Unity chief executive welcomes appointment of new Housing Secretary

  ALI AKBOR

ALI AKBOR

Ali Akbor, the chief executive of Leeds-based housing association Unity Homes and Enterprise, has said he hopes the appointment of James Brokenshire as Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government will place the need for more affordable homes higher up the Government’s agenda.

Mr Akbor said: “I congratulate Sajid Javid on becoming the first person from a BME-background to be appointed Home Secretary and wish him well in the job.

“However, I regret that he did not do more to tackle the ongoing national housing crisis and hope that James Brokenshire will soon develop a more impressive record of achievement. 

“Mr Brokenshire has a sound reputation in Whitehall and is known to be close to Theresa May following their many years together in the Home Office.    

“I am hopeful that having the Prime Minister’s ear will allow him to advance affordable housing much higher up the Government’s domestic policy agenda and enable associations such as Unity to build the many more new homes that people desperately need.”   

Lord Mayor gives blessing to new Leeds business incubator

The Lord Mayor of Leeds has formally opened a new business incubator to boost the prospects of start-up companies in the city.

Cllr Jane Dowson cut the ribbon in a ceremony at Unity Business Centre in Chapeltown alongside senior representatives from project hosts Unity Homes and Enterprise and their partners iota Business.

The tailored facility offers shared office space to entrepreneurs, together with access to specialist support services, business mentoring and networking events.       

Addressing guests including local small business owners, the Lord Mayor said: “It is a great pleasure to see businesses developing within the city.  There are tonnes of things that you’re going to be able to do here.  I love the set-up because there are face-to-face contacts with other people.  You’ve got private rooms and can invite people in to meet you.  There is everything you need to set up your business.”

Cllr Dowson added: “Doing it all on your own can be hugely debilitating because it’s a frightening step to take.  This business incubator will give that confidence to turn the bright and brilliant idea into something that will actually work.  I look forward in years to come to coming out to see your businesses expand because this is a starter, not a finish.” 

  The Lord Mayor of Leeds, Cllr Jane Dowson (centre right), cuts the ribbon at the new incubator, supported by Unity Homes and Enterprise chief executive Ali Akbor (centre) and iota Business co-founder Cristine Wilson (centre left) 

The Lord Mayor of Leeds, Cllr Jane Dowson (centre right), cuts the ribbon at the new incubator, supported by Unity Homes and Enterprise chief executive Ali Akbor (centre) and iota Business co-founder Cristine Wilson (centre left) 

Unity Business Centre is one of three sites in Leeds operated by Unity Enterprise, a subsidiary of Unity Homes and Enterprise, which collectively provide 130 managed workspaces for around 80 businesses, social enterprises and third sector bodies.

Unity’s partner for the incubator scheme, iota Business, has accumulated almost three decades of service to small and medium-sized businesses in accounts, payroll and business support. 

Commenting on the initiative, Adrian Green, Unity Enterprise manager, told the gathering: “This new business hub is something very close to my heart.  Working with iota Business, it will encourage entrepreneurs out of their bedrooms into cost-effective accommodation on a flexible basis, with the added benefit of having chartered accountants, business advisers and other experts on-hand.” 

Kari Walker, iota Business co-founder, said: “There are so many talented people out there and they don’t have the contacts, they don’t always have the finance, they don’t often have the confidence to take that first step into running their own business, to make that leap.  What the business incubator hopes to do is give them a bit of that confidence, give them a guiding hand.  This community really deserves that helping hand.”

Ali Akbor, Unity Homes and Enterprise chief executive, told attendees: “It is exciting for us to have this incubator opening at the Unity Business Centre.  Working in partnership with iota Business, I’m delighted that we’re able to offer a service to the business community, particularly to new businesses, to encourage them to employ and train a lot of people.  I wish you a lot of success.  We’re here to support you as much as we can.”       

Businesses seeking more information about the incubator scheme or other services provided by Unity Enterprise can contact Adrian Green on Tel: 0113 242 5996 or email: adrian.green@unityha.co.uk 

Unity on show as partners and students join local MP at Leeds affordable housing scheme

Leeds West MP Rachel Reeves has joined senior representatives of Unity Homes and Enterprise, councillors and other project partners as construction work gathers pace at the housing association’s new £2 million affordable homes development in Armley.

The scheme, which includes six houses and eight flats, is on the site of the former Ancester public house at Armley Ridge Road which had been boarded up for several years before being placed on Leeds City Council’s list of ‘derelict and eyesore’ buildings.

The local authority repurchased the ground lease in 2014 and earmarked it for new affordable housing.

The site was purchased by Unity in September 2017 and construction work to build 14 affordable homes for rent commenced late last year.

Homes England has provided grant funding of £420,000 towards the project which is due to be completed in September 2018.   The contractors are Esh Property Services.

  Leeds West MP Rachel Reeves (centre) celebrating progress on the Armley Ridge Road site with Unity chief executive Ali Akbor (centre right), project partners and students from Leeds Beckett University  

Leeds West MP Rachel Reeves (centre) celebrating progress on the Armley Ridge Road site with Unity chief executive Ali Akbor (centre right), project partners and students from Leeds Beckett University  

 Ali Akbor, Unity Homes and Enterprise chief executive, said: “We are very excited about the new development which increases Unity’s presence in Armley.

“It will deliver an excellent mix of properties, ranging from one-bedroomed flats to three-bedroomed houses. 

“We were delighted that Rachel was able to join us and our project partners to review progress and we look forward to welcoming her back on site to see the final results. 

“Unity has recently completed 58 new affordable homes for rent and construction work on a further 68 is about to begin.

“With many more exciting schemes in the pipeline, we are proud to be playing our part in delivering high quality properties and improving people’s lives across Leeds.” 

Rachel Reeves said: “I was really pleased to see the great progress Unity Homes and Enterprise have made with their new project at the site of the derelict Ancestor pub at Armley Ridge Road.

“Local residents will benefit from this £2 million investment, which will help to regenerate the area by building new affordable homes.”

12 students from the School of Built Environment and Engineering at Leeds Beckett University were also invited to take part in the site visit.  They were accompanied by Dr Quintin Bradley, Senior Lecturer in Planning and Housing.

Dr Bradley said: “Our students are the planners and developers of tomorrow.

“It is an absolute inspiration for them to learn from Unity who are building affordable homes on brownfield sites like this one, and making them energy efficient and built to lifetime homes standards.

“This shows what wonders social housing providers can do.”

Unity chief executive expresses sadness following the death of Baroness Dean

  Ali Akbor

Ali Akbor

The following statement has been issued by Ali Akbor, Chief Executive of Unity Homes and Enterprise, following this afternoon’s announcement of the death of Baroness Dean:

“I would like to express my feelings of shock and deep sadness at news that Baroness Dean has passed away.

“Everyone at Unity was privileged when she attended our thirtieth anniversary Annual General Meeting last autumn as guest of honour.

“She spoke with great warmth and unparalleled knowledge, based on a lifetime of experiences including her period as Chairman of the Housing Corporation, about the important role played by the BME housing sector.   

“In recent weeks, Baroness Dean had accepted my invitation to address a future event celebrating the work of BME-led housing associations in England and I was very much looking forward to seeing her again.

“She had much more left to give and her untimely death is a huge loss to so many.”

New contractor set to maintain Unity’s high standards

Unity Homes and Enterprise has appointed a new contractor tasked with ensuring that the Leeds-based association’s highly-rated properties are maintained to the lofty standards tenants rightly expect.

  Ali Akbor (front, second from left) and Gary Thewlis (front, second from right) with staff from Unity Homes and Enterprise and GTD Painting and Property Maintenance.  Also included are Unity tenant Belinda Letham (front, left) who assisted with the procurement process alongside Adrian Smith (back row, second from left) and Nigel Barr (back row, fourth from right) from consultants Stradia  

Ali Akbor (front, second from left) and Gary Thewlis (front, second from right) with staff from Unity Homes and Enterprise and GTD Painting and Property Maintenance.  Also included are Unity tenant Belinda Letham (front, left) who assisted with the procurement process alongside Adrian Smith (back row, second from left) and Nigel Barr (back row, fourth from right) from consultants Stradia  

GTD Painting and Property Maintenance, based in Crossgates, emerged successfully from a rigorous tendering process and will formally take up responsibility in April for repairs and upkeep of the more than 1,200 properties owned by Unity.

Ali Akbor, Unity Homes and Enterprise chief executive, said: “We are very pleased to have GTD on board and look forward to building a strong professional relationship with their team in months ahead on behalf of our tenants.

  Gary Thewlis, GTD Painting and Property Maintenance managing director (left) with Ali Akbor, Unity Homes and Enterprise chief executive

Gary Thewlis, GTD Painting and Property Maintenance managing director (left) with Ali Akbor, Unity Homes and Enterprise chief executive

“15 expressions of interest to bid for the work were received and six contractors were subsequently invited to participate in the tendering exercise which included site visits, presentations and in-depth interviews. 

“Much will be expected from GTD given the continued very high customer satisfaction ratings for our current repairs and maintenance service.  In our most recent survey carried out last year, 99 per cent of Unity tenants who filled out a feedback form after a repair was completed said they were happy with the outcome. 

“This is a striking achievement and I am confident that these impressive results will continue as we enter our new partnership with GTD.”     

Gary Thewlis, GTD Painting and Property Maintenance managing director, said: “We are thrilled to be selected as Unity's preferred repairs and maintenance contractor.

“We are looking forward to delivering our customer driven services which we are confident will surpass the expectations of Unity's tenants, staff and board members.”

Snow problem is no problem as ‘perfect’ Leeds Digital Job Fair wows employers

Exhibitors have praised the quality of digital and tech candidates who braved the snow to attend last week’s hugely successful Leeds Digital Job Fair at the First Direct Arena.

Almost 1,000 people walked through the doors of the iconic city centre venue to meet the most diverse range of employers in the event’s short history, all with attractive career opportunities on offer.  

One of the best-known debut exhibitors was the Royal Air Force.  Speaking afterwards, Flight Lieutenant Phil Todd applauded the gathering organised by online jobs board Herd with support from Leeds Business Improvement District (LeedsBID), Leeds City Council, Leeds Beckett University and the First Direct Arena.  

  The RAF team complete preparations before doors open at the First Direct Arena

The RAF team complete preparations before doors open at the First Direct Arena

He said: “This was the first year the RAF had attended the Leeds Digital Job Fair and we will definitely be looking to attend at the next event.  The calibre of candidates and the number of job seekers was above expectation, and perfect for a technological force like the RAF. As an exhibitor, the Leeds Digital Job Fair - delivered by Herd - provided a plethora of diverse, high-calibre candidates.  We received an abundance of interest in RAF Careers, both digital and the wider ranging opportunities on offer. 

“RAF Careers doesn’t normally follow the crowd, it leads it.  However, as a result of the success of the Leeds Digital Jobs Fair, we think this is definitely a Herd worth joining forces with.  Great candidates, with a multitude of talents, looking to start a career or finding their next career step in the digital world.”  

Another debutant was Leeds-based automotive data specialist cap hpi. 

Joel Albyn, cap hpi Product and Innovation Director, said: “This was our first time at the Leeds Digital Job Fair and we couldn’t be happier with how it went. Despite the snow, it was clear from the moment the doors opened that the ‘digital talent’ of Leeds was out in force and we were quickly inundated with folks wanting to talk about our development, product and data analytics roles.  We talked to some great people with a wide range of experiences and skills, capturing the details of literally hundreds of interested candidates over the four hours. The event was huge success from our perspective – and the snow just added to the occasion!”

  The busy cap hpi stand at Leeds Digital Job Fair 4.0

The busy cap hpi stand at Leeds Digital Job Fair 4.0

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) were also welcome first-time visitors to the event.

Dan Tanham, DWP Digital Deputy Director, said: “It’s great to see so many exciting companies recruiting hard in the thriving digital economy in Leeds. I was overwhelmed with not just the quantity but the quality of the delegates who had made it through the snow. It was great to meet them and share more about what we do at DWP Digital, as well as to learn from them about the changing expectations and experiences of highly skilled graduates from really quite varied backgrounds. This city clearly has a bright future driven by the engine of a vibrant digital skills community.”

Sky has been one of the biggest supporters of the Leeds Digital Job Fair, having exhibited on two previous occasions. 

  Sky in demand at the First Direct Arena

Sky in demand at the First Direct Arena

Tom Dean, Recruitment Partner at Sky, was fulsome in his praise.   

He said:  “The event was fantastic and given the weather the turnout was great. We were able to talk to hundreds of potential candidates from newcomers to the highly-experienced. Sky were able to not only talk about our roles, but our culture and values which we are very proud of.”

Amy De-Balsi, owner of Herd and founder of the Leeds Digital Job Fair, was delighted by the feedback from exhibitors and the many candidates she spoke to throughout the afternoon.

  Herd founder Amy De-Balsi, organiser of Leeds Digital Job Fair 4.0

Herd founder Amy De-Balsi, organiser of Leeds Digital Job Fair 4.0

She said: “There was a wonderfully warm atmosphere inside the First Direct Arena, which was something from a contrast to the snowy scene outside.  The huge turnout represented an excellent illustration of the resolve, determination and good humour that the Leeds digital sector is renowned for, and I commend everyone who made the effort to come along.

“Most importantly, our best-ever line-up of employers had many positive engagements with attendees and lots of tech vacancies will be filled as a result.

“That is why I established the event in 2016 and we are already making plans for Leeds Digital Job Fair 5.0 next year.”   

Minister welcomes Leeds Digital Job Fair as final call goes out to register for free

Margot James, Minister for Digital and the Creative Industries, has praised the Leeds tech scene as preparations for the Leeds Digital Job Fair are finalised.

  Margot James MP

Margot James MP

Supported by Leeds Business Improvement District (LeedsBID), Leeds City Council and Leeds Beckett University, Leeds Digital Job Fair 4.0 takes place next Wednesday (28 February) from 3.30-7.30pm at the First Direct Arena.  

The iconic auditorium will host 50 exhibitors including Sky Betting and Gaming, Jet2.com and Jet2holidays, NHS Digital, cap hpi, DWP Digital, Equifax and Sky.

Job seekers, students, graduates and tech professionals wishing to attend the event can still book their place free of charge by visiting www.herd.careers   

Margot James, Minister for Digital and the Creative Industries, said: “We are determined to make the UK the best place in the world to start and grow a digital business, help every firm to benefit from innovative technologies and give people the skills they need to succeed in the sector.

"Leeds is a hotbed of tech talent and leading digital businesses, and this fair highlights the great opportunities on offer across the city."

Amy De-Balsi, owner of online jobs board Herd who founded Leeds Digital Job Fair in 2016, said: “I am delighted by the supportive words from Margot James and wish her well in her new role.

  Herd owner and Leeds Digital Job Fair founder Amy De-Balsi

Herd owner and Leeds Digital Job Fair founder Amy De-Balsi

“There are currently more than 800 digital and tech vacancies ready to be filled in Leeds with more than half of these on offer at Leeds Digital Job Fair 4.0.

“The number of jobs available highlights the welcome reality that you do not have to live in London to progress your career in digital and tech and it is refreshing to hear that point underlined by the minister.     

“I urge job seekers and tech professionals considering a change to sign-up for free to attend the event.  Many hundreds have already done so, and we are expecting a massive turnout at what will undoubtedly be the biggest and best Leeds Digital Job Fair yet.”  

Unity Business Centre to become new hub for aspiring Leeds entrepreneurs

Leeds-based Unity Enterprise has formed a partnership with long-established tenant iota Business to launch an incubator scheme to propel some of the city’s aspiring entrepreneurs to commercial success. 

  Unity Homes and Enterprise chief executive Ali Akbor (left), iota Business founder Cristine Wilson and Unity Enterprise manager Adrian Green at Unity Business Centre in Leeds

Unity Homes and Enterprise chief executive Ali Akbor (left), iota Business founder Cristine Wilson and Unity Enterprise manager Adrian Green at Unity Business Centre in Leeds

Office space and meetings rooms will be provided at Unity Business Centre in Chapeltown, together with access to mentors and specialist support services including marketing.

The initiative will be chiefly targeted at new start-ups and home-based businesses seeking to expand. 

Unity Enterprise, a subsidiary of Unity Homes and Enterprise, currently provides 130 managed workspaces for around 80 businesses, social enterprises and third sector bodies on three sites close to Leeds city centre.

Unity’s partner for the new scheme, iota Business, has accumulated almost three decades of service to small and medium-sized businesses in accounts, payroll and business support. 

Unity Enterprise manager Adrian Green said: “We are bursting with anticipation at the prospect of what the incubator can achieve and the positive impact it will have on the local economy including the creation of new jobs.

“Over recent months, Unity Enterprise has hosted a series of well-attended business breakfasts which have underlined that the entrepreneurial spirit is vibrant amongst our diverse blend of tenants.  But it is not the Unity way to settle for what we have, there is always more to do on behalf of the communities we proudly serve.

“Backed by the in-house experience of iota Business and the expertise of other professionals working with us, we believe that the model we have put together has the potential to transform start-ups and very small enterprises into high-growth companies with stable financial futures.” 

iota Business founder Cristine Wilson said: “We have helped many businesses grow from a small idea to fully fledged companies, employing others. We help them grow in a sustainable way

“One of the biggest struggles they tell us about is that first step from the kitchen table at home to rented office space.  We wanted to plug that gap, with realistic prices.”

Ali Akbor, Unity Homes and Enterprise chief executive, said: “Unity Enterprise has come a long way since its creation almost 20 years ago. 

“Over that period, it has acquired further workspace, refurbished built assets, hosted a multitude of impactful organisations and initiated a wide range of business and employment support programmes.

“Following a recent £1.4 million refurbishment programme, our three facilities – Unity Business Centre, Chapeltown Enterprise Centre and Leeds Media Centre – are now operating at close to full capacity.

“The launch of the business incubator scheme will enable us to inject new ideas and even greater vigour into what we do and how we do it. 

“We look forward to hearing from interested parties and getting the initiative fully underway.”       

Businesses seeking more information about the incubator scheme or other services provided by Unity Enterprise can contact Adrian Green on Tel: 0113 242 5996 or email: adrian.green@unityha.co.uk 

  iota Business founder Cristine Wilson (right) discusses the new incubator with Unity Enterprise manager Adrian Green (left) and Unity Homes and Enterprise chief executive Ali Akbor

iota Business founder Cristine Wilson (right) discusses the new incubator with Unity Enterprise manager Adrian Green (left) and Unity Homes and Enterprise chief executive Ali Akbor

Leeds Digital Job Fair 4.0 set to play pivotal role in filling ever-growing number of local tech vacancies

New research which found that there are now 1.4 vacancies for every employee working in the North’s digital and tech sector underlines the importance for the regional economy of this month’s Leeds Digital Job Fair, the event’s founder Amy De-Balsi has said.

The Northern Digital Jobs Strategy Report, published in January by Tech North and EY, revealed that an average of almost 240,00 digital and tech jobs are being advertised in the North each year where there are only around 170,00 suitably skilled workers to fill them.  

Alongside the abundance of high quality vacancies on offer, the research also found that digital and tech jobs typically pay 48% more than the median average salary and deliver a higher level of productivity to the economy.

  Herd’s Amy De-Balsi with the Jet2.com and Jetholidays team at Leeds Digital Job Fair 3.0     

Herd’s Amy De-Balsi with the Jet2.com and Jetholidays team at Leeds Digital Job Fair 3.0    

Ms De-Balsi, owner of online jobs board Herd, said that Leeds Digital Job Fair 4.0 has the potential to deliver strong candidates for the many ready-to-fill vacancies in the city.

She commented: “The Herd job board has more than 1000 digital and tech jobs available in Leeds right now, and that number is growing day by day.

“The Leeds Digital Job Fair 4.0 which will again be held in the main auditorium of the First Direct Arena, also run by Herd, will have 50 exhibitors with over 500 vacancies all available on the day.  Many of these opportunities will be apprenticeships, enabling people with a keen interest in the digital sector to learn on the job and forge an exciting new career.

“Alongside a parade of well-known employers including Sky Betting and Gaming, Jet2.com and Jet2holidays, NHS Digital, cap hpi, DWP Digital, Equifax and Sky, we have scheduled a programme of high level talks from tech industry leaders.  There will also be expert advice available from our partners Fruition IT on how to access the best jobs. 

“The research from Tech North and EY found that 58% of digital companies in the North say that finding ‘talent’ is a key business challenge.  Leeds Digital Job Fair 4.0 will help them to address this.”

  Adam Hildreth, Crisp CEO and founder

Adam Hildreth, Crisp CEO and founder

Crisp, the Leeds-based company regarded as the global authority on social media risk, will be returning as an exhibitor to the First Direct Arena having made its Leeds Digital Job Fair debut in April 2017. 

Its founder and CEO is Adam Hildreth, a serial entrepreneur who recently gave oral evidence to the House of Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee’s ongoing inquiry into fake news. 

He said: “At Crisp, our mission is to protect brands, social platforms, advertisers and kids from the bad actors that exploit, extort, distress, offend and misinform online.

“We work with some of the largest companies and brands in the world and employ people who excel in their field - whether they’re AI specialists or client service experts.

“Our HQ in Leeds is now a global hub for AI excellence and we’re growing fast, so we’re looking forward to meeting more like-minded people at Leeds Digital Jobs Fair 4.0 who want to join us and make a difference.”

  Mike Buck, BJSS Head of Delivery Leeds

Mike Buck, BJSS Head of Delivery Leeds

Another high-profile returnee is award-winning IT consultancy BJSS which operates offices and project centres across the UK and the United States.

Mike Buck, BJSS Head of Delivery Leeds, commented: “We’re thrilled to be once again supporting the Leeds Digital Job Fair. As Yorkshire’s biggest tech event, it provides us with an important opportunity to engage with the talented technologists and graduates that are helping Leeds to shape Britain’s digital future.

“This year, many of our senior people will be attending the Leeds Digital Job Fair, allowing candidates a unique opportunity to hear about career options at BJSS, understand the innovative tools and techniques that we use, and learn about the exciting projects that we deliver.”

Leeds Digital Job Fair 4.0 will take place on Wednesday 28 February from 3.30-7.30pm, supported by Leeds Business Improvement District (LeedsBID), Leeds City Council, Leeds Beckett University and the First Direct Arena. 

Job seekers, students, graduates and tech professionals wishing to attend the event can book their place free of charge by visiting www.herd.careers  

Government told to act as transport funding gap continues to widen

A fierce - and frankly understandable - row has ignited today after research revealed a vast North-South disparity in transport funding.

  Chris Grayling

Chris Grayling

A report published by think tank IPPR North said that from the current financial year onwards Londoners will receive £4,155 per person in transport investment compared to just £844 per person for Yorkshire residents - the lowest level in the UK.

The average of the three Northern regions combined - including the North East and North West - is £1,600 or more than two-and-a-half times less per head of population than people living in the capital.   

  Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson

The disclosure comes just days after Transport Secretary Chris Grayling told a Commons Select Committee: "I don't expect to electrify whole of Trans-Pennine route."

And in the week when the Foreign Secretary claimed it would be a good use of public money to build a 22-mile long Boris Bridge to France as "it's crazy that two of the biggest economies in the world are connected by one railway line when they are only 20 miles apart." (Albeit a railway line which is much more reliable, rapid, efficient and with hugely greater capacity than the offering Leeds-Manchester travellers are forced to endure).    

The IPPR North report comments: “For the majority of road and rail users, there should be significant concern that...London will continue to receive the lion’s share of tax-payers’ money spent on transport and that these disparities will widen further as the Greater London Authority gets to keep business rate revenues which have historically been pooled, in part, to rebalance the economy.

“Unless and until central government makes significant new investments in transport priorities outside the capital and affords bodies like Transport for the North the same powers as those exercised by Transport for London, it will be impossible to repaint a different picture and we will continue to live in a nation which is dangerously unbalanced.”

The think tank's senior research fellow Luke Raikes added: “Despite the Transport Secretary’s recent statements, London is still set to receive almost three times more transport investment per person than the North. This is indefensible.

“The North has been underfunded in comparison to London for decades, and our figures demonstrate that ministers have failed to redress this imbalance.

“This failure will continue to hold back the North and the country until the Government acts.”

And so say all of us (Northerners). 

More big-name employers sign-up for Leeds Digital Job Fair 4.0 as new recruitment partnership is formed

EE, the UK’s largest mobile network operator, and the Royal Air Force will make their Leeds Digital Job Fair debuts at the First Direct Arena on Wednesday 28 February.

  Big crowds at Leeds Digital Job Fair 3.0

Big crowds at Leeds Digital Job Fair 3.0

They will join a host of returning major employers including Sky Betting and Gaming, Hitachi Capital, Sky and NHS Digital to showcase hundreds of tech vacancies at Leeds Digital Job Fair 4.0.   

And in another exciting first for the event, organisers Herd have formed an innovative new partnership with Leeds-based recruiter Fruition IT to ensure attendees receive the best possible advice on how to access the region’s ever-growing choice of digital career opportunities.

  Herd founder Amy De-Balsi

Herd founder Amy De-Balsi

Amy De-Balsi, founder of online jobs board Herd, said: “The quality of exhibitors already signed-up is higher than ever before and having both EE and the RAF on board provides another huge boost.

“It will also be terrific to have Fruition IT partnering with us in a coordinated drive to fill the many digital and tech vacancies that Leeds proudly boasts.       

“They are an independent, service-driven recruitment agency that sources candidates for roles across the IT sector.

“Fruition IT staff will be present to talk to attendees about the attractive vacancies they have on offer from an impressive suite of clients.

“Their expertise compliments Herd’s insights and experiences as a successful online jobs board, adding another exciting dimension to Leeds Digital Job Fair 4.0.” 

  Fruition IT managing director Sarah Pawson

Fruition IT managing director Sarah Pawson

Sarah Pawson, managing director of Fruition IT, said: “As we enter our tenth year operating in the Yorkshire IT recruitment market, we are delighted to forge a strong partnership with Herd and the Leeds Digital Job Fair.

“We have always strived to go beyond simply placing candidates in jobs and take an active role in understanding the changing technology careers available and the skills required in these roles.

“Through our annual Yorkshire tech market report and hosting many local tech meetups, we aim to ensure we’re always at the forefront of our clients and candidates needs in the IT and digital job market. 

“The Leeds Digital Job fair will be a great opportunity for us to share our knowledge of the careers available and support attendees around the skills employers are looking for, as well as how companies can attract the best talent and remain competitive in a buoyant market.”

Leeds Digital Job Fair 4.0 will run from 3.30-7.30pm on Wednesday 28 February and is supported by Leeds Business Improvement District (LeedsBID), Leeds City Council, Leeds Beckett University and the First Direct Arena. 

A selection of exhibition packages are still available, ranging from gold stands for large employers through to a scaled-down offer for start-up firms.  

Companies interested in taking a space can request further information by emailing amy@herd.careers

Individuals wishing to attend the event can book their place free of charge by visiting www.herd.careers  

Cautious welcome for new Housing Minister from Unity chief executive

Ali Akbor, the chief executive of Leeds-based housing association Unity Homes and Enterprise, has written to newly appointed Housing Minister Dominic Raab to welcome him to the role and invite him to follow in the footsteps of his predecessor by visiting affordable housing schemes in the city.

  Ali Akbor, chief executive of Unity Homes and Enterprise

Ali Akbor, chief executive of Unity Homes and Enterprise

However, Mr Akbor has called on Theresa May to allow Mr Raab to stay in the role for a sustained period – unlike many Housing Ministers before him.

The Unity chief executive, who also serves as secretary/treasurer of BME National, a collective of BME housing associations in England, said:

“I am well aware of Mr Raab’s abilities and am confident that he will absorb his brief very quickly and be competent in the role.

“But the fact remains that he is now the seventh person to be given the job since the current Government was elected in 2010.

“Alok Sharma kindly accepted my invitation to visit a number of Unity affordable housing schemes last year and was gaining a well-deserved reputation for listening to the sector.

“With the Housing Green Paper due to be published in the coming months, I hope the momentum and goodwill that Mr Sharma had achieved will not be lost as a result of yet another change of minister.

“I trust that Theresa May will now allow Mr Raab to stay in post for a sustained period and enable him to make progress in addressing the housing crisis that is rightly raising deep concerns across the country.

“The change in the Department’s name to become the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government is a positive step which I hope does indeed reflect the Government’s sharper focus on delivering more homes.   

“In addition to writing to Alok Sharma to thank him for his work, I have written to Dominic Raab to invite him to follow his predecessor’s example by coming to Leeds to see the excellent work that Unity is doing to provide high quality homes for those who need them most. I hope for a positive response.”

Unity chief executive challenges Government ministers to deliver more affordable housing

The Government must keep its commitment to provide more affordable homes for people in greatest need, the chief executive of Leeds-based housing association Unity Homes and Enterprise has said.

In his New Year message, Ali Akbor also argued that BME-led associations such as Unity are “uniquely-placed” to regenerate many of the communities worst affected by the national housing crisis and help ministers to achieve their policy objectives.

  Unity chief executive Ali Akbor

Unity chief executive Ali Akbor

Mr Abkor said: “I have been encouraged by much of what senior Government ministers have said in recent months about the importance of building more affordable homes. 

“The Prime Minister declared at the Conservative Party Conference that it was her personal mission to solve the housing problem.

“Sajid Javid, the Communities Secretary, rightly emphasised that a home is so much more than just a place to sleep at night and that it can shape people’s life chances.

“And Housing Minister Alok Sharma, on a visit to Leeds, praised Unity for delivering high quality affordable homes and confirmed that housing was a key priority for the Government.  

“These are encouraging words and I strongly believe that BME-led housing associations including Unity are uniquely placed to enable the Government to fulfil its policy commitments.”

Mr Akbor highlighted that it was now three decades since a clutch of new associations like Unity were set up to address the housing needs of black and minority ethnic communities. 

And he said that the Government’s recently published Race Disparity Audit, which examined how people of different ethnic backgrounds living in the UK are treated across a range of areas, showed that many challenges remain.

He said: “The Audit found that Asian and black households as well as those in the ‘other’ ethnic group were more likely to be poor and living in persistent poverty.    

“The minority ethnic population was also more likely to reside in areas of deprivation, especially black, Pakistani and Bangladeshi people.

“And whilst two out of three white British householders were found to own their homes, just two out of five householders from all other ethnic groups enjoyed that status. 

“Such glaring inequality often leads to further consequential disadvantages for black, Asian and minority ethnic groups including lower quality education, fewer employment opportunities and reduced life expectancy. That is why the role played by BME housing associations continues to be so necessary.” 

The Unity chief executive added: “As we look ahead to 2018, BME-led associations relish the chance to work closely with the Government and its newly-rebranded agency Homes England to significantly increase the affordable housing stock. 

“I expect that Unity and associations with similar histories will be around for many years to come.”

How dare EU

A crushing blow for Leeds today with news that the city's bid to be named 2023 European Capital of Culture has been scuppered by Brexit.

Leeds_City_of_Culture.png

Leeds spent more than three years and hundreds of thousands of pounds of local taxpayers' money putting together an impressive bid which was formally submitted just a few weeks ago, alongside four other British entries. 

But earlier today, a European Commission spokesperson said that it "would not be possible" for the UK to host the European Capital of Culture in 2023 "given that the UK will have left the EU by 29 March 2019."  She added: "We believe it makes common sense to discontinue the selection process now."

Responding on behalf of the British Government, the Department of Culture, Media and Sport said: “We disagree with the European Commission’s stance and are deeply disappointed that it has waited until after UK cities have submitted their final bids before communicating this new position to us."

Quite.

Whatever your views on Brexit, the European Commission's seems both calculated and cruel. 

A lot of good people, in Leeds and elsewhere, put an immense amount of hard work in to show their cities in the best possible light.  Their efforts also helped to bring diverse communities together for common good. 

Those involved deserved so much better than this. 

Unity chief executive backs Chancellor’s announcement on expanded HCA

Ali Akbor, chief executive of Leeds-based housing association Unity Homes and Enterprise, has welcomed the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s confirmation that the role of the Homes and Communities Agency will widen to become Homes England with a remit to drive sustained investment in new housing.

  Ali Akbor

Ali Akbor

Responding to a range of housing announcements delivered by Philip Hammond in today’s Budget, Mr Akbor said:

“There was a clear but necessary acknowledgement from the Chancellor that the housing crisis must be tackled with much greater vigour than in recent times, which is a positive step.

“The expansion of the role and powers of the HCA, already one of our primary partners, is a welcome move and confirms what has been rumoured in the housing sector for some time.

“£44 billion in Government support for housebuilding is a step forward, yet someway short of the £50 billion that Communities Secretary Sajid Javid recently said was required.

“The target of building 300,000 homes a year should be commended but would be much more impressive if the timeline was considerably shorter than the mid-2020s given the pressing need for new housing that the Chancellor himself has conceded.

“More details of the Government’s measures will inevitably emerge in the days and weeks ahead and be subject to proper scrutiny.

“But as one of England’s foremost BME-led housing associations with three decades of proven experience in building homes for people who really need them, we look forward to be fully involved in delivering for the communities we serve.”  

Changes for the better as countdown to Leeds Digital Job Fair 4.0 begins

Leeds Digital Job Fair will return to the First Direct Arena on Wednesday 28 February 2018 and the fourth edition will be more vibrant and accessible than ever.

Now firmly established as the North’s leading recruitment fair for developers, analysts, digital marketers, designers and data scientists, Leeds Digital Job Fair 4.0 will occupy a new later time slot to enable tech professionals to attend after work alongside other job seekers, graduates and people in full-time education.

It will also become an annual event to guarantee the best possible line-up of exhibitors, having previously been held twice each year. 

Leeds Digital Job Fair 4.0 will again be directed by its founder Amy De-Balsi, owner of online digital and tech jobs board Herd, with support from Leeds Business Improvement District (LeedsBID), Leeds City Council, Leeds Beckett University and the First Direct Arena. 

A choice of exhibition packages is now available, ranging from gold for major multi-national companies through to a new scaled-down offer for start-ups. 

Candidates can also register for free tickets to attend the event, speak to employers and seek a new role in digital and tech.

  Herd’s Amy De-Balsi overseeing a wonderfully successful Leeds Digital Job Fair 3.0 at the First Direct Arena

Herd’s Amy De-Balsi overseeing a wonderfully successful Leeds Digital Job Fair 3.0 at the First Direct Arena

Amy De-Balsi said: “We’re particularly excited about Leeds Digital Job Fair 4.0 which is going to be on a different level to the first three events, which were massively successful.  We have 50 exhibitor spaces available and these are already filling up fast.  More than 500 career opportunities were on offer at the last Fair in April and this number will certainly be eclipsed.   

“Having listened to exhibitors and attendees, Leeds Digital Job Fair 4.0 will run from 3.30pm - 7.30pm to make it easier for tech professionals and students with study commitments to make it along.  And we have decided to move to an annual cycle so employers can better plan ahead and enable more of their senior managers to meet with potential recruits. 

“The Leeds Digital Job Fair is already well-established as a pivotal recruitment tool for the region’s digital and tech sector.  28 February 2018 is a date that everyone is rightly looking forward to.”   

Andrew Cooper, LeedsBID chief executive, said: “Leeds is a city at the forefront of the skills agenda in the tech, creative and digital sectors and the growing success of the Leeds Digital Job Fair is reflective of that positioning.”

“LeedsBID’s continues to invest in this event and the promotion of the ongoing opportunities available, particularly to those not in Leeds as we drive collectively to attract new talent to our city, and the Leeds Digital Job Fair is ideal in achieving this aim.”

Cllr James Lewis, Leeds City Council Deputy Leader and Executive Member for Resources and Strategy, said: “Leeds City Council is delighted to support the Leeds Digital Job Fair.  Supporting the growth of our digital companies is a key part of our Inclusive Growth Strategy, and we want to see the opportunities available in this fast-growing sector opened up to as many people as possible.  Digital jobs are a big part of the future of Leeds and I want to dispel the myth that this is just about young people with university degrees. 

“There will be hundreds of opportunities available at the Digital Job Fair and I would encourage anyone with an interest in technology to go along see if there is something for them. Whether you are looking for your first step into digital and tech, or the next rung on your career, this is the place to find that job.”

  Some of the many hundreds of vacancies on offer at Leeds Digital Job Fair 3.0

Some of the many hundreds of vacancies on offer at Leeds Digital Job Fair 3.0

Professor Chris Prince, Leeds Beckett University Pro Vice Chancellor - Business Engagement, said: “Leeds Beckett University is very pleased to continue to co-support the Leeds Digital Job Fair.  The Fair provides our students with a real opportunity to explore the exciting career opportunities that exist within this rapidly growing and important sector of our regional economy.”

Jennifer Mitchell, First Direct Arena General Manager, said: “We are pleased to be hosting the fourth Leeds Digital Job Fair at First Direct Arena. The event has grown from strength to strength over the last three years and it has been exciting seeing it evolve into one of the best careers events in the region.  

“Previous events have seen both businesses and jobseekers successfully networking under one roof in a dedicated forum. We anticipate that 2018’s event will be better than ever.”

Employers interested in exhibiting at Leeds Digital Job Fair 4.0 can request further information by emailing amy@herd.careers

Individuals wanting to book their place at the event or find out about current vacancies available through Herd should visit www.herd.careers  

Unity tenants show enterprise to support Leeds Wellbeing Week

Two businesses based at Chapeltown Enterprise Centre have joined forces to offer a range of free sessions to promote healthy minds and bodies as part of Leeds Wellbeing Week.

Inspirations Central - a space for children and parents to make music, create works of art and enjoy the company of others – and multi-purpose fitness suite C’Town Studio are laying on a range of stimulating classes and get-togethers starting tomorrow (Tuesday) and running through until Friday.   

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

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

Focused primarily on stay-at-home parents, retirees or people not in full-time employment, sessions at Inspirations Central include ‘Creative Stay and Play’ for the under 5s, ‘Relax-Sing’ aimed at all ages and the intriguingly titled ‘Doodle for Your Noodle’ run by local artist Kelly Boyle.

Meanwhile, C’Town Studio will run special classes including meditation on Tuesday and yoga on Thursday with Pilates rounding off the week.

Underscoring the level of cooperation between both businesses, a ‘Creative Creche’ will be available at Inspirations Central during each C’Town Studio session to enable parents with children under 5 to attend. 

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

Ali Akbor, Unity chief executive, said he was impressed by the level of commitment shown by Inspirations Central and C’Town Studio.

He said: “Collaboration is a core element of any successful enterprise and I am delighted that these businesses are demonstrating real intuition in support of Leeds Wellbeing Week.

“Alongside Unity Business Centre and Leeds Media Centre, Chapeltown Enterprise Centre is continuing to enhance its reputation as a hotbed of entrepreneurial activity.

“Inspirations Central and C’Town Studio are fine examples of the excellent work that is going on.  I wish their respective ventures well during Leeds Wellbeing Week and long into the future.”   

Inspirations Central was established earlier this year by Ruth Douglas as a relaxed, creative environment for mothers and fathers to take their kids.

It offers activities for all ages from parent and toddler groups, to private music lessons and holiday clubs.  The premises can also be hired for children’s parties and evening craft events for adults.

Ruth said: “Inspirations Central is all about positivity and Leeds Wellbeing Week is certainly a positive venture that we naturally want to support.

“I am excited by the varied mix of sessions timetabled for the week and particularly thrilled that Kelly Boyle will be with us on Thursday.  She will invite attendees to draw with her, either in an intuitive way or an approach that reflects their own persona. It’s one not to be missed.

“It is also a special pleasure to be teaming up again with C’Town Studio in a partnership that works well and benefits all of our customers.”     

C’Town Studio was established by Michael Kamara in 2016.  As well as offering a wide selection of classes and first class gym facilities, it is also home to Chapeltown Kickboxing Club and Mandela Runners.

Michael said: “Health and fitness are very important to us and we welcome the chance to showcase some of our most popular classes as part of Leeds Wellbeing Week. 

“Giving parents the opportunity for their children to experience Inspirations Central is a real bonus for them and us and will hopefully lead to very busy classes. 

“I would encourage people to come along, get fit and change their lives for the better.”

Further details of activities at Inspirations Central and C’Town Studio throughout Leeds Wellbeing Week are available at www.inspirations-central.co.uk   

Housing Minister Alok Sharma in Leeds to visit Unity affordable homes projects

The Minister of State for Housing and Planning has been in Leeds to see the work Unity Homes and Enterprise is doing to provide high quality affordable homes across the city.

Alok Sharma MP, who was appointed to the post by Prime Minister Theresa May in June, began today’s visit at Unity’s recently completed £1.8 million Holborn Court development in Little London.   

 Housing and Planning Minister Alok Sharma (fifth from left) is joined by resident Ian Bailey (third from right), Unity chief executive Ali Akbor (centre), Unity board members and other partners at the Holborn Court affordable homes development in Little London, Leeds

Housing and Planning Minister Alok Sharma (fifth from left) is joined by resident Ian Bailey (third from right), Unity chief executive Ali Akbor (centre), Unity board members and other partners at the Holborn Court affordable homes development in Little London, Leeds

Delivered in partnership with the Homes and Communities Agency and Leeds City Council, the scheme comprises 15 flats and two wheelchair accessible bungalows.

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

Whilst there, the minister dropped in on local resident Ian Bailey who moved into his new flat after more than a decade of service as a soldier with the British Army. 

 Holborn Court resident Ian Bailey (centre) welcomes Housing and Planning Minister Alok Sharma (right) and Unity chief executive Ali Akbor (left) into his new home at Holborn Court in Little London, Leeds.

Holborn Court resident Ian Bailey (centre) welcomes Housing and Planning Minister Alok Sharma (right) and Unity chief executive Ali Akbor (left) into his new home at Holborn Court in Little London, Leeds.

Mr Sharma then made the short journey across the city to Chapeltown to see an exciting new Unity project due for completion later this year.

It includes the refurbishment of a derelict property and a new-build extension to adjoining land in a conservation area.

The development at 146 Chapeltown Road, close to Unity’s headquarters, will create six flats whilst retaining the original façade as part of a Heritage Lottery Fund initiative. 

 From right to left: Housing and Planning Minister Alok Sharma, Unity chief executive Ali Akbor and Unity regeneration director Wayne Noteman arrive at the soon-to-be-completed 146 Chapeltown Road affordable homes development in Leeds

From right to left: Housing and Planning Minister Alok Sharma, Unity chief executive Ali Akbor and Unity regeneration director Wayne Noteman arrive at the soon-to-be-completed 146 Chapeltown Road affordable homes development in Leeds

Housing and Planning Minister Alok Sharma said: “I am delighted to be in Leeds today to discuss with Unity Homes and Enterprise how they are delivering quality affordable homes in the area.

"Social housing is a key priority for the Government and that is why I am meeting with tenants across the country and we will bring forward a green paper which will address the issues facing social housing tenants.

"We have confirmed plans for a new generation of affordable homes through a further £2 billion funding boost bringing investment in affordable housing to over £9 billion up to 2021, and provided future rent certainty to the sector.

“Yesterday the Prime Minister also confirmed that we will not apply a local housing allowance cap to the social rented sector.”

Ali Akbor, chief executive of Unity Homes and Enterprise, said: “We were delighted when the minister kindly accepted our invitation to come to Leeds to see the excellent work Unity is doing, alongside our partners, to develop new affordable homes.

“At the core of our ethos is a belief that the revitalisation of communities is not just about providing first class housing, but also wider social and economic regeneration.

“Both of the projects Mr Sharma visited are located at the heart of communities very much on an upward curve.

“Unity is proud to play a leading role in improving lives of Leeds residents and offering a sense of real optimism for their shared futures.”     

Shruti Bhargava, chair of Unity Homes and Enterprise, said: “Unity is driven by a sense of social purpose. We also have a proud and deep affinity with the communities we serve.

“Mr Sharma is the first Housing Minister to have taken up the offer to visit Unity projects and we are grateful to him for coming.

“We hope he will return to Whitehall with an appreciation of Unity’s efforts to help local people and provide them with high quality affordable housing in regenerated neighbourhoods.   

“We look forward to working closely with the Government and other partners to deliver many more homes and further improve other communities in the years ahead.” 

 From left to right: Housing and Planning Minister Alok Sharma, Unity chair Shruti Bhargava, Unity chief executive Ali Akbor and Unity regeneration director Wayne Noteman during today’s visit to the Chapeltown Road affordable homes development in Leeds

From left to right: Housing and Planning Minister Alok Sharma, Unity chair Shruti Bhargava, Unity chief executive Ali Akbor and Unity regeneration director Wayne Noteman during today’s visit to the Chapeltown Road affordable homes development in Leeds

National awards recognition for cricket-loving Unity board member

Popular Unity Homes and Enterprise board member Abdul Ravat has added to his lengthy list of achievements after being named runner-up in the England and Wales Cricket Board’s (ECB) ‘Heartbeat of the Club’ category at a prestigious awards ceremony held at Lord’s Cricket Ground, the spiritual home of the game.

Abdul lifted the Yorkshire OSCA (Outstanding Services to Cricket Award) in the same category at Headingley Stadium this summer and was then shortlisted for the national award by the ECB.

Although narrowly missing out at Lord’s, Abdul was delighted that his nomination had provided a wonderful opportunity to highlight the good work being done with the community at his beloved Mount Cricket Club in Batley.  

  Abdul Ravat (right) at Lord’s with England Test star Stuart Broad (centre) and Unity chief executive Ali Akbor (left)

Abdul Ravat (right) at Lord’s with England Test star Stuart Broad (centre) and Unity chief executive Ali Akbor (left)

The club was established in 1976 by two enthusiastic young cricketers Hanif Mayet – who remains its chairman - and the late Farid Karolia.  Since then, it has progressed through various Yorkshire leagues and won many friends and supporters along the way.

Last year, Mount Cricket Club played a special inter-faith T20 match at Headingley against St Peter’s XI of the Pontifical Council for Culture, the Vatican’s official cricket team made up of Rome-based priests and seminarians.  The game was preceded by Unity’s Annual General Meeting which was addressed by Lord Kamlesh Patel of Bradford and Mark Arthur, chief executive of Yorkshire County Cricket Club.

Abdul was joined at the London awards ceremony by Ali Akbor, chief executive of Leeds-based Unity Homes and Enterprise, who submitted his nomination.

Ali said: “It was a great privilege to visit the spiritual home of cricket and have the chance to meet some of the country’s best known cricketing names including fast bowler Stuart Broad, England one-day captain Eoin Morgan and Mike Gatting who is now Chairman of the MCC’s World Cricket Committee.

“But most importantly, it was a pleasure to celebrate Abdul’s achievement.  As well as providing high quality affordable homes and stimulating social and economic regeneration, Unity works hard to bring people together in the communities we serve. 

“Abdul’s commitment to promoting and delivering a more cohesive society is what makes him such a vital member of our board.  His boundless energy and ability to spread positivity though his ever-growing range of voluntary activities are a great credit to him.  His OSCA recognition is very well deserved.”

Mark Arthur, chief executive of Yorkshire County Cricket Club, said: “I am absolutely delighted that the outstanding community work of Mount Cricket Club’s Abdul Ravat in Batley, has been recognised nationally.  To win the award in Yorkshire was an achievement in itself as we have so many fantastic volunteers within our 780 cricket clubs.”

  Yorkshire County Cricket Club chief executive Mark Arthur (left) presents Abdul Ravat with his Yorkshire OSCA

Yorkshire County Cricket Club chief executive Mark Arthur (left) presents Abdul Ravat with his Yorkshire OSCA

Hanif Mayet, chairman of Mount Cricket Club said: “Both Mount and Unity exist to serve their communities and have been doing this for 40 and 30 years respectively.  I never believed back in 1976, when the club began that the work of our volunteers would be recognised at the highest level in the game we all love.  Abdul has combined his passions for housing and cricket and the Light of Faith Tour enabled us all to celebrate the joy when communities, faiths and people come together.  All of us at the Club are deeply humbled."

Tracy Brabin, Member of Parliament for Batley and Spen, said: “I am so happy for my friend Abdul and this award is so very welcome. Since becoming the MP for my home town a year ago, I've had the privilege of getting to know Abdul and Hanif and others at Mount Cricket Club and I've seen how dedicated Abdul is to ensuring cricket is truly a sport for all. The people of Batley and Spen are extremely lucky to have him as their sporting champion.”