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Audit Commission green flag recognises innovative work with Leeds business community

17/12/2009

Audit Commission green flag recognises innovative work with Leeds business community.

The unique work that Leeds City Council and Leeds Ahead are doing to engage businesses in public and community work, has been recognised and applauded with a major national award from the Audit Commission announced today.

The coveted Green Flag follows the Audit Commission's Comprehensive Area Assessment (CAA) of more than 800 public services across England.  It recognises the innovative way in which the council and Leeds Ahead have involved businesses in projects that have encouraged enterprise, improved skills and attainment and raised the aspirations. Leeds Ahead had previously won a cash prize in the Yorkshire Forward Creating Better Futures Awards in April 2009.

Leeds Ahead has engaged with nearly 200 businesses of all sizes across the city.  They have invested more than £500,000 and donated 13,000 hours of voluntary support, through 460 separate projects. The work has helped more than 12,000 of the 75,000 most deprived people in the city, while the businesses have become valued members of local communities.

The CAA report issued by the Audit Commission, says: "Before 2007, businesses helped support local communities in an uncoordinated way. The Leeds Ahead approach has ensured that support is better directed to what is important for local people. Relationships with local communities are long-term, rather than one-off.

"Businesses have better ownership and understanding of local needs. Employees stay in their jobs for longer, businesses are financially stronger and have better links with local partners. As a result, businesses enjoy better goodwill and reputation benefiting local people and the places in which they live."

Stephanie Burras, Leeds Ahead Chief Executive, said:

"The public, private and voluntary sectors in Leeds have shown what can be achieved through working together to tackle fundamental issues that impact on future prospects.

"By acting as a unique link between all three, it is our role to ensure that the city maximizes every opportunity to unlock its potential and, with the Audit Commission's report highlighting the importance of this work, we hope that more and more businesses and organisations will become involved."       

The CAA report highlights a number of areas in which projects and initiatives brokered by Leeds Ahead have enabled businesses to help in narrowing the gap between the city's haves and have nots. Including:

  • Coaching by staff from a city law firm that has enabled a south Leeds college to dramatically improve its GCSE results.
  • Mentoring schemes that have increased the participation of young people in positive activities, improved school attendance rates and attitudes to learning, with higher aspirations for achievement, work, careers and enterprise, offering to break cycles of deprivation and reliance on state benefits.
  • Working with prisoners to engage them in the world of work, find employment and so contribute to local society.
  • Supporting economic regeneration by providing opportunities for work experience, and training to improve general work, entrepreneurial and business management skills.
  • Helping community development projects to increase local project design and delivery skills.
  • Working with Leeds City Council's own employees on a volunteering programme that has increased engagement with, and understanding, of the needs of people in deprived areas, improving the prospects, community cohesion and confidence of many people in the most disadvantaged communities in Leeds and helping marginalized groups to become reintegrated.
  • Assisting families in poverty by giving them the opportunity to become more independent and financially secure, while giving them greater pride, sense of belonging and achievement in their local communities.

Cllr Richard Brett, joint leader and executive member responsible for closing the gap between the wealthier parts of Leeds and the more deprived areas said:

"It is fantastic news to receive this Green Flag award and credit should go to all those businesses and people who have helped make this scheme a success.  It is very encouraging to know that this work has been officially recognised and is something other councils could benefit from.

"Leeds Ahead plays a vital role in helping to close the gap in our city between the more successful and wealthier parts of Leeds and those areas that are more economically disadvantaged. 

"The scheme continues to support the economic regeneration of the more deprived parts of the city and help build skills and create opportunities for those who would otherwise not have them."