Leeds’ first black Lord Mayor to help Unity celebrate local communities

THE first black Lord Mayor of Leeds will be guest of honour at a local BME-led housing association’s celebration of communities later this month.

Councillor Eileen Taylor will headline an impressive line-up of speakers when she attends Unity Homes & Enterprise’s annual general meeting (AGM) on 24 September. The organisation is using the event to mark its prominent role in growing local communities.

Taylor is no stranger to Unity’s work. Earlier this year, she laid the foundation stone at a combined Unity and Chapeltown Cohousing (ChaCo) housing development in North East Leeds. The £9.3 million scheme will provide more than 60 new homes for people.

At the AGM, she will be joined by fellow speakers Bill Phelps, chair of ChaCo, and Dr Shamim Miah, senior lecturer at the University of Huddersfield, who has published two critically-acclaimed books on Muslims in modern society.

The event, which is being held at The Sheepscar complex in Chapeltown, will also hear contributions from Unity chair Shruti Bhargava and Unity chief executive Ali Akbor.

“To mark the centenary of Armistice Day, last year’s AGM paid tribute to the bravery of black and minority ethnic Commonwealth soldiers in the First World War,” said Akbor. “For 2019, we have themed our annual report on growing sustainable communities and, over the last 12 months, I am proud of the role Unity has played in this mission.”

The association is halfway through its most ambitious development programme in its 32-year history, which will result in the construction of 220 new “affordable” homes by 2021.

In partnership with Homes England, it completed 23 homes during 2018/19 with building work on a further 90 properties in Leeds and Kirklees currently underway

Unity is also involved in a wide array of other activities to help local neighbourhoods achieve their social and economic potential.

Over the last year, Unity Enterprise – the association’s not-for-profit subsidiary company which provides 142 affordable business units across three centres – generated a financial surplus that was used to further improve facilities and offer more direct support for tenants, including through business breakfasts and professional advice on banking, marketing and HR.

Unity Employment Services – delivered by three members of staff including an apprentice – helped 119 people to find jobs, 179 to improve their skills through training and 24 to enter voluntary work.

“In addition to our efforts to improve lives in local communities, Unity has had its governance and financial viability ratings upgraded to the highest possible levels by the Regulator of Social Housing,” Akbor added.

“We have also achieved a two-star Customer Excellence Award and had our Investors in People accreditation renewed. We can do nothing without our first-class staff and I am proud of every one of them.”

NH

Main Image: The Lord Mayor of Leeds, Councillor Eileen Taylor and Unity chief executive Ali Akbor lay the foundation stone at a joint Unity-ChaCo housing development in Chapeltown

 

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