Will Theresa May soon be handed her real P45?

If you haven't seen Theresa May's speech at Conservative Party Conference as yet, it's probably best to witness it from behind a sofa.  And it might prove to be an even more difficult listen.

It was a car crash, a nightmare, a total unmitigated disaster.  No matter what your politics are, on a human level, it was nigh on impossible not to feel intensely sorry for her.

Firstly she was ambushed by a prankster who handed her "a P45 from Boris."

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Expect to see that picture a lot for as long as Mrs May remains in Number 10.

Then the Prime Minister's voice went.  Again and again and again - for the best part of 40 minutes.

It was embarrassing, excruciating and hellish to watch.   

And finally, the stage itself began to disintegrate as letters fell off the backdrop.

An F disappeared first, followed swiftly be an E.   

Shortly after the Prime Minister had left the stage, this was what remained. 

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One can only feel sympathy for her plight, through no fault of her own.

Will the run of unconnected mishaps affect her ability to hold on to her job?  In truth, it shouldn't. But image matters a lot in politics these days.

The public and media reaction in the coming hours and days will prove pivotal for Theresa May's future. 

At least she was big enough to laugh at poke fun at herself on Twitter immediately afterwards.

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Leeds housing association applauded by leading peer for ‘punching above its weight’

Former Housing Corporation chair Baroness Brenda Dean has warmly praised Unity Homes and Enterprise for “punching above its weight” as the Leeds-based housing association celebrated its 30th anniversary. 

Baroness Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde

Baroness Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde

Speaking at Unity’s Annual General Meeting, Baroness Dean said that in her professional experience, larger housing associations were able to “look after themselves.”  But she added: “The true enrichment in the sector came from the small and medium housing associations like Unity.  You did things that others either didn’t want to do or didn’t have the wherewithal or culture to do it.”

Baroness Dean – who also served as General Secretary of the SOGAT trade union during the Wapping dispute – said it was now important for BME-led housing associations such as Unity to assert themselves.  “Not in any negative way,” she said.  “You just need to demonstrate what you’ve done, what you’ve achieved and that you could achieve even more if you had more concrete support.” 

Praising Unity’s annual report, Baroness Dean said: “The report in itself is a manifestation – a very strong statement - of diversity, working together to build, and also having business and commercial appeal.  It shows your values about integrity, about respect and about flexibility.  Those together are very powerful. For me, they all come together and say that ‘this is an organisation that punches above its weight.’”

The Lord Mayor of Leeds

The Lord Mayor of Leeds

Councillor Jane Dowson, the Lord Mayor of Leeds and a Chapel Allerton ward member, reflected on Unity’s foundation in 1987 in Chapeltown where it still has its headquarters.  She said: “Whoever came up with the name Unity did one of the best things because this organisation is truly unifying in what it does across the city. It does work in some the most deprived areas of the city, but they are also some of the richest areas.  I don’t know if it’s because of a lack of money coming in, but you get people who give of themselves and want to make a difference.”

Arthur France MBE

Arthur France MBE

Arthur France, the founder of Leeds West Indian Carnival which celebrated its 50th anniversary this year, also spoke fondly about the association.  “We cannot be responsible for the past, but we will certainly be responsible for the future,” he said.  “The housing in Chapeltown was not very good.  Unity came in and addressed the imbalance. They provided beautiful accommodation for decent human beings, and not the type of houses that we used to have.”

Ali Akbor, chief executive of Unity Homes and Enterprise, outlined some of organisation’s greatest achievements. But he also struck a word of caution for policymakers as Unity prepares for the next three decades.  “We must recognise and acknowledge the tremendous progress made in terms of equality and diversity in this country over the last 30-50 years,” he said. “This was driven by progressive policy initiatives such as those that led to the creation of organisations such as Unity.” 

Unity chief executive Ali Akbor

Unity chief executive Ali Akbor

Bur Mr Akbor added: “In recent years it does feel as if we are going backwards.  There is a policy vacuum when it comes to equality and diversity issues.  There is still stark disparity and disadvantages for BME communities when it comes to opportunities for jobs, education, health and housing. And we all know that there is a housing crisis that affects all communities.  I ask, does it really take the tragic event of the Grenfell Fire for us as a society to value social housing and help the people that need these homes?”

He said: “Unity’s evolution demonstrates how we can make a difference in creating multi-cultural communities and serve tenants from all ethnic backgrounds.  We will continue to do so for the next 30 years and more.” 

Unity chair Shruti Bhargava

Unity chair Shruti Bhargava

Shruti Bhargava, chair of Unity Homes and Enterprise, thanked everyone who had been “an integral part of Unity’s journey over the last 30 years, whether it’s as founders, shareholders, supporters, residents, staff, board members and, indeed, former chairs.”  She said: “In these challenging times – with increases in inequality, division and race hate in our society - we all know that our social purpose is more important than ever.  Our commitment to improving lives in areas with high BME populations, and turning them into vibrant multi-cultural neighbourhoods is what drives everything we do.”

Ms Bhargava added: “We know what a difference Unity makes in addressing inequality, bringing communities together and improving people’s lives.  We know how important it is that organisations like ours continue to thrive, have an impact albeit on a small scale, and show larger and more mainstream organisations how to do it.  BME organisations like ours have to lead the way, and provide the insight and expertise, if we are ever to address the wider challenges in our society.”

From left to right: Ali Akbor (Unity chief executive), Councillor Jane Dowson (Lord Mayor of Leeds), Baroness Dean (former Housing Corporation chair) and Shruti Bhargava (Unity chair)  

From left to right: Ali Akbor (Unity chief executive), Councillor Jane Dowson (Lord Mayor of Leeds), Baroness Dean (former Housing Corporation chair) and Shruti Bhargava (Unity chair)  

High profile line-up at AGM as Unity marks its 30th year

Baroness Dean

Baroness Dean

Former trade union leader Baroness Brenda Dean will head an impressive list of speakers when Leeds housing association Unity Homes and Enterprise holds its 30th anniversary Annual General Meeting next Tuesday (26 September) at The Sheepscar in Chapeltown.

She will be joined by the Lord Mayor of Leeds, Councillor Jane Dowson, and Arthur France MBE, the founding member and chairperson of Leeds West Indian Carnival which celebrated its 50th year last month.

Following a word of welcome from Unity chair Shruti Bhargava, proceedings will open with a performance from RJC Dance which is based at the nearby Mandela Community Centre.

Attendees will also be given a copy of a specially-produced souvenir brochure entitled, “30 Years of Unity,” which charts the association’s journey of success since its establishment in 1987.

Ali Akbor, chief executive of Unity Homes and Enterprise, said he was delighted at the speaker line-up which served as testament to the respect in which Unity is now held both locally and further afield.

Unity chief executive Ali Akbor

Unity chief executive Ali Akbor

Mr Akbor said: “Unity was established because of an urgent requirement for an organisation to address the housing needs of black and minority ethnic communities in Leeds. 

“Our founders deserve great credit for what they did, and I will reflect that in what I have to say at the AGM.

“We have come a long way since then.  Unity now owns more than 1,200 properties for tenants from all communities and all ethnic backgrounds.

“In addition, Unity Enterprise, our subsidiary company which operates on a not-for-profit basis, runs three business centres that deliver jobs for people who need them and provide a boost to the local economy. 

“And Unity Employment Services (UES) has been set-up to support tenants and their surrounding communities in accessing employment and training opportunities.  Last year UES helped 95 people to find jobs, 149 to improve their skills and 26 others to enter voluntary work

“But despite the excellent progress we have made, it is clear to me that the necessity for BME-led housing associations such as Unity is as great now as it was three decades ago. 

“I look forward to expanding on this issue at the AGM and hearing the thoughts of our prestigious guest speakers. 

“We have a lot to celebrate but also a lot to reflect on as we plan for Unity’s next 30 years.”  

ENTERPRISING BREAKFASTS DELIVER RESULTS FOR UNITY BUSINESSES

Leeds-based Unity Homes and Enterprise has taken the lead in helping its business tenants to grow by organising a series of breakfast seminars and workshops facilitated by industry experts.

Delivered in partnership with Path Yorkshire, a charity specialising in projects that tackle education, social and economic inequalities, two events have been held in recent weeks.

In June, online specialist Simon Reed from SJT Solutions led a well-attended session on the innovative use of social media and websites to attract new customers and increase sales.

And in another busy gathering earlier this month, freelance consultant Nick Wayne drew on his wide experiences to highlight the importance of marketing for business success.      

In early September, Theresa Thomas from Leeds City College will talk about the benefits of taking on apprentices and will also guide attendees through the details of the apprenticeship levy which the Government hopes will help to create three million new opportunities for young people by 2020. 

Adrian Green, Unity Enterprise manager

Adrian Green, Unity Enterprise manager

Adrian Green is manager of Unity Enterprise, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Unity Homes and Enterprise, which provides 130 managed workspaces for around 80 businesses, social enterprises and third sector bodies on three sites close to Leeds city centre.

He said: “Working with Path Yorkshire and colleagues in Unity Employment Services, our specialist unit which helps the communities we serve to access jobs and training, we launched a survey asking what could be done to help Unity’s business tenants to achieve greater commercial outcomes.

“We were delighted by the number and clarity of responses received.  The result is the quality of events we have arranged so far, each focused on a specific area of business support. And the programme has gathered a momentum of its own.

“In the autumn we have scheduled two breakfast workshops, one on people development and a second on business planning. Further sessions are also in the planning. 

“We are confident that these efforts will deliver real added value for our tenants.” 

Charlotte Raffo, owner and design director of The Monkey Puzzle Tree, has attended both seminars held so far and is delighted with the results.

Charlotte Raffo, owner and design director of The Monkey Puzzle Tree

Charlotte Raffo, owner and design director of The Monkey Puzzle Tree

She said: “In addition to the expert advice and tips I have picked up, the events have given me the opportunity to network with other entrepreneurs. 

“After one conversation over bacon sandwiches, Michael Millward from Path Yorkshire published a blog post about my business.

“I also met Amrit Choda from the LEP growth service who put me in touch with the Ad:Venture scheme, and they are now looking into match funding a PR campaign for me.

“It has proven to be time very well spent and I am grateful to Unity for their foresight in putting the meetings together.”

Ali Akbor, Unity Homes and Enterprise chief executive

Ali Akbor, Unity Homes and Enterprise chief executive

Ali Akbor, Unity Homes and Enterprise chief executive, said: “The regeneration of sustainable communities is not just about providing high quality affordable homes, but also stimulating social and economic regeneration, improving life chances and addressing inequalities.

“Innovation is at the heart of everything Unity does, including our establishment of Unity Enterprise and Unity Employment Services.   

“We are greatly encouraged by the success of the first two business breakfasts and look forward to many more, all hosted in our first-class conference facilities at Unity Business Centre - which are also available for hire.”

Businesses or other organisations seeking more information about Unity Enterprise can contact Adrian Green on Tel: 0113 242 5996 or email: adrian.green@unityha.co.uk 

Unity celebrates 30 years of improving lives in Leeds

One of the country’s foremost BME-led housing associations has celebrated its 30th anniversary.

Unity Homes and Enterprise was established in 1987 with the objective of addressing the needs of black and minority ethnic communities in Leeds. 

The initial focus was on Chapeltown, where it still has its headquarters. Over the years, Unity’s work has widened to many other areas of the city. 

It now owns more than 1,200 properties for tenants from all communities and all ethnic backgrounds.

Chief executive Ali Akbor celebrating the organisation’s 30th anniversary with Unity staff

Chief executive Ali Akbor celebrating the organisation’s 30th anniversary with Unity staff

Unity’s sphere of activities has also expanded significantly over the last three decades.

In 2000 the association formed a subsidiary company, Unity Enterprise, to support local entrepreneurial activity.  Unity Business Centre – the largest of Unity’s three business centres, which also include Chapeltown Enterprise Centre and Leeds Media Centre – has become a hub of entrepreneurial activity with more than 80 different enterprises now resident including training organisations, recruitment consultants, fashion designers, printers and a café.  Leeds Media Centre is home to Made in Leeds TV. 

Unity Employment Services (UES) was set-up in 2011 to support Unity tenants and their surrounding communities in accessing employment and training opportunities. Last year 77 people were helped to find work, 120 received accredited skills training and 15 others entered work placements.  More than 600 people have been given direct assistance to improve their lives since UES was established,  

Ali Akbor, chief executive of Unity Homes and Enterprise, paid tribute to Unity staff and board members past and present.

He said: “Unity’s founders deserve immense credit for stepping forward to establish the organisation at a time when there were huge inequalities in housing.

“Thanks to their efforts, the vision of a succession of board members and the professionalism and dedication of our staff over the last 30 years, Unity is now rightly regarded as one of the country’s most successful and forward-thinking BME-led housing associations.

“We are strong in our belief that the revitalisation of communities is not just about providing high quality affordable homes, but also stimulating social and economic regeneration.

“I am particularly proud of the fact that we have expanded our work to help people into employment and support enterprise.

“Community housing associations such as Unity really do make a difference.  We hope to make that difference for many years to come.”

Shruti Bhargava, chair of Unity Homes and Enterprise

Shruti Bhargava, chair of Unity Homes and Enterprise

Shruti Bhargava has been chair of Unity Homes and Enterprise since 2015.

She said: “I am privileged to lead a talented and diverse board who, like me, have a deep appreciation for the hard-working and dedicated staff at Unity who collectively deliver such remarkable results. 

“We have a shared social purpose of improving the lives of residents in areas with large BME populations and transforming these communities into vibrant, multi-cultural neighbourhoods.

“The current social and political climate means that the role played by relatively small community organisations such as Unity in bringing communities together has never been more important. 

“Unity’s record of success is deeply impressive but we are constantly looking at new ways of positively impacting on people’s lives and achieving real cohesion.” 

Unity’s work has also been praised by Tom Riordan, chief executive of Leeds City Council.

He said: “Unity Homes and Enterprise has played a leading role over the last 30 years in helping to transform Leeds into the modern, outward-looking city it has become.

“I have visited a number of Unity’s affordable housing schemes and am constantly impressed by the quality of homes it provides.

“However, Unity is much more than just a housing association and is rightly highly-regarded for its positive work in the communities it serves.

“I congratulate everyone who has played a part in Unity’s success and look forward to many more achievements in the future.”   

Tom Riordan, chief executive of Leeds City Council, addressing Unity’s Annual General meeting in 2015

Tom Riordan, chief executive of Leeds City Council, addressing Unity’s Annual General meeting in 2015

COLERAINE BUILDING FIRM PREPARES TO CELEBRATE SILVER ANNIVERSARY 

Well-known Coleraine company JK Joinery and Building Services is set to mark 25 years in business this autumn.

Founded by local tradesman Jason Kyle in 1992, the firm recently moved to new premises at Knockantern Grove close to the town centre.

Already an established provider of high quality joinery services including wooden staircases, fencing, decking and commercial premises fit-outs, the company’s offer has widened significantly in recent times.

Alongside house renovations and extensions, loft and garage conversions, sunrooms and new builds, JK Joinery and Building Services is now regarded as the North Coast’s leading roofing contractor, and also supplies and installs high quality uPVC products including windows and doors.

However, staying true to its roots, fully qualified joiners remain available on a round-the-clock basis to carry out property repairs. 

Owner and director Jason Kyle said he was proud of the journey the company had made over the last quarter of a century and looked forward to exciting times ahead.

Jason Kyle, Director, JK Joinery and Building Services

Jason Kyle, Director, JK Joinery and Building Services

Jason commented: “We started off very small but, over the last few years, have been able to take on bigger and bigger jobs across the full range of joinery and building services we offer.

“I still take a hands-on approach and will only employ the best tradesmen available.  It means that clients can be assured of a first class job and will use us again.  It’s a simple concept and, with a very competitive pricing structure, this has allowed us to grow as a business.”

Jason added that the move to a new yard off the Bushmills Road in Coleraine was a signal of future intent as the firm’s 25th anniversary approaches.

He said: “It is important that we move with the times and have the extra space needed to match our expansion. 

“We’re looking forward to a little celebration later in the year with clients and others who have helped us along the way.

“On a personal level, I’m proud to be leading a successful Coleraine-based company that is doing first class work and providing high quality local jobs.   Hopefully we’ll still be going strong 25 years from now.”       

JK Joinery and Building Services can be contacted on Tel: 07521 646408 or by emailing jkyle570@googlemail.com

Unity in enterprise as two business start-ups collaborate

Two up-and-coming businesses based at Chapeltown Enterprise Centre in Leeds have agreed to work together to provide a diverse range of new services for young people – and old. 

Inspirations Central formally opens its doors today (Friday 23 June) as a hub for children and parents to make music, create works of art, socialise and enjoy refreshments.

Owner Ruth Douglas spotted a gap in the market for a relaxed, creative environment for mothers and fathers to take their kids.

Inspirations Central owner Ruth Douglas welcomes (from left to right) Adrian Green(Unity Enterprise manager),  Ali Akbor (Unity Homes and Enterprise chief executive) and Michael Kamara (C’Town Studio owner) to her new premises

Inspirations Central owner Ruth Douglas welcomes (from left to right) Adrian Green(Unity Enterprise manager),  Ali Akbor (Unity Homes and Enterprise chief executive) and Michael Kamara (C’Town Studio owner) to her new premises

Inspirations Central will offer activities for all ages from parent and toddler groups, to private music lessons and holiday clubs.  The space can also be hired for children’s parties and evening craft events for adults.

And, in a tie-up that benefits both businesses and their customers, Ruth and her team will provide a daytime service for parents and carers who want to drop-off their children before using the first-class gym facilities at C’Town Studio on the same Mexborough Grove site.

Established 18 months ago by Michael Kamara, C’Town Studio is a multi-purpose fitness suite which offers a range of classes including yoga, Pilates, Zumba and circuit training. It is also home to Chapeltown Kickboxing Club and Mandela Runners.

Ruth Douglas, a mum of two, said: “As a music teacher and former primary school teacher, I have seen at first-hand the positive impact music and art can have on children.  The aim of Inspirations Central is to encourage children to use their imagination, be creative and enjoy themselves.

“Although we have been operational for a few weeks, we’re very excited by this weekend’s official launch and the opportunity to showcase what we do.  Our doors will be open to all from 1pm-3pm today and tomorrow for refreshments, live music and we’ll also have a few rocket-related freebies for the kids.

“Our partnership with Michael – which will allow parents to have a work-out or attend a class whilst we look after their children – will enable many more people to take advantage of the very different offerings we have available.”      

Michael Kamara said: “I’m delighted by the progress C’Town Studio has made over the last 18 months and we continue to go from strength to strength with the addition of new courses and services including meditation and Reiki.

“Our tie-up with Ruth will allow us to expand our membership even further and help more people to get fit.

“Exciting times lie ahead.”

Under the watchful eye of C’Town Studio owner Michael Kamara, Marie Obirigya passes on some workout tips to Inspirations Central owner Ruth Douglas and Unity Homes and Enterprise chief executive Ali Akbor

Under the watchful eye of C’Town Studio owner Michael Kamara, Marie Obirigya passes on some workout tips to Inspirations Central owner Ruth Douglas and Unity Homes and Enterprise chief executive Ali Akbor

Inspirations Central and C’Town Studio were brought together by Unity Enterprise manager Adrian Green.

Chapeltown Enterprise Centre is one of three facilities operated by Unity Enterprise, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Unity Homes and Enterprise.

Two of the sites - Chapeltown Enterprise Centre and Unity Business Centre - recently benefitted from a £1.4 million refurbishment programme.

The third – Leeds Media Centre – is home to Made in Leeds TV, alongside a range of independent media and music companies, education providers and community projects.

Ali Akbor, chief executive of Unity Homes and Enterprise, said: “Our three centres currently provide 130 managed workspaces for around 80 local businesses, social enterprises and third sector organisations. 

“They have become true hubs of entrepreneurial activity, as evidenced by the increasing levels of collaboration between our tenants.

“The arrangement between Inspirations Central and C’Town Studio is a prime example of this.  I wish Ruth and Michael every possible success with their joint venture.”

UNITY CHIEF EXECUTIVE CALLS FOR STABILITY AS NEW HOUSING MINISTER TAKES THE REINS

New Housing Minister Alok Sharma MP

New Housing Minister Alok Sharma MP

The chief executive of Leeds-based housing association Unity Homes and Enterprise has written to new Housing Minister Alok Sharma to congratulate him on his appointment and invite him to visit affordable housing projects in the city. 

Alok Sharma, the MP for Reading West, has been promoted to the role of Minister of State for Housing and Planning after spending the previous 12 months serving as Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. 

He replaces Gavin Barwell who lost his seat in last week’s General Election and has since been named as chief of staff to the Prime Minister. 

Ali Akbor, chief executive of Unity Homes and Enterprise, said: "I welcome Mr Sharma’s elevation and hope he can bring some stability and longevity to the role. 

“He is the 15th housing minister we have had since 1997 and the sixth to hold the position since the Conservatives came to power in 2010.

“His predecessor, Gavin Barwell, deserves credit for his efforts in pushing housing further up the Government’s domestic policy agenda.  I hope he will continue to do this as Theresa May’s chief of staff.

“The Conservative General Election manifesto recommitted the Government to deliver a million homes by the end of 2020, plus a further 500,000 by the end of 2022.

“It also promised to give greater flexibility to housing associations to increase their housing stock, including specialist housing stock in which Unity excels.  We want to play our full part in this and our track record shows that we are very well-equipped to do so.”

Unity chief executive Ali Akbor  

Unity chief executive Ali Akbor  

Unity Housing Association was formed in 1987 with the objective of building a strong, BME-led, community housing association to address the needs of black and minority ethnic communities in Leeds.  The initial focus was on Chapeltown, but this has widened to other areas of the city including Harehills, Beeston, Holbeck and Chapel Allerton. 

Unity now owns more than 1,200 properties for tenants from all communities and ethnic backgrounds.

Mr Akbor, who also serves as secretary/treasurer of BME National, a collective of over 60 BME housing associations in England, added: “I have written to Alok Sharma to pass on our good wishes and invite him to see the exciting work that Unity is doing to deliver high quality affordable homes for people across Leeds.   

“As a South-East MP, I believe it is vital that he spends time in places like West Yorkshire to hear what he can do to assist ambitious associations such as Unity to work alongside the Government in tackling the housing crisis.”   

Aireborough prepares to welcome Scottish rugby juniors with family fun day

Aireborough RUFC will achieve another first this Sunday (21 May) when they celebrate the visit of four junior teams from Hillfoots RFC in Scotland with a family fun day at their Nunroyd Park home.

Proceedings will get under way at around 1020 with a parade of the players - headed by their national flags - and the singing of the Scottish and English anthems on the main pitch.

Aire’s Under 10s, Under 11s, Under 12s and Under 13s will then take on their Caledonian counterparts at 1030.

A number of novel activities have been arranged for the club’s other age groups including rugby rounders, rugby netball, kick tennis and rugby golf.

Afterwards, there will be a barbeque and live music in the clubhouse.

Hillfoots RFC has been playing rugby at its home ground of the Public Parks in Tillicoultry, Clackmannanshire for 46 years. 

The 40-strong squad will travel down to Yorkshire on Friday evening before a full programme of leisure and team-building activities on Saturday, including a stop-off at the Royal Armouries in Leeds.  They will return to Scotland on Sunday afternoon.

BRAVEHEARTS: Members of the Hillfoots RFC junior touring party who will take on Aireborough RUFC at Nunroyd Park on Sunday morning

BRAVEHEARTS: Members of the Hillfoots RFC junior touring party who will take on Aireborough RUFC at Nunroyd Park on Sunday morning

Aire’s junior coaching coordinator Kris Brook said the club was honoured to be hosting a junior touring party for the very first time.

OVER HERE: Aireborough's junior coaching co-ordinator Kris Brook waits for the pass that never came

OVER HERE: Aireborough's junior coaching co-ordinator Kris Brook waits for the pass that never came

Kris continued: “We are proud of our ever-growing reputation as a family club and were honoured to host the United States national team at Nunroyd Park during the last Rugby World Cup.

“But we’ve never had the chance to welcome a touring club at junior level.

“I know that Hillfoots has an excellent sporting reputation and we want them to leave Yorkshire with positive memories of their visit to Aireborough.

“We have a bagpiper booked, trumpeters lined up and more sausages ordered than you could shake a cocktail stick at.

“It promises to be a memorable day and we want families and young people from across the local community to come along and get involved.”

UP YER KILT: Hillfoots junior convemor David 'Paddy' Sherrard blends in with the locals during a previous visit to Leeds

UP YER KILT: Hillfoots junior convemor David 'Paddy' Sherrard blends in with the locals during a previous visit to Leeds

Hillfoots RFC junior convenor David ‘Paddy’ Sherrard said that his young charges were looking forward to the journey south.   And he revealed that this would not be his first trip to Nunroyd Park.

Paddy said: “I stayed in Guiseley with a life-long friend Barry White, who I played rugby with at school.  I was visiting Leeds for the 2015 Rugby World Cup and I came along on the Sunday morning to watch Barry’s son Jamie train with Aireborough juniors before we went to the Scotland v USA match.  I was really impressed by the quality of coaching and the friendly feeling around the club.

“Hillfoots RFC is thrilled to be playing at Nunroyd Park and I know that Aireborough has already put a lot of effort into making our group feel at home.

“Rugby is a sport that creates life-long friendships and tours are all about nurturing that friendship and creating special moments for both sides.  I have no doubt that Hillfoots will head back to Scotland with memories to last a lifetime.”  

MORE BIG NAME EMPLOYERS SEEK STRONG CANDIDATE TURNOUT AT LEEDS DIGITAL JOB FAIR 3.0

Jet2.com & Jet2holidays, Morrisons, Callcredit and NHS Digital are the latest major employers to issue rallying calls for the best digital and tech talent to register for free to attend Leeds Digital Job Fair 3.0 on Friday 28 April.

They have joined other well-known companies due to exhibit - including Sky Betting & Gaming, Barclays, Crisp and Northcoders - in urging job seekers and tech professionals to take advantage of the vast array of jobs on offer at the First Direct Arena.

Johnathan Nicolson, IT & digital marketing recruiter at Jet2.com & Jet2holidays, said: “Leeds Digital Job Fair 2.0 was a great experience for us and we made a couple of hires on the back of the event. 

Johnathan Nicolson from Jet2.com and Jet2holidays takes a breather at Leeds Digital Job Fair 2.0 last October

Johnathan Nicolson from Jet2.com and Jet2holidays takes a breather at Leeds Digital Job Fair 2.0 last October

“With our continued success and new base launches over the past year, we are looking to recruit in our IT and digital teams, as well as on our IT Graduate Trainee programme.

“We are always looking to invest in the best and brightest talent across Yorkshire and beyond to support our ongoing growth, and we are confident that Leeds Digital Job Fair 3.0 will really help us achieve that.”

Brett Bennett, people manager – resourcing at Morrisons, said: “Our fresh digital thinking is driving a giant change programme that will make Morrisons a digitally focused retailer. And we’re reinventing our tech and opening up new opportunities from mobile first to the cloud.

“We’re making improvements across our diverse business. We’re revolutionising our online journeys and making our processes faster, simpler and smarter to provide the freshest of products and an even better experience to millions of customers and over 111,000 colleagues.

“We’re at the careers fair to look for fresh thinkers with all kinds of expertise to join us in a variety of digital roles. You don’t need retail experience if you can innovate and deliver change at pace.  Come and say hello to us at our stand.”

Vicky Hester, recruitment consultant at Callcredit, said: “After previous success at the Leeds Digital Job Fair, Callcredit again hopes to be able to meet top digital talent at this year’s event. 

“We will have a number of opportunities in our Product Development and IT Services teams that we can share with prospective candidates.

“We have previously placed people in to permanent roles from the Digital Job Fair and have successfully recruited graduates from the Fair in to our Software Engineering Graduate Scheme.

“We have found a real range of skills and levels of experience from those attending the job fair, which has been fantastic to promote all our opportunities to a wide audience.

“Callcredit is a fast-growing innovative company and we look forward to sharing our latest developments with attendees.”

Charlotte Goulding, strategic recruitment manager at NHS Digital, said: “Leeds Digital Job Fair 3.0 is a key date in our events calendar this year. We particularly enjoy this event as we get to speak with such a broad range of people all at different stages of their digital careers. 

“Here at NHS Digital, we’ve got some amazing jobs currently available in Leeds and the job fair gives us the opportunity to offer an insight into both what we do and why we do it to huge numbers of talented individuals.”

Leeds Digital Job Fair 3.0 is organised by Herd founder Amy De-Balsi with support from LeedsBID, Leeds City Council, Leeds Beckett University and the First Direct Arena.

Herd founder Amy De-Balsi, organiser of Leeds Digital Job Fair 3.0  

Herd founder Amy De-Balsi, organiser of Leeds Digital Job Fair 3.0  

Ms De-Balsi said: “Excitement is really building with almost 50 employers and many hundreds of candidates signed-up to attend the North’s premier digital and tech recruitment fair.

“The event will be staged in the main auditorium of the First Direct Arena so there is still capacity for more people who wish to advance their careers in digital and tech to register online free of charge.   

“But, with just days to go, time is running out.”

Anyone wishing to book their place or browse current vacancies available through Herd should visit www.herd.careers  

HISTORIC HUNSLET NOW HOME TO MODERN AFFORDABLE HOUSING SCHEME

An historic part of Leeds has received a boost with the completion of a new £1.2 million affordable housing project.

The Rocheford Court development in Hunslet includes nine houses – a mix of two and three-bedroomed properties – and two disabled-access bungalows. All 11 homes have now been leased to tenants.

The scheme was delivered by Leeds-based housing association Unity Homes and Enterprise in partnership with the Homes and Communities Agency and Leeds City Council.

Newly built houses in the Rocheford Court development

Newly built houses in the Rocheford Court development

It was officially opened by the Council’s executive member for regeneration, transport and planning, Cllr Richard Lewis, accompanied by Unity’s chief executive Ali Akbor, regeneration director Wayne Noteman, board members Naseer Ahmed and Shazia Khan, and new tenant Jonathan Griffiths.

Mr Griffiths kindly provided the group with a tour of the bungalow he has moved into with his wife Louise and daughter Chloe.

He is adapting well to changed life circumstances after a blood clot resulted in the amputation of his right leg less than a year ago.  

And Mr Griffiths had nothing but praise for his new home and the role Unity Homes and Enterprise played in ensuring it was suitable for his requirements.

He said: “Unity has been fantastic. 

“The layout of the property was excellent to begin with, making it easy for me to get around. However, Unity ensured that it incorporated a lowered kitchen sink, work top and hobs.  The bathroom has also been kitted out with a range of facilities which are equally accessible for me and able-bodied users.

“I want to be self-sufficient and not forced to rely on my wife and daughter.  Thanks to Unity, I have been given a great deal of independence back and feel much more useful.  They get things done.”   

Ali Akbor, chief executive of Unity Homes and Enterprise, said: “I am thrilled at the completion of such a high quality development and, in particular, by the bungalows.

“Unity is absolutely committed to serving the needs of our tenants, old and new.  We want to make their lives better. 

“We worked closely with Jonathan, social care professionals and other partners to equip the property to his specific circumstances.  We also arranged follow-up visits from Unity staff after Jonathan and his family had moved in. 

“Few other housing associations are building bungalows of this type and we are enormously proud to be increasing the number we have in our housing stock across Leeds.”

Cllr Richard Lewis, executive member for regeneration, transport and planning at Leeds City Council, said: “We are delighted to be working in partnership with Unity Homes and Enterprise to deliver this range of new affordable housing in Hunslet.

“The completed properties have been built to the highest standards and it is very impressive that they have already all been taken by new tenants.

“We are very pleased to support and partner with Unity in the important work that they do.”

Cllr Richard Lewis cuts the ribbon to officially open Rocheford Court, assisted (from left to right) by Unity chief executive Ali Akbor, resident Jonathan Griffiths, Unity board members Naseer Ahmed and Shazia Khan, and Unity regeneration director Wayne Noteman

Cllr Richard Lewis cuts the ribbon to officially open Rocheford Court, assisted (from left to right) by Unity chief executive Ali Akbor, resident Jonathan Griffiths, Unity board members Naseer Ahmed and Shazia Khan, and Unity regeneration director Wayne Noteman

JOB FAIR 3.0 SET TO BEGIN NEW CHAPTER OF LEEDS DIGITAL SUCCESS STORY

Barclays, Morrisons, Hitachi and Crisp are just some of the big name companies signed up to exhibit for the first time at Leeds Digital Job Fair 3.0 later this month with hundreds of digital and tech career opportunities on offer.

They will join other major employers including Sky Betting & Gaming, Jet2.com & Jet2holidays, NHS Digital and Northcoders, all confirmed to return to the First Direct Arena on Friday 28 April after successful appearances at the two previous events. 

More than 2,000 people and 46 companies attended Leeds Digital Job Fair 2.0 last October.  But all records are set to be broken with Leeds Digital Job Fair 3.0 a component part of the inaugural Leeds International Festival.

Richard Flint

Richard Flint

Sky Betting & Gaming chief executive Richard Flint speaks highly of the event’s positive impact.

He said: “Leeds Digital Jobs Fair is a great way for the city to showcase the range of amazing tech job opportunities that are available here.

“As the city continues to develop a reputation for its fast growing digital sector we believe the fair can help demonstrate just why it is such a great city to build a career in.

“We’re looking forward to highlighting some of the exciting roles we have from across Sky Betting & Gaming.”

In a major coup for organisers Herd, debut exhibitor Barclays will also arrive with an impressive range of jobs for the right candidates.

Julian Bucknall, head of people and engagement, Barclays UK Technology, said: “Technology is the key enabler for Barclays to create the best digital banking experience for our 24 million customers.

Julian Bucknall

Julian Bucknall

“At Barclays Technology Centre Radbroke in Knutsford, Cheshire we have changed the way we design and implement to ensure our customer needs are the driving focus.

“We have embraced open source technologies and we are evolving with the world of technology, but without putting ourselves at risk.

“We’re looking for all types of people with technology experience including developers, testers, cyber and security consultants, project managers and data analysts.”

There is a lot of excitement that Crisp, the renowned global authority on social media risk, will also make its first exhibitor appearance at the First Direct Arena. 

Adam Hildreth

Adam Hildreth

Adam Hildreth, the serial entrepreneur who established the Leeds-based company in 2005, said Crisp had exciting plans that it was keen to discuss.

He said: "Crisp protect thousands of the world’s big-name brands, and from our hub in Leeds we are leading the global fight against offensive, illegal and toxic content on social media.

“Over the next few years we will be investing millions in our machine learning development to better understand user generated content risks and hope to find the best minds in everything from mathematics and machine learning to UX and DevOps at Leeds Digital Jobs Fair 3.0.”

A hugely welcome returnee is Northcoders, the leading coding bootcamp and a staunch supporter of the first two Leeds Digital Job Fairs.

Chris Hill

Chris Hill

The firm’s co-founder Chris Hill said: “Northcoders have exhibited at all of the Leeds Herd events to date.

“Northcoders works with both businesses looking to hire software developers and individuals looking to learn to code.

“We have met many of our students and clients through Leeds Herd events and will continue to exhibit at them for years to come.”

Herd founder Amy De-Balsi, who has once again masterminded Leeds Digital Job Fair 3.0, believes attendees will be treated to the most potent blend of exhibitors in the short history of the event. 

She said: “We set the bar very high when we staged the first Leeds Digital Job Fair and I am grateful to LeedsBID, Leeds City Council, Leeds Beckett University and the First Direct Arena for their continued support as we make final preparations for Leeds Digital Job Fair 3.0.

“Our success is evidenced by the quality of exhibitors who keep coming back, as well as the many leading-edge businesses that will be joining us for the first time on 28 April.

“There are a limited number of exhibition spaces still available but time is clearly running short.

“Students, graduates and tech professionals seeking a career change are invited to book their tickets for free, as many hundreds have already done.

“I have no doubt that it will be a remarkable day with a vast array of opportunities for career advancement in digital and tech there for the taking.

“The Leeds digital and tech success story is being written at a remarkable pace.  Leeds Digital Job Fair 3.0 will start the next exhilarating chapter.”

Amy De-Balsi

Amy De-Balsi

Employers interested in claiming one of the few remaining exhibition spaces at the event can request further information by emailing amy@herd.careers

Students or job seekers wanting to book their place or find out about current vacancies available through Herd can register online at www.herd.careers  

NEW ENTERPRISE FOR UNITY WITH LAUNCH OF REVAMPED WEBSITE

The enterprise arm of one of the North’s leading BME-led housing associations has launched a new website following a major upgrade of its facilities.

The new Unity Enterprise website which was launched today

The new Unity Enterprise website which was launched today

Unity Enterprise was set up in 2000 as a wholly-owned subsidiary of Leeds-based Unity Homes and Enterprise.

A not-for-profit organisation, Unity Enterprise currently provides 130 managed workspaces for around 80 local businesses, social enterprises and third sector organisations across three locations close to the city centre.

Two of the sites - Unity Business Centre and Chapeltown Enterprise Centre - recently benefitted from a £1.4 million refurbishment programme.

The third – Leeds Media Centre – is home to Made in Leeds TV, alongside a range of independent media and music companies, education providers and community projects.

Ali Akbor

Ali Akbor

The new Unity Enterprise website features an array of professional photographs illustrating the full range of amenities and services available for lease or hire. These include office suites, shop units, meeting rooms and conference facilities.  

Ali Akbor, Unity Homes and Enterprise chief executive, said: “Unity Enterprise was created to support local entrepreneurial activity, invest in social and economic regeneration, and improve the economic wellbeing of the communities we serve.

“It is doing a tremendous job in achieving these objectives.

“One of the secrets of Unity’s success since we were first established as a housing association 30 years ago is an ability to evolve and move with the times.

“Having a first class website is crucial, especially when operating in an increasingly competitive business environment.

“The Unity Enterprise site impressively fulfils that need.”   

Adrian Green

Adrian Green

The website redevelopment was overseen by Unity Enterprise manager Adrian Green.

He commented: “The new site is modern and accessible which accurately reflects our ethos.

“We are incredibly proud of the enhanced facilities now on offer.  Last year, Unity Enterprise generated a financial surplus which will help us to fund further improvements and support Unity’s wider work in providing high quality affordable housing.”

The website can be accessed at www.unityenterprise.co.uk  

Companies or other organisations seeking more information about Unity Enterprise can contact Adrian Green on Tel: 0113 242 5996 or email: adrian.green@unityha.co.uk 

LEEDS DIGITAL JOB FAIR 3.0 ‘TO BE BIGGER AND BETTER THAN EVER’

Leeds Digital Job Fair 3.0 is set to eclipse previous attendance records when employers and tech professionals come together again at the First Direct Arena on Friday 28 April. 

Hundreds of career opportunities were on offer last October when 46 exhibitors and more than 2,000 people flocked through the doors of the landmark city centre venue for Leeds Digital Job Fair 2.0.

A packed First Direct Arena at Leeds Digital Job Fair 2.0

A packed First Direct Arena at Leeds Digital Job Fair 2.0

In a major boost for organisers Herd, next month’s event will form part of the inaugural Leeds International Festival which runs from 22-30 April with a focus on three main strands: music, moving image and technology.

Amy De-Balsi - founder of online jobs board Herd, which has put the event together with support from LeedsBID, Leeds City Council, Leeds Beckett University and the First Direct Arena - said she expects the gathering to be bigger and better than ever. 

Herd’s Amy De-Balsi with (right) Cllr Mohammed Rafique, executive member for employment, enterprise and opportunity, Leeds City Council at Leeds Digital Job Fair 2.0

Herd’s Amy De-Balsi with (right) Cllr Mohammed Rafique, executive member for employment, enterprise and opportunity, Leeds City Council at Leeds Digital Job Fair 2.0

Ms De-Balsi said: “The first two Leeds Digital Job Fairs were incredibly successful, but we must continue to push the boundaries to accurately reflect the dynamism of the city’s digital and tech sector.  

“We expect more than 50 employers to be exhibiting on the day and we will be shortly be announcing some of the biggest names, each with a wide array of vacancies to be filled. 

“With more than five weeks to go, the number of registered attendees is also well ahead of where we have been at this stage before previous events.

“Being part of the first ever Leeds International Festival is a huge seal of approval for us and a recognition of the important role the Leeds Digital Job Fair now plays.”

Andrew Cooper, chairman of Leeds International Festival and LeedsBID chief executive, said: “The Leeds International Festival showcases the city’s wide cultural offer of music, moving image and technology. The Leeds Digital Jobs Fair is an integral part of the promotion of a city which is at the forefront of the skills agenda in the tech, creative and digital sectors.

Andrew Cooper, chairman of Leeds International Festival and LeedsBID chief executive

Andrew Cooper, chairman of Leeds International Festival and LeedsBID chief executive

“LeedsBID’s continual support of the digital jobs fair is reflective of its growing status in the city’s annual events calendar and the range of exciting opportunities on offer in Leeds for talented people in this sector.”

Employers interested in exhibiting at the event can request further information by emailing amy@herd.careers

Students or job seekers wanting to book their place or find out about current vacancies available through Herd should visit www.herd.careers  

Aireborough juniors prepare to take the Yorkshire rugby spirit to new pastures

A group of budding young rugby players from Leeds will journey across the Pennines next month on their first-ever rugby tour.

Aireborough RUFC Under 9s and Under 10s will play their age group counterparts at Heaton Moor RUFC in Stockport on Sunday 23 April, in what will be their final competitive outings of the season.

Accompanied by their parents, the boys will make the trip from Nunroyd Park to Cheshire the previous day and spend the afternoon at Gulliver’s World theme park in Warrington before staying overnight at Terra Nova School close to the world famous Jodrell Bank Observatory.     

Past pupils of Terra Nova School include former England rugby union captain Will Carling and Sir Ben Ainslie, the most successful sailor in Olympic history with four gold medals.   

Rory Whitehead from Aireborough Under 10s taking the battle to near neighbours Otley  

Rory Whitehead from Aireborough Under 10s taking the battle to near neighbours Otley  

The venture is the brainchild of Aire’s Under 10s coach Matt Barratt.

He said:  “More than 50 of us will be going on tour including 25 players, and all costs are being met by the parents themselves.   

“However, whilst the boys will be properly kitted out for their matches on the Sunday, we would be very keen for them to all look the same when we’re out and about on the Saturday, arrive at the ground the following day and attend the post-match meal.   

“There is an ideal opportunity for a sponsor to provide support for us to purchase hoodies for the players with their company name and logo included in the design, together with Aireborough’s club badge. If someone would like to help, we’d be very happy to hear from them.”

Aireborough Under 9s at Nunroyd Park after last weekend’s game against Keighley

Aireborough Under 9s at Nunroyd Park after last weekend’s game against Keighley

Kris Brook, who as well as serving as the club’s coaching coordinator and Under 9s head coach also plays for Aire’s senior first fifteen, added:  “The boys are really excited about the trip and their performances on the field have visibly gone up a level since the tour was confirmed.

“But at Aireborough, playing the game to the best of your ability is only part of the experience.  We never stop reminding our players at all levels that rugby is also about friendship, respect and enjoyment.      

“We are immensely proud of them all and I have no doubt that the Under 9s and Under 10s will be prove to be first class ambassadors for the club and, indeed, for Yorkshire rugby.”  

Anyone interested in sponsoring players’ hoodies should contact Kris Brook on Tel: 07702 130596.

BIG HOUSING DEVELOPMENT IN LITTLE LONDON

A previously run-down part of Little London in north Leeds has been regenerated with the completion of a new £1.8 million affordable homes development.

Delivered by Leeds-based housing association Unity Homes and Enterprise in partnership with the Homes and Communities Agency and Leeds City Council, Holborn Court comprises 15 flats and two wheelchair accessible bungalows.

Part of Unity’s new Holborn Court development in Little London, north Leeds

Part of Unity’s new Holborn Court development in Little London, north Leeds

They replace a number of Council-owned bedsits which had become derelict.

The new properties have been constructed with red masonry to replicate buildings of similar character in the area.

Holborn Court is sited adjacent to a number of local amenities including a supermarket, and is a short walk or bus ride away from Leeds city centre.

All 17 properties have now been leased to tenants.

Ali Akbor, chief executive of Unity Homes and Enterprise, said he was excited by the completion of the project.      

He said: “Little London is an area Unity is very familiar with as we already manage a number of other properties locally. 

“The Holborn Court site had been lying empty for several years and we welcomed the opportunity to bring it back into use through the 2015-18 Affordable Homes Programme.

“The flats, built in three separate blocks, are of the highest quality and the feedback received from tenants has been incredibly positive.

“We are especially proud of the bungalows which have been specifically designed for people who find it difficult to get around. Very few housing associations are directing resources to this type of property and I’m delighted that Unity is leading the way.

“Our core objective is to deliver first class affordable homes for the neighbourhoods and tenants we proudly serve.

“With a number of other Unity developments nearing completion, Holborn Court is further evidence of our success.”        

Unity chief executive Ali Akbor (right) with tenant Ian Bailey at the new Holborn Court development

Unity chief executive Ali Akbor (right) with tenant Ian Bailey at the new Holborn Court development

Ian Bailey is a former soldier who served with the British Army for more than 10 years in various parts of the world - including Canada, Kenya and Northern Ireland - before resettling in Leeds. 

He moved into his new flat in Holborn Court before Christmas and says he feels very much at home.

Mr Bailey said: “I’m over the moon.  There is plenty of space, including a big bathroom and kitchen, and there’s room for my son to come and stay.  But because of the super insulation in the loft, the flat stays warm.

“I do some voluntary work for the Royal British Legion, who have helped me to carpet the property and buy a fridge freezer.

“However, I am particularly grateful to Unity staff for the support they have given me right from the start of the bidding process. They’ve been brilliant.

“Organisations such as Unity work hard to make a real difference to people’s lives.  I’m very happy.”             

Holborn Court tenant Ian Bailey (right) chats to Unity chief executive Ali Akbor in the living room of his new property in Little London

Holborn Court tenant Ian Bailey (right) chats to Unity chief executive Ali Akbor in the living room of his new property in Little London

HUGE SUM RAISED TO TACKLE DEMENTIA AS THE FIX REFORMS FOR NIGHT OF NOSTALGIA

A remarkable £2,389.65 was raised when Portrush band The Fix reformed after 25 years to play a special Christmas comeback show in aid of Alzheimer's Research UK.

Rolling back time: From right to left – Jonny Lennox, Peter Jameson, and Paul Beattie performing as The Fix after 25 years away

Rolling back time: From right to left – Jonny Lennox, Peter Jameson, and Paul Beattie performing as The Fix after 25 years away

The three-piece rock outfit performed to a full house at Kiwi’s Brew Bar in the town where a combination of raffle proceeds, online donations and contributions from music fans keen for their Fix of nostalgia resulted in a huge final total.

It was a quarter of a century since singer and guitarist Jonny Lennox and bassist Paul Beattie last played a full set together after a run of memorable performances in the late 1980s and early 1990s at Kelly’s Portrush.  

They were joined for their return gig by new member Peter Jameson on drums and percussion.

Yesterday Jonny returned to Kiwi’s Brew Bar to display a cheque for the final total, assisted by the bar’s owner Kris Charteris.

Job done: Jonny Lennox (left), frontman of The Fix, and Kris Charteris, owner of Kiwi’s Brew Bar, display a cheque for Alzheimer’s Research UK following the band’s 25-year charity reunion night

Job done: Jonny Lennox (left), frontman of The Fix, and Kris Charteris, owner of Kiwi’s Brew Bar, display a cheque for Alzheimer’s Research UK following the band’s 25-year charity reunion night

Hannah Reynolds, Community and Sporting Officer at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “We are delighted that The Fix reunited after 25 years especially for a Christmas gig in support of Alzheimer’s Research UK.

“They raised nearly £2,400 which is incredible and we are so grateful to everyone who helped make it happen and those who generously donated.

“Supporters like The Fix help us in our quest to find effective treatments and preventions for dementia, a condition which more than 20,000 people are living with in Northern Ireland.”

Jonny Lennox, frontman of The Fix, said: “It was a wonderful night and we are indebted to everyone who helped to make it happen.

“In particular, I want to thank the many businesses that provided raffle prizes, Kris for providing the venue and, of course, everyone who turned up on the night or who made donations to our JustGiving page. 

“We have kept this open at https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Alzheimer-raffle-Portrush for anyone who wants to make a late contribution.

“There were a lot of familiar faces in the crowd, including many people who had travelled from various parts of the world to be home for Christmas.  I hope they enjoyed the night as much as we did.

“Most importantly, it was fantastic to raise so much money to assist in the battle against dementia. Alzheimer’s Research UK do great work and we are proud to have done our little bit to help them.”     

Kris Charteris, owner of Kiwi’s Brew Bar, said: “It was a fabulous occasion and a privilege to host it.

“I know the boys put in countless hours of rehearsals to ensure they were able to rekindle the old magic.  The audience’s reaction demonstrated that all the effort was worth it together, of course, with the incredible amount of money the gig raised.

“Having relocated their guitars after 25 years, I hope they now keep them out for a while longer and we get to see them again.  They have an open invitation to perform at Kiwi’s Brew Bar anytime they want.”

Leeds housing association looks forward to 30th anniversary

The chief executive of Leeds-based housing association Unity Homes and Enterprise has spoken of his pride at the organisation’s achievements and future plans as it prepares to celebrate its 30th anniversary later this year.

Unity was set-up as a community housing association in 1987 to address the needs of black and minority ethnic communities in Leeds.  The initial focus was on Chapeltown, where it continues to have its headquarters. But its activities have since widened to other areas of the city including Harehills, Beeston, Holbeck and Chapel Allerton. 

Its extensive work now includes supporting local entrepreneurial activity through Unity Enterprise, a subsidiary company, and helping local people to access jobs and training with assistance from Unity Employment Services.

“It is useful for organisations like Unity to step back from time to time to reflect on the journey we have made and our achievements,” said Ali Akbor, who also marks 18 years as the association’s chief executive this month.

Ali Akbor, Unity Homes and Enterprise chief executive  

Ali Akbor, Unity Homes and Enterprise chief executive  

“When I joined Unity, we managed fewer than 700 homes.  We now have responsibility for more than 1,200 properties with advanced plans to increase that number by up to 200 before the end of the decade.  This includes the official opening of 26 new properties in Leeds – at Hunslet and Little London – in the coming weeks.”   

But Mr Akbor was keen to stress that working with partners, including Leeds City Council and the Homes and Communities Agency, to meet housing need was just one element of Unity’s drive to regenerate local communities.

“We are fiercely ambitious on behalf of the people and neighbourhoods we serve,” he explained. 

“Economic, social and physical regeneration go hand in hand.   Building high quality affordable homes is obviously fundamental to everything we do.  But so too is being proactive in stimulating local business activity and helping our tenants into jobs.        

“Unity Enterprise now provides 130 managed workspaces for around 80 local businesses in three centres close to Leeds city centre.  And last year we helped 77 people to find work, 120 to access accredited skills training and 15 to gain work placements.”  

Looking ahead, Mr Akbor said he believed the work of BME-led organisations such as Unity Homes and Enterprise was more important in 2017 than for many years.  

“I am immensely proud that our tenants now come from all communities and ethnic backgrounds, but we have not forgotten our roots,” he continued.

“As we look back over the three decades of Unity’s existence, we must acknowledge the advances this country has made on equality and diversity.  We’ve been progressive in comparison with many other nations.  But to maintain that lead, these issues must return to the top of the policy agenda where they haven’t been of late. 

“The United Kingdom faces new challenges which have been exacerbated in the wake of the EU referendum. We’ve read headlines about a divided nation. We’ve witnessed an increase in anti-immigration views.  Cohesion has been challenged in some areas including an increase in hate crime. 

“Community housing associations like ours do make a difference, and we hope to make that difference for many years to come.” 

CHAPELTOWN COUGARS SHOW UNITY IN NEW KIT

Leeds housing association Unity Homes and Enterprise has presented Chapeltown Cougars rugby league under 9s with new branded hoodies to keep them warm as winter arrives.

The specially-commissioned clothing was handed over to Cougars founder and head coach Steve Walker by Unity’s chief executive Ali Akbor and director of regeneration Wayne Noteman after a training session at the Mandela Community Centre.

They were joined by Ronnie the Rhino representing the Leeds Rhinos Foundation which supports Chapeltown Cougars through the Leeds Rhinos Club Ambassadors Scheme. 

Unity Homes and Enterprise chief executive Ali Akbor (left) and director of regeneration Wayne Noteman (right) present Chapeltown Cougars head coach Steve Walker with a new hoodie, watched by Ronnie the Rhino

Unity Homes and Enterprise chief executive Ali Akbor (left) and director of regeneration Wayne Noteman (right) present Chapeltown Cougars head coach Steve Walker with a new hoodie, watched by Ronnie the Rhino

The Cougars were established in 2011 with the club now open to boys and girls from five years old. 

Players are drawn from the local community in Chapeltown and surrounding areas including Chapel Allerton, Moortown, Oakwood and Harehills.

They train under the guidance of qualified coaches on Wednesday evenings and play games in the Yorkshire Junior Amateur Rugby League on Saturday and Sunday mornings.

Ali Akbor, Unity Homes and Enterprise chief executive, said: “Unity is proud to be based in Chapeltown and, when asked to assist the Cougars, were only too happy to oblige.

“Our ethos is centred on creating sustainable communities made up of people of all ethnic backgrounds and ages. 

“There is no better way to bring young people together than through sport and, in their short history, Chapeltown Cougars have been remarkably successful in doing this.  

“We are delighted to be associated with the club and have Unity’s name displayed on the smart new kit.”

Steve Walker, Chapeltown Cougars founder and head coach, said: “The club is fortunate to live in a community where people are happy to do their bit to help us.

“This includes our volunteers, who give up their time so freely, and our sponsors who support us in other ways.

“We are thrilled that Unity has provided our under 9s with their new hoodies, which look great. 

“Other sponsorship opportunities are available for anyone else interested in getting involved with the Cougars.”         

Sam Horner, Leeds Rhinos Foundation amateur club development officer, said: “Chapeltown Cougars might not be the biggest junior rugby league club in Leeds, but it is one of the best.

“The coaches, players and volunteers are on a journey and it is privilege for the Leeds Rhinos Foundation to play an active part.   

“I have worked closely with Steve to help the club develop and I promote it wherever I go.   

“I am delighted they are getting strong support from the local community and I congratulate Unity Homes and Enterprise for stepping forward to help.”

Anyone wanting more information about Chapeltown Cougars or to come along to a training session should contact Avril Sanderson on Tel: 07708 000035.