Opposition against (NGT) grows after Townsley talk

Pictured below: A660 route

The Headingley Enterprise and Arts centre, saw transport consultant Alderman Townsley present a talk that condemned the planned New Generation Transport scheme for Leeds.

A packed venue, was given a list of expected negative consequences of proposed £250 million project. Some of the major pitfalls highlighted during the talk ,included concerns with the high cost of the planned route, and claims by Townsley of a shortfall in the funds ,actually available for the planned infrastructure.

Alderman Townsley claimed the solution in improving the Leeds transport network was not to be found through the development of the trolley buses scheme.

Townsley urged the council to concentrate on pushing for a development that would see Leeds contain electric buses ,light rail and the building of an underground system that would bring the cities transport infrastructure , in line with other major cities.

The presentation given by Townsley , further questioned the room for the trolley buses , in areas such as ,Headingley ,West Park and on the A66O route.

Loiners eye spoke to a number of people present at the talk, who were totally convinced by Townsley and his findings. Matt Lambert, a resident in the West Park area agreed with the concerns regarding the widening of paths to accommodate the trolley lane, saying.

“Clearly parts of the route the line will take are not suitable for such a major form of transport.

The presentation made it clear that economically and environmentally, it’s really not the right way forward to deal with the cities traffic congestion.”

Richard Walker spoke to Loiners eye and referred to a recent online post written by local estate agent Micheal J Moore. The local estate agent highlighted the impact the development could possibly have on property prices in the area.

Richard spoke of the Moore’s opinion ,that prices would dwindle due to noise pollution and unsightly lines in the area and the cutting down of trees during the construction of the route, saying.

“The article gives an expert opinion on the impact such a development could have on property prices in the area.

People see areas like Headingley and areas surrounding the A660 route as more rural due to the surroundings and the easy access to villages such as Otley where you have fantastic countryside. These kind of factors increase the value of properties in these areas.

I think Moore makes a good case when saying properties could suffer because of the route.”

The possibility that the Cycling Lane on the Otley road would have to be scrapped concerned some present at the talk also.

The evening will undoubtedly lead to some form of protest from those against the planned (NGT) Scheme. Those present at the evening talk seemed intent , on forcing the Council into exploring other solutions to revitalise the Leeds transport network.

Townsley’s insistence that the scheme is not financially possible with the available governments funds of £173 million , may force an overall rethink by the council and Government.

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Parkfield court tenants fear future rent hikes.

Parkfield court

Social housing tenants across Leeds fear the month of February as this is the month when rises have been announced consistently for the last three years.

Some associations such as the Leeds and Yorkshire housing association have introduced significant rent rises which are according to some housing tenants renting from the housing association, becoming unaffordable.

Sharon Mullen rents a Leeds and Yorkshire housing home in the Morley area of Leeds. Sharon claims the rent rises are forcing her to consider taking up private rented accommodation as this is becoming a cheaper option.

“When I was given one of the homes in the new Park field court estate I was delighted as it provided me and my family with a beautiful modern home at an affordable rent which was initially £440 a month in 2010 but now it is £530 a month .

If it the it goes up any higher this month then we will have to move, as we are barely getting by now with the rent as it is. This is supposed to be affordable housing but it has become more expensive than most private accommodation in this area “.

Loiners Eye made further enquiries into the rent rises being experienced by tenants in the Park field court estate, by speaking to a number of tenants who rent their properties privately from Leeds and Yorkshire housing.

Enquiries found that private tenants were paying the same amount of rent for a three bed roomed property ,that tenants renting through the social housing scheme were paying.

Loiners eye contacted Derek Stewart housing manager for Leeds and Yorkshire housing and asked him why such social housing tenants were being forced to pay such high rents that were the same as those being paid by private tenants. Derek responded to the question by outlining what he called LYHA two main rent processes.

“Our two main tenants are secure tenants and assured tenants, the secure tenants have their rent set by a rent officer who judges whether or not the rent is fair by taking into account various factors such as location and market value of the property.”

Derek further explains that assured tenants have their rent calculated by the board of management at LYHA which is calculated by setting target rents for each property with the annual increase limited to RPI +½%+£2 until the target charge is reached.

When asked to clarify why social housing rents are at the moment at the same level as private tenant rents, and what LYHA intend to about this in the Park field court estate, Mr. Stewart preferred to refrain from discussing the matter, and instead chose to highlight some of the challenges LYHA expect to encounter throughout 2013.

Such as the impending welfare reform bedroom tax and universal credit with Mr. Stewart referring to these matters as ‘the big issues ‘ that LYHA expect to concentrate on.

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Council hits the road to promote new Leeds housing set up

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Leeds city Council, held seven road shows across the City promoting their plans for a newly constructed housing organization.

The Council claim a single organization, to run all of the Leeds city Council housing service will improve the organization, in all departments.

Tenants currently renting Council homes were sent a booklet by the housing body during February, that outlines two options currently being analyzed by the Council.

The booklet named “Your home your say”, details the proposals which include the first option , of a single housing organization run solely by the Leeds city Council. The second option offered consists of a single independent Almo , that would control all of Leeds Council housing.

Tenants are asked to fill out a survey provided in the booklet and online, which will enable the Council to gain an understanding of which option is best suited for the future of Leeds Council Housing.

Loiners eye attended the Kirkgate Market road show, that provided an opportunity to speak to tenants and housing officers.

The housing officers present at the road show were on hand to deal with any querie or concerns Council tenants at the road show may have.

Loiners eye spoke to Ben Marshall, housing officer for East North East homes Leeds , one of the three arms length bodies who currently manage Council homes for Leeds city Council.

Loiners eye asked Ben what he personally felt about the options on offer and the reasons for the proposed change. Ben pointed to Council’s need to save funds, in order to be able to improve current services, and maintain old properties saying.

“The Council feels a single body that has total control of all housing issues across Leeds would be more beneficial for Council tenants in the current economic climate. When the current system was set up in 2006 there were far more available financial resources available to the three bodies involved in the arms length management organization (Almos).

I personally feel the single Almo option would be the best way forward. It would mean housing officers would be able to maintain relationships with residents in their assigned areas and I think this would please some of the tenants as they rely on us as housing officers to deal with any issues they may have.

Financially a single (Almo) would save money that could be used to improve homes that need to be modernised.”

Some tenants such as Karen Sparling present at the road show, feels the changes will lead to more neglect of issues experienced by tenants . Karen claims.

“I don’t see how one organization will be able to deal with issues more sufficiently, as surely this is just creating more work for those that will work for the single organization.

The current system is very good, any issue I have had have been dealt with it’s clearly just another reaction to government cuts.”

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Leeds train cleaners welcome chart of demands

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Leeds train station cleaners have welcomed the announcement of the RMT national campaign, ‘pay justice for cleaners’ which includes a new cleaners charter that outlines a list of pay conditions for the country’s railway cleaner’s.

ISS workers based at the Leeds train station have already attended a number of strike actions organised by RMT over the past 12 months, and hope the orchestration of the pay justice for cleaners campaign, will lead to the end of what the RMT and its members feel is a pay scandal.

Michael Carr an ISS employee based at Leeds station. He spoke to Loiners Eye about his personal frustration with his current pay conditions.

“We are outraged at the way we are being treated by our employers ISS, we are the lowest paid rail workers in the country and considering we are cleaning East coast trains which is a state ran service we feel we should be awarded a wage which is fare and rewards us for the service we provide as workers”.

Michael describes his current wage as a “waste of time” that fails to cover his ever-increasing monthly outgoings, Michael quotes.

“It is becoming more and more difficult to get by each month , everything has gone up whilst our wage has stalled at six pound an hour, Cameron and them in Westminster need to intervene and practice what he has been preaching saying workers will be rewarded by proving us right and forcing these private contractors into paying us what we deserve.”

Some of the proposals included in the newly launched cleaners charter seek a new wage living allowance that pays a minimum of £7.50 per hour rising to £10 per hour depending on duties performed and time served. Other increases include fairer pay for night workers and track cleaners who are faced with a number of unpleasant cleaning duties, including the removal of suicide victims remains on the East Coast line.

Loiners Eye spoke to Jeff Martin press officer for the RMT, Jeff claims one of the most critical points outlined in the new cleaners charter is the need for abolishing the use of outside contractors such as ISS who Jeff states.
“pay as little as legally allowed in order to increase profits.”

The RMT and its members hope state ran services such as East coast act swiftly by bringing the employment of train cleaners in-house.

Derek England RMT union representative for the East coast staff quotes.

“These cleaners are part of the railway workers community it is time we at East Coast started to recognize the importance of these railway workers and help to force change to the pay and conditions that the cleaners currently endure, as it is far from satisfactory.”

The following few months are sure to present anxious times for the Leeds railway cleaners with tax credit cuts, train fair rises and the cost of social housing rent expected to rise. It is clear that the Leeds railway workers are in desperate need of a financial reward for their continued endurance in such economic hardship.

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