watch for this year.

“In a year of high-profile highlights such as the opening of Trinity Leeds and news that we will host the start of Grand Départ of the Tour de France 2014 this is one of our greatest achievements as we finally unveil our world-class new arena.”

Further information on getting to the city and for a map of where to park can be found on the council’s website here: travelling to the first direct arena
More information is also available on the arena’s own website at

To see Cllr Wakefield talk about his hopes for the arena and what it means for Leeds go to

Notes to editorsThe first direct arena’s events calendar is rapidly filling for the months following the sold-out Bruce Springsteen show. This will be spearheaded by an opening showcase fortnight headed by Elton John on September 4 and featuring classical superstar Andrea Bocelli, comedian Micky Flanagan and local heroes Kaiser Chiefs.

SMG Europe is the largest operator of sports and entertainment venues in Europe, such as the Manchester Evening News Arena and the city’s Bridgewater Hall, the Odyssey Arena in Belfast and Oslo Spektrum. They are responsible for running the first direct arena, with Leeds City Council acting as landlords as the building’s owners.

For media enquiries please contact:
Donna Cox, Communications Manager, Press & Media Relations
Leeds City Council press office (0113) 224 3335