Jobs are key to Leeds success

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THOSE leaders who recruited Lurene Joseph to head the Leeds and Partners marketing agency will be relieved that grievance complaints lodged against the chief executive have been rebutted.

If this organisation is to fulfil its remit and promote the West Yorkshire city to international investors, it requires sound leadership if its staff are to sell Leeds with total confidence.

This has clearly been a difficult year for a publicly-funded body and its chairman Andy Clarke – the chief executive of supermarket giant Asda – alluded to this yesterday when he accepted that the “pace of change”, and the “strong, decisive action” that was required to set up this body, had been “significantly more challenging than first anticipated”.

That said, Mr Clarke’s remarks were conciliatory towards disgruntled staff. He hopes “that allowances are made for the differing backgrounds of L&P staff” seconded from Leeds City Council, and it is important that this mantra is now carried forward into 2014.

This will be one of the most critical years in the history of Leeds. With unemployment levels still above the national average, and the latest phase of the Government’s spending cuts likely to necessitate many difficult decisions, the need to create even more new jobs and accelerate the implementation of coalition growth policies will become even more important.

But 2014 will also provide Leeds with an unrivalled opportunity when it hosts the Tour de France’s Grand Départ in early July.

With the eyes of the world on Leeds, and thousands of accredited journalists expected to cover the Tour’s launch, this will be a one-off chance for the city to show its visitors, and a global TV audience running into billions, that it is open for business.

However this will only happen if the city’s leaders pull together and focus 
on the importance of attracting new jobs.

After all, this is the critical test– rather than other issues – that Leeds and Partners must pass if it is to build on its work to date.

Inspirational deeds this Christmas

MAUREEN Greaves, one of the Yorkshire Post’s selfless heroes of 2013, embodies the spirit of Christmas. Even though her life was torn apart 12 months ago when her church organist husband Alan was murdered as he walked to midnight mass in Sheffield, she has found the strength to forgive his killers and is now working tirelessly to help those who she considers to be less fortunate.

Though today’s first anniversary will be marked by a poignant service by the spot where Mr Greaves died, her determination to put others first is a lesson to the more selfish members of society – and those who believe, mistakenly, that Christmas simply revolves around the accumulation of extravagant presents. As this newspaper’s Christmas honours exemplify, Yorkshire would be much the poorer without those inspirational individuals who are striving to create a better society for all. It would be remiss if their endeavours were not acknowledged.

It is a point reiterated by the Archbishop of York, whose series of Advent essays culminate with an uplifting message in which Dr John Sentamu writes: “At Christmas, we celebrate the birth of Jesus, a child who was to change the world. Let us also celebrate the innate potential of every child.”

While the festive period will be one of great excitement for many youngsters, he notes the injustice of some children “growing up with hope and aspirations curtailed by the economic and financial problems their families and communities face”.

It is a message that Mrs Greaves, and others, have already embraced. The challenge this Christmas is persuading even more people to be compassionate towards others in 2014. If this mission is successful, then the whole region is likely to be the beneficiary if this seasonal goodwill is replicated throughout the forthcoming year.

No transparency on the railways

AFTER Christmas, attention will soon turn to 2014 when the cost of living will, almost certainly, be one of the defining issues as the political jostling intensifies ahead of the next election.

This is further underlined by yesterday’s official confirmation that train fares will rise by an average of 2.8 per cent.

While this increase was unexpected, it is still another blow to all those travellers who have endured years of wage restraint during the recession. And this was just the headline figure – the biggest increases will inevitably come on those rush-hour commuter services where passengers already have fight for seats in overcrowded carriages.

Yet, while Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin defends the Government’s record by highlighting levels of investment in new services, there needs to be a closer correlation between fares and the quality of services.

Furthermore, the many anomalies in the latest tariffs suggests that the Government’s plan to introduce greater transparency to the railways is already running late, and undermining public confidence, at a time when Ministers need to be appeasing those whose incomes have failed to keep pace with the cost of living and also rising travel costs.