Leeds Digital Job Fair is back for best of 5.0

The North’s digital and tech community are set to return to the First Direct Arena after it was announced that Leeds Digital Job Fair 5.0 will take place on 24 October from 3.30pm. 

More than 1,300 eager digital and tech candidates and 33 exhibitors attended the inaugural Leeds Digital Job Fair in February 2016, the first recruitment event ever to be held at the iconic city centre venue. 

The gatherings have become progressively larger in scale and profile ever since with last year’s event attracting the maximum number of 50 employers including Sky Betting and Gaming, Jet2.com and Jet2holidays, NHS Digital, DWP Digital, Sky and the Royal Air Force.   

Sky in demand at Leeds Digital Job Fair 4.0

Sky in demand at Leeds Digital Job Fair 4.0

Exhibitor packages for Leeds Digital Job Fair 5.0 are now available, ranging from just £200 for start-up companies through to gold packages for major employers.

People wishing to explore the job opportunities on offer will again be able to register to attend free of charge.  

Organised by Herd, the event will be sponsored by Leeds City Council, Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership (LEP), Bruntwood SciTech and Fruition IT.

Herd founder Amy De-Balsi said she believed Leeds Digital Job Fair 5.0 is especially timely with Channel 4 having begun to recruit staff to work in its new national headquarters in the city.

Herd founder Amy De-Balsi at Leeds Digital Job Fair 4.0

Herd founder Amy De-Balsi at Leeds Digital Job Fair 4.0

Ms De-Balsi continued: “Leeds Digital Job Fair 5.0 is the ideal place for developers, analysts, digital marketers, designers, data scientists and those seeking a career change to meet the North’s leading tech employers face to face.

“There will also be a series of seminars led in partnership with Hey! events, CV clinics by Fruition IT and workshops led by well-known figures in digital.

“Channel 4 is already making its presence felt in the city and its recruitment drive has added impetus to the Leeds digital and tech sector which continues to blaze a trail.

“We are limited to 50 exhibitor slots.  I encourage employers to sign up early and the team at Herd will endeavour to meet your needs.”  

Cllr James Lewis, Leeds City Council’s Executive Member for Resource and Sustainability, said: “Leeds has a thriving and ever-growing digital and tech industry, and we are really looking forward to this year’s Digital Job Fair 5.0 opening at the First Direct Arena in October.

“This is a wonderful chance for anyone with an interest in pursuing a career in the digital and tech sector to find out more about the opportunities that are available with a range of leading and high-profile employers.”

Roger Marsh OBE, Chair of the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership (LEP) and NP11, said: “We are delighted to sponsor the Leeds Digital Job Fair 2019 and be part of an event that highlights the vast range of digital roles, skills and businesses in Leeds City Region.

“With the region’s digital sector contributing 6.5 billion to the City Region economy and employing 102,000 people, digital and tech is both a major strength and growth opportunity.

“As a region we have strengths in digital creativity, corporate tech solutions, fintech, medtech, robotics and data analytics, and with the arrival of Channel 4 the opportunities for careers starters, changers and returners are greater than ever before.”

Phil Kemp, CEO, Bruntwood SciTech, said: “We are proud to support Leeds Digital Job Fair 5.0.

“The event has a well-established reputation for bringing the best digital and tech talent together under one roof, which is exactly aligned to what we’re doing with the creation of our tech cluster at Platform. 

“It’s already home to more than 80 of the city’s most innovative digital and tech businesses and the Digital Jobs Fair will be crucial in helping us to attract more innovators to the city. 

“Leeds City Region is developing the future economy around digital, meaning tech start-ups no longer have to go to London to flourish. 

“Working with a broad range of partners from across the city including universities, professional service providers and corporate tech teams, we’re making rapid progress in helping to grow the tech community in Leeds.”

The RAF on display at Leeds Digital Job Fair 4.0

The RAF on display at Leeds Digital Job Fair 4.0

Sarah Pawson, Managing Director of Fruition IT, said: “As an organisation supporting the growth of Leeds’ thriving tech industry, we’re delighted to be supporting the Job Fair again this year as the exclusive recruitment partner. 

“The arrival of new organisations and growth of existing ones is brilliant for the area, but with this comes increase demand for talent, in many areas with skills shortages. 

“The Job Fair is one of many initiatives in our region that encourage people to explore and consider new opportunities, and we’ll be on hand to offering career advice and support to anyone considering a move into, or within the tech industry.”  

Employers interested in exhibiting at Leeds Digital Job Fair 5.0 or individuals wanting to attend should visit www.herd.careers  

Housing association staff volunteer for local good causes

A new initiative to enable staff to take paid time off throughout the year to do voluntary work in the community has been launched by Manningham Housing Association (MHA).

The scheme is part of the association’s revised human resources strategy which aims to broaden workplace experiences whilst benefitting the wider population in Bradford and Keighley.

Each team member has been invited to volunteer on a project or with a local charitable group for one day a quarter.

Staff who are already engaged in community activities in a voluntary capacity will be able to do so in work time four days a year without it affecting their leave allocation.  

MHA has recently made the headlines after being shortlisted for six national awards.  

The association’s Chief Executive, Lee Bloomfield, was named Mentor of the Year at the Housing Heroes Awards and Helen Rourke, MHA Director of Finance and Company Secretary, has just been shortlisted as Finance Professional of the Year for the forthcoming Women in Housing Awards.

MHA has also achieved the highest standard of customer service excellence and become the first housing association in the country to be officially accredited for its work in promoting equality, diversity and inclusion.    

Lee Bloomfield

Lee Bloomfield

Commenting on the new voluntary work scheme, Mr Bloomfield said it was important that MHA staff were able to get as close as possible to the communities they serve whilst enhancing their personal skills.  

He continued: “Our customers rely on us for more than bricks and mortar and our team members are always keen to help those in need in any way they can.

“Serving alongside other volunteers and learning more about what they do is incredibly helpful.

“It deepens the knowledge of MHA staff and can make a tangible difference to the lives of some of the most vulnerable people in Bradford and Keighley.

“There is a wide range of projects to choose from including working in food banks, in charity shops or simply rolling up our sleeves in community clean-ups – I shall certainly be doing my bit too.

“Everyone taking part will prepare a short summary of what they have done and this will form part of the MHA annual report

“Our staff are strongly supportive of the initiative and look forward to undertaking challenging new tasks.”          

Barrington Billings

Barrington Billings

Barrington Billings, Chair of Manningham Housing Association, praised the “foresight” of the scheme. 

He said: “This is an excellent idea and it has the full support of the Board.

“The overarching HR strategy is designed to help the association achieve its corporate objectives which include broadening the experiences of MHA employees whilst further assisting our customers.

“Lee and his senior management team have done a magnificent job in putting it together.  I am confident it will deliver positive outcomes for all involved.

“The level of professionalism now on display at every level of MHA is the reason why, after some difficult years, the association has won a well-deserved reputation for excellence and tangible achievement.          “

“We look to the future with a deep sense of pride and ever-growing optimism.”

‘Revolutionary’ Leeds housing project lauded by Lord Mayor

The Lord Mayor of Leeds, Cllr Eileen Taylor, has laid the first stone on a pioneering £9.3 million housing development which will provide more than 60 new homes for people in the north-east of the city.

The Lord Mayor of Leeds, Cllr Eileen Taylor, lays the first stone at the Leopold Street development alongside project partners and ChaCo stakeholders

The Lord Mayor of Leeds, Cllr Eileen Taylor, lays the first stone at the Leopold Street development alongside project partners and ChaCo stakeholders

She joined project partners at the Leopold Park scheme which is a combined venture between BME-led housing association Unity Homes & Enterprise and Chapeltown Cohousing (ChaCo).

The site was owned by Leeds City Council after previously being occupied by a social services office which became vacant prior to demolition.

Unity will build 30 one and two bed flats for clients over 55. 

ChaCo will construct 29 houses and flats, a ‘common house’ and provide space for four self-build units.

The development is due for completion by March 2021.

Homes England, the Government’s housing agency, has allocated £1.4 million in grant support for the scheme as well as £1.34 million through its Housing Infrastructure Fund.

The remaining monies have been secured by a combination of private finance and savings from ChaCo stakeholders who will live in the properties once they are built.

The Lord Mayor said: “I have followed the progress of this revolutionary initiative very closely. 

“Unity has a long-standing reputation for providing first-class affordable homes for people across the city.  Based in Chapeltown, they know the area and the needs of local residents incredibly well. They do an excellent job.”       

She said she was “intrigued” by ChaCo’s role in delivering the area’s first cohousing scheme. 

There are currently 19 cohousing communities in the country - including one in Bramley - having first appeared in the late 1990s.  According to UK Cohousing, more than 60 cohousing groups are developing new projects with others in the pipeline.  

Cohousing is a means of bringing individuals and families together in groups to share common aims and activities whilst enjoying their own self-contained accommodation.

As well as their own private homes, everyone has the use of shared facilities in the ‘common house’ which includes washing machines, guest rooms for visiting relatives and a large kitchen and dining room where everyone can eat.

The Lord Mayor said: “It is a wonderful and fascinating concept.  We live in challenging times.  I am all for new ideas which bring people together.  ChaCo deserves great credit for their foresight and I look forward to seeing the final results.”

Bill Phelps, ChaCo Chair, said he was thrilled that construction work was getting underway.

He said: “The seeds for ChaCo’s emergence were sown in 2010 when members of a small housing co-op invited friends living nearby to explore the idea of setting up a local cohousing scheme.  Since then, we have been supported by many other Chapeltown residents who want to create a neighbourhood where co-operation and sharing are built in from the start. 

“It is remarkable that we have now reached the development stage and, in less than two years, people will be living in their new homes.

“We are delighted to be able to demonstrate that community-led housing schemes are not restricted to wealthy parts of the country. They can be a viable proposition wherever residents come together to enhance their own neighbourhoods. It has been an extremely positive experience working alongside all the partners helping to make this project a reality - particularly Unity, whose expertise, cooperation and encouragement have made all the difference."

Ali Akbor, Unity Homes & Enterprise Chief Executive, explained that the 30 one and two bed flats the association was building represented one of the most significant investments it had made in recent times.

He said: “It is always fulfilling to see new properties come out of the ground after several years of planning.  Our joint work with ChaCo has made this scheme all the more interesting and, in common with everyone who has helped us get to this point, I am full of positive expectation for what lies ahead.

“Unity is rightly focussed on providing high quality affordable homes.  But we are also driven by a desire to regenerate communities, create life opportunities and address  inequalities within sustainable neighbourhoods.  This scheme ticks all of those boxes and underscores that we are doing our job well.

“As an organisation which emanated from the Leeds BME community more than three decades ago, it is hugely appropriate that Cllr Taylor is laying the first stone as the city’s first black Lord Mayor.”   

The Lord Mayor of Leeds, Cllr Eileen Taylor, lays the first stone at the Leopold Street development, assisted by Unity Chief Executive Ali Akbor

The Lord Mayor of Leeds, Cllr Eileen Taylor, lays the first stone at the Leopold Street development, assisted by Unity Chief Executive Ali Akbor

Richard Panter, Homes England Area Manager, said: “This is a great example of collaboration and partnership working, both within Homes England and across sectors.

“Bringing together Leeds City Council, ChaCo and Unity with Homes England funding from the Housing Infrastructure Fund and the Shared Ownership and Affordable Housing programme, this project will provide an innovative model for the future and, more importantly, high quality affordable homes for the local community.”

Leeds adults with learning difficulties Leep into fashion

A Leeds community interest company which helps adults with learning disabilities to speak up for themselves have received support from Unity Enterprise to launch a new range of leisure wear featuring designs created by its members.

Leep 1 - which stands for Leeds People First – offers a wide variety of activities to develop social, health and educational skills. 

It also runs the popular Café Leep which, in 2017, won the Yorkshire and Humber round of the Britain’s Best Café competition. 

The organisation is based at Unity Business Centre on Roundhay Road, one of three business locations in Leeds owned and managed by Unity Enterprise, a not-for-profit subsidiary of Unity Homes and Enterprise, which provides 130 managed workspaces for around 80 employers.

Leep 1 recently started a digital inclusion course which enables participants to design, market and sell clothing carrying the hashtag #AbilitiesNotDisabilities together with their own artwork or slogan.

Unity offered to sponsor the first run of products which includes tee shirts and hoodies.

Ali Akbor (far right) and Adrian Green (second from right) with Angie Marshall from Leep 1 (centre), Susan Hanley (third from left) and other designers from the #AbilitiesNotDisabilities project

Ali Akbor (far right) and Adrian Green (second from right) with Angie Marshall from Leep 1 (centre), Susan Hanley (third from left) and other designers from the #AbilitiesNotDisabilities project

Unity Homes and Enterprise Chief Executive Ali Akbor and Unity Enterprise Manager Adrian Green visited Leep 1 to try on the new apparel and congratulate participants and staff on their achievements.       

Mr Akbor said: “We are honoured to support this initiative.  It has brought great fulfilment to all involved, particularly the designers who are rightly proud of what they have produced.  It was wonderful to meet them.

“The designs are colourful, imaginative and eye-catching.  I hope the local community will get behind Leep 1 by ordering clothing for themselves or perhaps as presents for friends and family. 

“Their central message, #AbilitiesNotDisabilities, is incredibly powerful and perfectly sums up what Leep 1 stands for.” 

Mandy Haigh, Leep 1 Manager who coordinates the #AbilitiesNotDisabilities project, said: “Our 12-week digital inclusion course is devised to properly equip participants with skills that will be attractive to prospective employers. 

“As well as designing the clothing line, everyone is encouraged to come up with their own marketing campaigns, including the use of social media, to secure sales.

“We intend to make the clothes available to order online via a dedicated website.  Each designer will have a biography which will make reference to their disability and how they came up with their unique design.”    

Susan Hanley, who has Down’s Syndrome, is Chairperson of Leep 1 and designed her own hoodie which is part of the range now on sale.  It is emblazoned with the words, “You’ll Turn Out Ordinary If You’re Not Careful.”   

Susan said: “The idea behind the clothing is to raise awareness of adults with learning disabilities and show people what we can do, not what we can’t do. 

“We had a soft launch at one of our club nights which we hold every month and sold lots of tee shirts and hoodies, which got us off to a great start.

“It has been really interesting to see the process from coming up with the designs right through to seeing people wearing the final results." 

Adrian Green, Unity Enterprise Manager, said: “Leep 1 has been a tenant at Unity Business Centre for nine years and we love having the team on board.

“Everything they do radiates enthusiasm and positivity. 

“Café Leep, which teaches trainees a huge amount of skills and provides a path to qualifications in food safety and catering, is always busy and well worth a visit for a first-class lunch or hot drink.    

“It is a pleasure to support #AbilitiesNotDisabilities which I know will be a major success.”

More information about Leep 1 is from available from Mandy Haigh on Tel: 0113 243 9477 or email: manager@leep1.co.uk   

Manningham Housing Association CEO awarded “Hero” status

Manningham Housing Association (MHA) chief executive Lee Bloomfield has been named as Mentor of the Year at the prestigious Housing Heroes awards.  

Organised by leading trade publication Inside Housing in partnership with the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH), the national awards recognise the commitment, passion and hard work of the unsung heroes of the UK housing sector.

Lee Bloomfield

Lee Bloomfield

The ceremony was held as a curtain raiser to Housing 2019, the CIH’s annual conference which was addressed by Theresa May in one her final speeches as Prime Minister.

Mr Bloomfield was recognised for his achievements as a mentor on the Housing Diversity Network’s Board Excellence Programme. 

Taf Sharif, a board member at the Stockport-based Equity Housing Group, was someone who benefited from the MHA chief executive’s guidance.

She said:  “Lee’s housing knowledge, support and words of encouragement have been invaluable in shaping and improving my role as a board member at Equity Housing.

“He has guided me throughout the year providing practical support and tangible actions for me to put into practice.  This has enabled me to perform more conscientiously and effectively, adding value to the board as a whole.  

“Lee has been approachable and has made a positive difference to instilling confidence and assertiveness to a young, female, minority ethnic non-executive director in the housing sector, such as myself.”

Rebecca Asady, also a board member at Equity Housing Group, was equally keen to praise Mr Bloomfield’s work.

She said: “I was lucky to have Lee assigned as my mentor. He has been generous with both his time and expertise, guiding me in a supportive and professional manner even after the formal mentorship programme ended.

“Lee's exemplary values inform his advice and this provides real assurance in approaching new situations as a board member."

Barrington Billings

Barrington Billings

Barrington Billings, chair of the MHA board, said he was delighted for Mr Bloomfield.

He commented: “This is more excellent news for Manningham Housing Association after recently being shortlisted for four other national housing awards, winning a Northern Housing Award and becoming the first association in the country to be officially accredited for our work in promoting equality, diversity and inclusion.   

“Since he joined MHA in January 2018, Lee has skillfully steered the association through a change programme which has significantly improved the quality of everything we do. 

“Using his knowledge and experience to improve the performance of others outside MHA is typical of him, and it is wonderful to hear the compliments he has received from Taf and Rebecca. 

“I certainly regard Lee as a housing hero.  It’s wonderful that this status has been made official.”     

Mr Bloomfield, who spent almost four years as chief executive of the Leeds Jewish Housing Association before joining MHA, said he was humbled by winning the award.

He continued: “I am obviously very pleased to win, but knowing that I have been able to positively impact the work of colleagues in the housing association sector is even more satisfying.

“It is never a chore to mentor others.  I have received excellent advice from many very knowledgeable professionals throughout my career and it is great be able to pass this on whenever possible.

“Being part of the Housing Diversity Network’s Board Excellence Programme is a privilege and an education in itself.   I would like to thank the MHA board for enabling me to be involved.”   

With an annual turnover of £8.5 million and a staff of 32, MHA manages more than 1,400 homes for families, the elderly and those in need in Bradford and Keighley. 

Another win for Manningham Housing Association

Manningham Housing Association (MHA) has received further high-profile recognition after triumphing in the Best Digital Transformation category at the Northern Housing Awards. 

The accolade came after a fundamental review of the Bradford-based association’s gas safety compliance processes to make them more efficient and effective.  

This identified the need to invest in a new digital platform and move away from the existing manual system which was found to be time and cost intensive.

Having considered all available options, MHA teamed up with pioneering technology firm Gas Tag with the aim of improving overall gas compliance and tenant safety.

Founded in 2015, Gas Tag has a growing number of landlords, housing associations and local authorities on its client list. 

John Green, Health and Safety Coordinator, Manningham Housing Association (second from right) with representatives of Gas Tag at the Northern Housing Awards (Credit: UKBE and Joe Gardner Photography)

John Green, Health and Safety Coordinator, Manningham Housing Association (second from right) with representatives of Gas Tag at the Northern Housing Awards (Credit: UKBE and Joe Gardner Photography)

Lee Bloomfield, Chief Executive of Manningham Housing Association spoke of his immense pleasure at winning the prestigious Northern Housing Award.

Lee Bloomfield

Lee Bloomfield

He said: "I’m thrilled for all involved, but especially our tenants who have benefited from the upgrade. 

“Relatively small housing associations such as MHA have limited resources but are rightly required to meet our compliance obligations in full.  

“The award is a testament to the hard work and innovative approach we’ve taken to enhancing our processes, including in relation to gas compliance.   

“Gas Tag has been key to raising quality and, indeed, exceeding the expectations of the regulator.  

“Our story should give other associations confidence that there are complementary solutions in the market which can improve energy use and safety."

Gas Tag has won several accolades in its short history including the Lloyds Bank National Business Award for New Business of the Year in 2018.

Peter Luke, Commercial Director of Gas Tag, said he was particularly proud of the company’s part in winning the Northern Housing Award with MHA as it demonstrated the positive impact the technology offered to housing associations and their customers.

He continued: "As part of the implementation of Gas Tag, we worked with Manningham Housing Association to understand their current business practices around gas compliance.

“We then implemented a business process re-engineering approach which determined that adopting Gas Tag could automate out cost from the process but also increase compliance. The seamless adoption of the application by the existing contractor shows strong teamwork.

“I’m glad these benefits were recognised by the judges."

With an annual turnover of £8.5 million and a staff of 32, MHA manages more than 1,400 homes for families, the elderly and those in need in Bradford and Keighley. 

Already this year, Manningham Housing Association has been shortlisted for five national awards, achieved the highest standard of customer service excellence and become the first housing association in the country to be officially accredited for its work in promoting equality, diversity and inclusion.     

Barrington Billings

Barrington Billings

Barrington Billings, Chair of the MHA Board, said: “I am thrilled that the association continues to blaze a trail in so many areas of service for our tenants.

“We exist to improve their lives and their communities.  That is our mission.

“The Northern Housing Award is just the latest evidence that we are making good decisions on their behalf.  Full credit to everyone who has contributed to the success.”         

Manningham Housing Association racks up achievements

Bradford-based Manningham Housing Association (MHA) is on a remarkable run of success after being shortlisted for five national awards, achieving the highest standard of customer service excellence and becoming the first housing association in the country to be officially accredited for its work in promoting equality, diversity and inclusion.     

Locally, MHA has also been praised for its proactive partnership approach in responding to the issue of sexual exploitation of children and young people in the community.

Earlier this month, MHA board member Khalida Ashrafi won the Lifetime Achievement accolade at the prestigious Diversity in Housing Awards in Birmingham, organised by 24housing magazine,   

Khalida Ashrafi

Khalida Ashrafi

Mark Lawrence, 24housing Editor, said: “Khalida’s track record speaks for itself. The work she has done in various sectors to promote and better the lives of BME communities in the UK has been incredible. Judges praised her for not only making the case outside of the communities, but bringing those communities with her while making that case.

“A worthy winner and someone who epitomises what Lifetime Achievement is all about.”

The association was also shortlisted in both the Gender Equality and Leading BME Organisation categories, with MHA nominee Mohammed Tausif reaching the final stage for the Community Role Model Award.

MHA Chief Executive Lee Bloomfield has been shortlisted for Mentor of the Year at the 2019 Housing Heroes Awards.  The winners will be announced next month at the Chartered Institute of Housing’s annual conference in Manchester.

MHA recently received the Award for Customer Service Excellence from the Centre for Excellence and, in a national first for a housing association, been formally accredited for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion by the same organisation.

And MHA has been widely praised for its partnership work with West Yorkshire campaign group Together Against Grooming (TAG) which held a major conference in Bradford in April. 

The high-profile event included a keynote speech from the UK’s leading authority on sexual violence and exploitation, Dr Ella Cockbain, alongside several thought-provoking contributions from other experts from across the country. 

Lee Bloomfield

Lee Bloomfield

Lee Bloomfield, MHA Chief Executive, expressed his pleasure at the rapid progress the association was making after the Regulator of Social Housing announced in December that it had achieved the highest possible grading for financial viability, coupled with a compliant rating for its governance arrangements.

He said: “I’m delighted with the upward trajectory of our journey and I firmly believe that the best is yet to come.

“After a few challenging years, Manningham Housing Association now represents nothing less than excellence as the recognition we are receiving underlines.  That is testament to the vision and resolve of our Board, the commitment and energy of our staff, and the support and understanding of our residents and partners.

“I am particularly proud that the Centre for Excellence has chosen MHA to be the very first housing association in the country to be awarded accreditation for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion. 

“Bradford district is renowned for its diversity and it is right that MHA has been recognised as a trailblazer in bringing people from numerous different backgrounds together.”  

Barrington Billings

Barrington Billings

Barrington Billings, Chair of the MHA Board, said: “All of us have worked incredibly hard to sharpen the focus of the association and the Board has never been stronger. 

“The same can be said for our staff at all levels who are determined to succeed individually and collectively as a team.

“This is evidenced by the recent external successes including my colleague Khalida Ashrafi winning the Diversity in Housing Lifetime Achievement Award.  We are incredibly proud of her.           

“We have a number of exciting announcements coming up in the months ahead.  It is a wonderful time to be part of MHA.”   

With an annual turnover of £8.5 million and a staff of 32, MHA manages more than 1,400 homes for families, the elderly and those in need in Bradford and Keighley. 

Prominent vet calls on new PM to accept recommendation on access to foreign workers

A recommendation from the Government’s migration advisers to add vets to the Shortage Occupation List of professions given preferential access to high-skilled worker visas has been welcomed by one of the sector’s leading figures.   

But Jason Aldiss, Managing Director of Leeds-based veterinary services company Eville & Jones, has said that it is incumbent upon whoever replaces Theresa May as Prime Minister to accept the proposal from Migration Advisory Committee (MAC).  

Dr Jason Aldiss BEM, Managing Director, Eville & Jones

Dr Jason Aldiss BEM, Managing Director, Eville & Jones

In a long-awaited report published earlier today, the MAC recommended that migration rules should be relaxed for a range of occupations including vets, web designers, psychologists and architects.     

Dr Aldiss said: “It has been a long road to reach this point but I am pleased that the MAC has finally seen sense.

“Their report confirms the stark reality that, in the meat hygiene sector, around 95 per cent of the veterinary workforce in this country graduated overseas, with a clear majority of them coming from the EU.  It adds that working in UK slaughterhouses is not generally considered attractive to British veterinarians.  That is why it is absolutely essential to have unfettered access to foreign vets.

“Those candidates standing to become Leader of the Conservative Party and our next Prime Minister must make clear that they will accept the recommendation to add veterinary professionals to the Shortage Occupation List.”  

Dr Aldiss, who also serves as Secretary General of the Union of European Veterinary Hygienists, added: “I note that, in his explanatory comments, MAC Chairman Professor Alan Manning states that all recommendations outlined in the report are only applicable under the current immigration system which incorporates EU free movement. 

“Should Brexit happen and free movement ends, the UK in general and the veterinary, meat processing and agricultural sectors in particular will suddenly find ourselves in even more perilous positions than at present.

“With the UK due to leave the EU on 31 October, we need further assurances from the leadership candidates on what the UK’s post-Brexit immigration system will look like under the Government they lead and that it will include full access to the overseas veterinary professionals our country desperately needs.”

Leeds MP celebrates opening of new Armley affordable housing scheme

Leeds West MP Rachel Reeves has joined Unity Homes and Enterprise representatives, residents, ward councillors and project partners to mark the official opening of the association’s £2 million affordable housing development in her constituency.      

Leeds West MP Rachel Reeves receives flowers from Unity Chair Shruti Bhargava, alongside (from left to right) Councillor Alice Smart, Unity Chief Executive Ali Akbor and Councillor Lou Cunningham

Leeds West MP Rachel Reeves receives flowers from Unity Chair Shruti Bhargava, alongside (from left to right) Councillor Alice Smart, Unity Chief Executive Ali Akbor and Councillor Lou Cunningham

The Armley Ridge Road scheme of six houses and eight flats is located on the site of the former Ancester public house which had fallen derelict.

Supported with a loan from Charity Bank and grant funding of £420,000 from Homes England, Unity purchased the ground lease from Leeds City Council in September 2017 to build affordable homes for rent.

Ms Reeves – who chairs the House of Commons Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Select Committee - visited the construction site last spring to review progress and meet students from Leeds Beckett University’s School of Built Environment and Engineering who were on a specially-arranged study trip.

Returning to see the completed development and meet residents, the Leeds West MP said she was deeply impressed by the quality of the homes.

Ms Reeves said: “This scheme is absolutely fantastic for the people of Armley.  We are in huge need of affordable homes in this area, but also of affordable homes of a such high calibre. 

“So many of the private lettings in our community are sadly not of a decent standard.  That’s why there has been such demand for properties like these. 

“14 families who previously didn’t have this sort of housing are now adequately housed. Not just with the great quality housing, but with a security of tenure that they probably didn’t have before. It’s terrific to have them here. 

“It’s a great place to live - really accessible for jobs in the city centre as well as the shops and amenities in Armley and Kirkstall.               

“I’d like to commend Unity, Homes England and Leeds City Council for their foresight to invest in this development and get it to where we are today.” 

Ali Akbor, Unity Homes and Enterprise Chief Executive, said: “It is always satisfying to see a major Unity project come to fruition and we are delighted to welcome Rachel back to see the completed work. 

“The 14 homes, which differ in scale from one-bed flats to three-bed houses, are first-class and stand proudly in a bustling part of the city with which we are very familiar.

“The scheme will provide another boost to Armley and is very much in line with our mission to assist in the revitalisation of local communities through the provision of high-quality affordable homes, stimulate social and economic regeneration, improve life opportunities and address inequalities within sustainable neighbourhoods

“As part of Unity’s commitment to local labour, we engaged with the contractors, Esh Construction Ltd, to secure employment for three local people on the site.  

“Looking ahead, we are about halfway through a large development programme of 220 properties in Leeds and surrounding areas.  Our work continues apace.”    

New resident Rachael Donoughue, who moved into a three-bed property with her young family in March, invited Ms Reeves and Mr Akbor to have a look around.  And she said she was “unbelievably happy” with her new home.

Ms Donoughue continued: “I love it here and so do the kids.

“The Unity staff have been brilliant, just amazing. They assisted us no end and nothing was too much trouble.

“As well as arranging the move, Unity offered help to get me back into work and I have since got a new job.  I also recently passed my driving test. 

“Being able to settle so quickly and easily into our new home has made a huge difference to our lives.” 

Leeds West MP Rachel Reeves (right) and Unity Chief Executive Ali Akbor with resident Rachael Donoughue in her new home

Leeds West MP Rachel Reeves (right) and Unity Chief Executive Ali Akbor with resident Rachael Donoughue in her new home

Training 26 success story continues two decades on

A specialist IT and business skills training provider is increasing its capacity at Leeds Media Centre after a surge in demand for its services.

Training 26 offers classes and bespoke tutoring in Microsoft Office, Adobe, Sage and related IT packages, together with a comprehensive range of management and personal development courses for individuals and SMEs.

The company has now taken additional space at the Unity Enterprise-run facility and recruited a new member of staff.

Established in 1999, Training 26 was taken over almost two years ago by Mike Cunningham, a technical consultant with vast experience in IT, and Angela Jones who held a customer facing role in the property industry.

Since then, the pair have expanded the scope of courses on offer and, six months ago, became a Pearson VUE© Authorised Test Centre, allowing the firm to deliver computer-based exam delivery services for some of the biggest names in IT including Microsoft, CompTIA, Cisco, Oracle, HP, and VMware.  

Training 26 Office Manager Angela Jones with (from right to left) Unity Homes and Enterprise Chief Executive Chief Executive Ali Akbor, Training 26 Director Mike Cunningham and Unity Enterprise Manager Adrian Green at Leeds Media Centre

Training 26 Office Manager Angela Jones with (from right to left) Unity Homes and Enterprise Chief Executive Chief Executive Ali Akbor, Training 26 Director Mike Cunningham and Unity Enterprise Manager Adrian Green at Leeds Media Centre

Mike Cunningham, Training 26 Director, said:  “The move to Leeds Media Centre has worked incredibly well and we are happy to be taking more space in an excellent building.  We recently recruited our first apprentice who is already proving to be a great asset for Training 26.

“As a one-stop shop for IT and business training needs, we are able to source the best trainers available and have plans to add new courses in the months ahead.  Our clients enjoy the modern facilities at Leeds Media Centre where parking is plentiful and there is the option to open on Saturdays. 

“Whilst most of the businesses we cater for are based in the North, our reach is expanding nationally. These are exciting times and it’s good to be part of the Unity family.”                 

Harrogate-based greeting card creator Pigment Productions is one well-known employer whose staff have benefitted from courses delivered by Training 26.

Debbie Saltmarsh, General Manager at Pigment Productions, said: "We use Training 26 for their flexible, varied and great presentation-style training courses. We have had candidates attend courses at their offices and also more bespoke courses held in our offices, which makes for easier staff attendance.  They are extremely easy to work with and flexible to your requirements. We will definitely continue to use them for all of our future training requirements.”

Leeds Media Centre is one of three business locations in the city owned and managed by Unity Enterprise, a not-for-profit subsidiary of Unity Homes and Enterprise, which provides 130 managed workspaces for around 80 employers including charitable groups.

Ali Akbor, Chief Executive of Unity Homes and Enterprise, said: “Training 26 is a shining example of the first-class work going on across our business centres. 

“Unity’s ethos is based on improving people’s lives.  Social and economic regeneration are of equal importance to physical regeneration, thereby empowering local communities to help themselves.  Training 26 helps people – in the business, public and social sectors – to improve their skills, progress their careers and contribute to the development of their colleagues. 

“I am particularly pleased that, in common with other valued Unity Enterprise tenants, Training 26 has taken on a local apprentice.  It is terrific to have the company operating at the heart of Leeds Media Centre.”          

Adrian Green, Unity Enterprise Manager, added: “Mike and Angela are a pleasure to deal with.  I have also spoken to a number of their clients as they come and go from Leeds Media Centre and have heard nothing but positive comments about Training 26.

“Mike and Angela’s absolute commitment to the task in hand is second to none.  They deserve every bit of success they get and I know that many more achievements lie ahead as they to expand their business offer.”      

More information about Unity Enterprise and its services is available from Adrian on Tel: 0113 242 5996 or email: adrian.green@unityha.co.uk 

Fairydogmother plans magical Easter on Otley Chevin

A Leeds dog expert has invited owners to bring their pets to Otley Chevin Forest Park on Easter Sunday to hunt for novel prizes.

The Easter Super Sniffers Challenge is a free event to encourage owners to properly engage with their dogs when on walks.

Large plastic Easter eggs will be hidden around the Park.

Most will contain toys for the dogs, but there will also be two special eggs for owners.  One will have a £50 gift voucher inside and another a £25 gift voucher.

The event has been organised by Yeadon-based dog trainer and behavioural expert Kerry Lawson, also known as the Fairydogmother. 

Kerry Lawson, the Fairydogmother         

Kerry Lawson, the Fairydogmother        

“To find the Easter eggs, the dogs will have to use their amazing sense of smell and rely on their owners for encouragement – teamwork is all-important,” she explained. 

“I will be there to educate owners on how best to coax their dogs to use their noses.

“In my professional life, I teach clients to train their dogs to stay with them instead of running away when off the lead.  I want to show owners how much more fun they can have with their dogs by keeping them engaged on a walk and working together as a team.”

Kerry added: “As I explain in my forthcoming book, having a great off-lead dog depends on dogs wanting to be with their owner.

“It’s also about building amazing relationships so their dog chooses to be with them instead of running off to play with other dogs, chase squirrels or investigate piles of leaves.”

Dog owners can register free of charge for the Easter Super Sniffers Challenge and also receive clues to help in the search for prizes by visiting https://easter.funnelmaker.com/

This Sunday’s event begins at noon.

Anyone wishing to enquire about Kerry’s range of bespoke canine services and dog training classes can contact her on Tel: 07891 371144 or email: kerry@fairydogmother.co.uk

‘UK has become a hard sell,’ veterinary leader tells European conference

Brexit is doing “untold damage” to the veterinary profession and risks permanently undermining the UK’s global status, a leading Yorkshire vet has told a conference in Portugal.

Jason Aldiss, Managing Director of Leeds-based Eville & Jones which provides Official Veterinarians (OVs) to every abattoir in England and Wales, said he was finding it increasingly difficult to recruit staff and the situation would become critical if Brexit further restricted access to foreign workers.

Speaking at the 9th Training Meeting of the Veterinary Medical Association (EFOMV) at Lisbon Congress Centre, which featured 116 lectures and 72 speakers over two days, Dr Aldiss said: “The UK veterinary profession is reliant on the free movement of vets. Despite 95 per cent of Official Veterinarians coming from abroad, the British Government has failed to add vets to the Shortage Occupation List of high-demand employees.

“Since the EU referendum in 2016, many of my staff have returned to their countries of origin.  Finding replacements has been incredibly difficult given the deepening uncertainties Brexit has created.    

Dr Jason Aldiss BEM

Dr Jason Aldiss BEM

“To put it bluntly, the UK has become a hard sell.”

Dr Aldiss, also Secretary General of the Union of European Veterinary Hygienists, said it was time for UK politicians to admit that Brexit had been a disaster for the country.

He continued: “Brexit has been a test for MPs but, as events of the past few weeks have shown, few have been able to rise to the challenge.

“Most politicians I speak to, including many who campaigned for Leave, concede that Brexit is now a failed experiment.  We are told that the House of Commons is strongly pro-Remain but too few of its occupants have been prepared to stand up and fight for the country to stay in the EU.”  

Dr Aldiss said the current talks between Prime Minister Theresa May and Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn seemed to be pushing the UK towards a softer form of Brexit which lacked any clear advantages.

“I have long believed that, if Brexit does happen, it will inevitably bear a very close resemblance to the Norway model,” he said.  “That will mean the UK being bound by most EU rules and regulations whilst losing the ability to influence them.  It will be Brexit in name only but with the restrictions vastly outweighing any percieved benefits.”

The Eville & Jones Managing Director urged MPs to “take a responsible path” and revoke Article 50 or hand the decision back to the British people in a second referendum.       

“I am strongly in favour of pulling the Brexit plug by revoking Article 50,” he said.  “This would create the time and space for the UK to re-evaluate its relationship with our European neighbours and allow diplomatic bridges to be rebuilt.

“But should our politicians view that as a step too far, there is no sound reason not to consult with the electorate on what is best for our country.  A recent poll of 9,500 voters in England, Scotland and Wales found that almost 60 per cent now want a final say on Brexit including a majority in nine out of 10 Parliamentary constituencies.”

Dr Aldiss added: “It is not generally a wise career option for MPs to tell voters that they’ve got it wrong but, in the 2016 referendum, UK voters did get it wrong.

“We must have honesty on all sides.  Brexit has been a catastrophe but an enduring nightmare can yet be averted.”       

Leading charity grows Yorkshire footprint with move to Leeds Media Centre

St Giles Trust, the award-winning national charity that helps people facing severe disadvantage to access jobs, homes and specialist support, has expanded its Yorkshire presence after opening a new regional base at Leeds Media Centre.

The facility is one of three sites close to the city centre owned and managed by Unity Enterprise, a not-for-profit subsidiary of Unity Homes and Enterprise, which provides 130 managed workspaces for around 80 businesses, social enterprises and third sector bodies.

St Giles Trust was established 57 years ago in Camberwell, South London as a soup kitchen.  It has since expanded its work across England and Wales to offer a vast array of services including skills training, help for individuals and families affected by financial hardship, prisoner rehabilitation and professional guidance for vulnerable adults. 

In 2017/18, the charity helped 24,982 people through its services.

St Giles Trust has achieved extensive national recognition for its work, including several prestigious Excellence in Diversity Awards.  Last month it was named in the Best Companies Top 100 for 11th consecutive year.

St Giles Trust staff with Unity Homes and Enterprise Chief Executive Ali Akbor (back row, second from right) and Unity Enterprise Manager Adrian Green (back row, extreme right)

St Giles Trust staff with Unity Homes and Enterprise Chief Executive Ali Akbor (back row, second from right) and Unity Enterprise Manager Adrian Green (back row, extreme right)

Ali Akbor, Chief Executive of Unity Homes and Enterprise, said he was thrilled that the charity had chosen Leeds Media Centre to broaden its support for local communities in Yorkshire.

He commented: “St Giles Trust is a perfect fit for us.  Unity was set up as housing association more than three decades ago to help people in greatest need, with a particular emphasis on BME communities.  We have achieved a lot in the intervening period but our ethos has never changed.

 “We have expanded our range of activities over the years to support local entrepreneurial endeavour through Unity Enterprise, and help our tenants and others to access jobs and training opportunities through Unity Employment Services.   

“There are clear opportunities for synergy between St Giles Trust and ourselves, which I look forward to exploring.  It is wonderful to welcome St Giles Trust staff into the Unity family.”  

 Penny Hales, Support Services Manager at St Giles Trust, said: “As a charity who are committed to using our resources on our frontline work, finding high quality office space at affordable rates can often be a real challenge but is a necessary tool to be able to develop our work.

“We are very pleased to be working with Unity Homes and Enterprise, and our team are working well in Leeds Media Centre.”

The charity’s move to Leeds Media Centre was facilitated Unity Enterprise Manager Adrian Green. 

He said: “It has been a real pleasure to work with the St Giles Trust team as they settle into their new Yorkshire home. 

“They arrive with a very well-deserved reputation for excellence and have improved tens of thousands of people’s lives over their long history.  It is a delight to have them onboard.”

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

Unity expands Leeds portfolio with major property acquisition

Unity Homes and Enterprise has increased its presence across Leeds by adding 22 newly-refurbished properties to its affordable housing stock in a £1.25 million investment.

 Last year, the BME-led housing association completed a deal with the Riverside Group to purchase 12 two-bed semi-detached houses in Harehills and 10 one-bed flats in Pudsey.

 A major works programme has since been undertaken to fit new kitchens and bathrooms, upgrade central heating and replace windows and external doors.

 Other improvements include insulation in roof space areas, new smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, energy efficient lightbulbs in all rooms and brick work repointing.   

 Ali Akbor, Chief Executive of Unity Homes and Enterprise, said: “We were delighted to have the opportunity to purchase these homes, following a process of due diligence.

 “Riverside, which has its headquarters in Liverpool, undertook a national review of its stock and this acquisition made good sense for Unity.

 “Following the works programme, all 22 homes are now in pristine condition and represent excellent additions to our expanding portfolio in Leeds and beyond. 

 “Unity has long-established Harehills as one of our priority areas and have been active there for many years.    

 “Although we own and manage significant stock in West Leeds, Pudsey is a new and exciting part of the city to be involved with.

 “Our staff are forming good relationships with the tenants at both locations and look forward to working with them and the surrounding communities to improve lives.”  

 Mr Akbor visited two tenants at Chapel Fold in Pudsey to find out how they were settling into their modernised homes, which were originally constructed in the 1970s

Mrs Mortimer, a Chapel Fold tenant, in her brand-new kitchen with Unity Chief Executive Ali Akbor

Mrs Mortimer, a Chapel Fold tenant, in her brand-new kitchen with Unity Chief Executive Ali Akbor

Mrs Mortimer, who has lived in her flat for more than seven years, was delighted with the improvements.  

 She said: “They’ve made a big difference.  I only had a small kitchen but it’s lovely now.  It serves its purpose, everything fits in.” 

 The Unity Chief Executive also called in with Mrs Emerson, who has resided in her Pudsey home for almost three years.  She was also pleased with the refurbishment work.   

 Mrs Emerson said: “I like it here. The new breakfast bar is really helpful and creates a lot more space.  The washer/drier is fabulous and saves me having to go out in bad weather.”      

Unity Chief Executive Ali Akbor pays a visit to Mrs Emerson in her newly-refurbished Chapel Fold home

Unity Chief Executive Ali Akbor pays a visit to Mrs Emerson in her newly-refurbished Chapel Fold home

 Commenting afterwards, Mr Akbor said: “It was a real pleasure to meet both Mrs Mortimer and Mrs Emerson, and to hear their positive feedback. 

 “Unity’s mission is to provide high quality affordable homes, improve people’s lives and help the communities we serve to become more vibrant, inclusive and prosperous. 

 “These are solemn commitments from which we will never waver.”       

European vet market leader sets sights on Middle East and Asia

Leeds-based veterinary services firm Eville & Jones is expanding its global reach after announcing new initiatives in the Middle East and Asia.

Founded in 1993, Eville & Jones is Europe’s leading provider of out-sourced veterinary controls.

Its Official Veterinarians and Meat Hygiene Inspectors ensure meat safety and protect animal welfare under EU and domestic regulations in plants throughout England and Wales on behalf of the Food Standards Agency.

Highly-trained Eville & Jones staff also deliver audit, verification and enforcement services in continental Europe, Australia and South America.  

The establishment of a new strategic alliance, Eville & Jones Partnership (Middle East & Asia), will enable the business to tap into additional fast-paced international markets  

It will be formally launched at Gulfood 2019, the world's largest annual food and beverage trade exhibition, held at the iconic Dubai World Trade Centre from 17-21 February.

The sold-out event will welcome more than 98,000 people from 193 countries including senior government representatives and industry professionals from a vast array of sectors.  

The Eville & Jones team in Dubai will include Dr Jawad Khawaja and Dr Amer Rashid who have been appointed as Regional Directors of Eville & Jones Partnership (Middle East & Asia). 

(Left to right): Dr Jason Aldiss BEM, Managing Director, Eville & Jones; Dr Jawad Khawaja, Regional Director, Eville & Jones Partnership (Middle East & Asia); and Dr Amer Rashid, Regional Director, Eville & Jones Partnership (Middle East & Asia)

(Left to right): Dr Jason Aldiss BEM, Managing Director, Eville & Jones; Dr Jawad Khawaja, Regional Director, Eville & Jones Partnership (Middle East & Asia); and Dr Amer Rashid, Regional Director, Eville & Jones Partnership (Middle East & Asia)

They will work alongside the existing Eville & Jones core leadership team.

Dr Jason Aldiss BEM, Managing Director of Eville & Jones, said:

“We are particularly excited about the possibilities this venture opens up.

“Both Jawad and Amer have first-class knowledge of the Middle East and Asian markets.   

“I expect many useful conversations to take place in Dubai as we work to develop the Eville & Jones brand and reputation for excellence across new borders. 

 “Following on from the UAE, we intend to showcase our range of bespoke services in targeted locations across the region including Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait and Oman.

“I am also due to visit Pakistan in the coming days for a series of high-level meetings.     

“Fascinating times lie ahead.”

MPs must put country first in crucial Brexit vote

One of the country’s leading vets has called on MPs to “put the country’s future ahead of their own” in tomorrow’s vote on Theresa May’s Brexit deal.

Dr Jason Aldiss BEM

Dr Jason Aldiss BEM

In a statement, Dr Jason Aldiss, Managing Director of Leeds-based veterinary services company Eville and Jones, argued that “petty political game-playing could lead to the United Kingdom sleepwalking into a no-deal Brexit” which, he said, would be “disastrous.”  

He said: “I have a high regard for most of our politicians and believe that, in the main, they try to follow the right course on behalf of the people they have been elected to represent.  But the current scenario in Westminster will put that theory to the test.

“We are constantly told that there is no majority for no-deal in the House of Commons.  But as the clock ticks down to Brexit Day on 29 March, there also appears to be no majority for any other outcome. 

“Theresa May’s deal represents the only fully worked-up solution on the table.  It also has the support of the other 27 EU member states.  Without something in its place, we will leave with no deal.  That is the stark legal reality.”      

Dr Aldiss made clear the food, agriculture and veterinary sectors were at particular risk from a no-deal Brexit.

He said: “A rejection of the Prime Minister’s hard-won deal will have a devasting impact across countless areas of our economy and national life.

“A torrent of extra regulation will rain upon us, crippling export tariffs will be imposed, there will be delays at ports, animal movements will be heavily restricted, many types of food will be unavailable and medicine shortages will be unavoidable.”

Dr Aldiss, who also serves as Secretary General of the Union of European Veterinary Hygienists, said it was imperative for MPs to cast their votes in the national interest.

He continued: “I was strongly opposed to Brexit and campaigned vigorously against it.  But the potential damage any further delay to the Brexit process will cause has outweighed my huge reservations. 

“The real challenge will come after Brexit has happened and work begins on recasting our relationship with the EU in a future trading arrangement.  

“I’m sorry to say it, but too many of the ongoing Parliamentary skirmishes are about point-scoring and feeding egos.  MPs have a duty to put the country’s future ahead of their own and support Theresa May’s deal.

“Petty political game-playing could lead to the United Kingdom sleepwalking into a no-deal Brexit, which would be disastrous for generations to come.

“Our country is better than that and good days can still lie ahead.  The House of Commons must do the right thing and vote for the only plausible way forward.”     

Guiseley communications agency backs inaugural beer festival

Guiseley-based Vanbar Associates has stepped forward to support Aireborough RUFC’s first-ever beer festival.

The integrated communications agency, established in 2014 by Vanessa and Barry White, will sponsor one of 19 real ales offered at the two-day event on Friday 1st and Saturday 2nd February.

Rob Rattray (centre), organiser of the Aireborough RUFC Beer Festival, with Vanessa and Barry White of Vanbar Associates

Rob Rattray (centre), organiser of the Aireborough RUFC Beer Festival, with Vanessa and Barry White of Vanbar Associates

It coincides with the opening weekend of the Six Nations Rugby Championship, and all three games will be shown on a big screen including Saturday’s crucial clash between England and Ireland which kicks off at 4.45pm.

Entry is just £5 each day and includes two drinks tokens.  Further tokens can be purchased at the bargain rate of five for a fiver.   A range of gins and ciders will also be available, together with hot food from the club kitchen. 

All profits will go towards the future development of the club’s facilities at its Nunroyd Park home in Yeadon, which will host the festival.

Vanbar Associates delivers an extensive range of communications services including media relations, public affairs, crisis management, copy writing and event management to clients in the public, private and charitable sectors.

Barry White, partner at Vanbar Associates, said: “It is a pleasure to be involved.  We’ve had a long association with Aireborough RUFC, including a period when I was the worst coach in the entire junior section.   

“Thankfully for the players, those days are in the past but it is wonderful to see the awe-inspiring work still being done by so many committed people to promote rugby union in Guiseley and Yeadon. 

“Vanessa and I are delighted to sponsor a beer and would encourage anyone who has a free couple of hours to come along, even for a soft drink, and support a well-organised venture for a first-class cause.”

The event is the brainchild of Rob Rattray, managing director of educational marketing and student outreach specialists Syno Limited, who also serves as a volunteer with Aireborough RUFC’s junior section.

Rob said: “We’re immensely grateful to Vanbar Associates and all our sponsors for enabling the inaugural Aireborough RUFC beer festival to happen. 

“There is tremendous passion for rugby union in the area.  We want local people to know we’re here and enable them to get involved with what we do. 

“The funds raised will help us to improve our offer and develop the game at junior and senior levels.  It promises to a wonderful weekend of fun at a very modest cost. The fact that it’s happening just as Dry January ends is not a coincidence.”     

The event will run from 7pm-11pm on Friday 1st February and from noon-11pm on Saturday 2nd February. 

Brexit compromise call from housing association CEO

The chief executive of one of the country’s most prominent BME-led housing associations has called on Westminster politicians to “grasp the Brexit nettle” to avoid local communities being thrown into chaos as the countdown to the UK’s departure from the EU gathers pace.

In a New Year message, Ali Akbor, who has headed Leeds-based Unity Homes and Enterprise for two decades, warned that fears over a no-deal Brexit or second referendum were causing deepening anxiety amongst tenants.

And he argued that MPs from across the political divide now had a responsibility to reach an agreed way forward.

Ali Akbor addresses the 2018 Unity Annual General Meeting last September

Ali Akbor addresses the 2018 Unity Annual General Meeting last September

“Unity is not a political organisation and has no desire to become one,” Mr Akbor said.   

“But our staff are close to the people we serve and it is clear that the decisions politicians make in the coming weeks will impact on tenants’ lives for years to come.

“I am particularly concerned about the aggressive tone and negative rhetoric we have heard from both sides of the Brexit debate, and the dangers this poses to community cohesion.   That is why I am wary of the damage a second referendum campaign may inflict. 

“Our tenants wish to live in a society at ease with itself, and side by side with people respectful of each other’s differences.  This is not helped by politicians who advocate a ‘my way or no way’ doctrine and who seek to denigrate those who hold a different viewpoint to their own.”             

The Unity chief executive - also secretary/treasurer of BME National, a collective of over 60 BME housing associations - said it was “essential” that a Brexit compromise was reached in Westminster.

“The wheels of government have ground to a halt,” Mr Akbor said.  “That’s not a criticism, it’s a fact.   The Integrated Communities Strategy Green Paper and the Social Housing Green Paper are gathering dust in Whitehall.  We need to be moving on to the next stage on both.”

Mr Akbor said there were apprehensions about the damage that Brexit uncertainty was doing to local businesses .   

“Unity Enterprise, our not for profit subsidiary, hosts more than 80 businesses across three locations,” he said. 

 “The ability of these companies, many of them start-ups, to expand and create new employment opportunities is being restricted because of diminishing confidence amongst entrepreneurs.  Existing jobs could also be at risk.  These businesses need greater clarity to enable them to plan for the longer term and make investment decisions.” 

Mr Akbor said he was proud that Unity had utilised its 2018 Annual General Meeting as a platform to pay tribute to the bravery of BME Commonwealth soldiers in the First World War, which ended 100 years ago.    

“Those soldiers fought for our freedom over oppression,” he continued.  “They played their part in creating the rich fabric of the modern United Kingdom.  Millions of British citizens of BME origin now form a central plank of our nation.  We need to continue to reach out, not pull up the drawbridge. 

“As Brexit approaches, our politicians should follow their shining example.”      

New board members join housing association’s quest for Unity

Unity Homes and Enterprise has appointed seven new board members following a competitive process.

The successful candidates were welcomed to the housing association’s headquarters in Leeds by Unity Chair Shruti Bhargava and Chief Executive Ali Akbor.

Unity owns and manages more than 1,300 homes across the city and will shortly complete its second affordable housing development in Huddersfield.

The association also supports local entrepreneurship through its subsidiary, Unity Enterprise, and provides employment support and training with a team of qualified staff.

Unity Homes and Enterprise Chair Shruti Bhargava (front right) and Chief Executive Ali Akbor (front left) welcome the new recruits to the association’s offices in Leeds

Unity Homes and Enterprise Chair Shruti Bhargava (front right) and Chief Executive Ali Akbor (front left) welcome the new recruits to the association’s offices in Leeds

Unity’s Housing Board will have four new members.

They include Nahim Ruhi-Khan, Head of Housing and Corporate Property Management Services at Leeds City Council, and Liz Cook, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice Sheffield.  Alongside them will be Dave Richmond, City Neighbourhoods and Housing Manager at Hull City Council, and Abdul Hamied, Senior Programme Manager - General Practice Development Team at NHS England.

Kalsoom Iqbal, Quality Assurance and Contracts Manager at Rochdale Borough Council, and former Bradford College Group Chief Executive Andy Welsh, now a self-employed consultant, will join the Unity Enterprise Board.

The seventh new member of the team is management accountant Abdul Rashid who has been co-opted onto Unity’s Audit and Management Committee and will act as a Unity Housing Board observer. 

Each appointee will serve an initial three-year term, which can be extended.

Unity has also announced the appointment of Ann Marie Matson to the newly-created position of Director of Resources.  For the past five years, Ms Matson served as Head of Finance and Procurement at Leeds Federated Housing Association.  

Shruti Bhargava, Chair of Unity Homes and Enterprise, said: “I offer my heartfelt thanks to our retiring board members, Shazia Khan, Tim Yeardley and Andrea Tara-Chand for their dedicated service over many years.  They set the bar very high and, in the finest traditions of Unity, have left legacies of remarkable personal and community achievement.

“Their successors are of the finest calibre.  Each is dedicated to furthering community cohesion and positively impacting the lives of local people.  They also possess an enduring sense of social purpose, which is forever at the heart of our work.  Being able to attract candidates of such quality and renown underlines Unity’s ever-growing reputation for excellence. 

“I look forward to working with them to deliver first class affordable homes and address wider inequalities in the diverse communities we are privileged to serve.”

Ali Akbor, Chief Executive of Unity Homes and Enterprise, said: “These are exciting times for Unity.  I am delighted that our new board members will be with us on the journey ahead.

“I am equally thrilled that Ann Marie Matson has joined us as Director of Resources with a brief to sharpen Unity’s business focus and strengthen our relationships with key partners.  

“2018 has been an excellent year which saw the association shortlisted for three national housing awards.  Amongst many other highlights, we added 58 new affordable homes to our expanding portfolio, opened an incubator at Unity Business Centre, helped 110 people to find employment and another 177 to improve their work skills.      

“2019 promises to be a landmark year as we move towards the completion of a host of affordable housing projects including our first scheme in Cleckheaton.

“Unity is forever in a quest for new horizons and fresh ways of regenerating local communities.  The reconfigured boards and new senior staff appointment will bring added vigour to these endeavours.”