If 2012 was a big year for the country, 2013 looks set to be a bigger year for Leeds - having survived the fabled ‘end of the world’ predictions of last year, Neil Hudson asks some Leeds movers and shakers what their new year resolutions are.
‘School makeovers and cycling from sea to sea’
Charles Breslin, Regional Director for Yorkshire and Humber, British Gas: said: “Last year was a very busy one for British Gas in Leeds and there is no sign of that changing for 2013.
“This year my resolutions remain focussed on health, charity fundraising and people development – both in business and in my personal life.
“British Gas employs around 2,700 people in the Yorkshire and Humber region. Our office in Leeds, which is a centre of excellence for the company in Smart and Warm Home Discount, takes around 120,000 calls from our customers every month.
“From our Leeds office, we help provide support for our customers who help the most. This is a really important part of our work and we will continue to do this throughout 2013.
“Specifically, we want to work with St. Mary’s Primary School and Broomfield Specialist Inclusive Learning Centre in Horsforth.
“These two schools are the lucky winners of British Gas Generation Green. Each school will have an energy makeover worth £65,000 during 2013.
“I also want us to raise £20,000 for British Gas’ three chosen local charities – Georges Crypt, Mosaic and Leeds Carers.
“Part of this fundraising activity will see 12 of our employees (myself included) take part in the Great Yorkshire Bike Ride.
“Third on my list is to continue to work hard to make British Gas in Leeds one of the best places to work in Yorkshire. Last year we were placed 23rd in the Sunday Times Best places to work for.
“We plan to build on our successful partnership with Dr Stella Cottrell from the University of Leeds to continue developing our industry leading training for our team managers.
“Finally, I want to beat my time at this Leeds Triathlon – it will be the second year I’ve taken. I’m also doing a charity bicycle ride from the Red Sea to the Dead Sea.”
‘My new year resolution is to progress the city’
David Laycock, head of Leeds Retail Association and director of Trinity Leeds, said: “My key new year resolution will be to make Trinity a success. That’s all I’m thinking about at the moment.
“I think 2013 is going to be such a big year for the city in general and that we’ve all got a lot to look forward to.
“I think it will be the year when Leeds really comes into its own, when it becomes recognised not just as one of the best cities in the UK but as one of the best cities in the world.
“We’re going to see all kinds of new investment in the city and I think particularly in terms of attitudes and people’s determination to work together, working partnerships are going to be a big thing in the future.
“Once Trinity is complete, the feel of the city will change, we are already planning several street entertainment sites, the whole character of the city is going to change.
“So, my new year’s resolution is really to progress the city as a whole, to improve the customer’s experience and to make people sit up and say, ‘wow, we didn’t realise Leeds had all of this.’
“If you are struggling to imagine what it might look like, imagine bringing London’s Covent Garden to Leeds and you won’t be far off - we want to take the shopping experience back to the traditional one where people come to socialise and shop.
“So 2013 is going to be big.”
‘Local resolve is the way forward for city’
Duncan Dallas, philosopher and founder of Cafe Scientifique, an informal discussion forum which started in Leeds but has since spread around the world, said he did not make personal new year resolutions but did have some suggestions for the city.
“I was in Toronto recently and I was quite amazed because they have part of the city which is given over to shop keepers who own less than five other shops. In other words, the people of the city have voted for this and it means that you cannot open up there and do business if you have lots of other businesses and when I came back to Leeds I thought this would be a good idea for our city.
“There must be some areas of the city which would benefit from this kind of emphasis on local people, local businesses.
“Instead of getting in the usual suspects, like Sainsbury’s and Morissons and so on.
“Another idea is to form some kind of collective which would enable local people to buy up empty buildings and to use their to benefit the community, rather than having some supermarket come along and convert an old bank into another store.
“There was an application by Morrisons to open a store in Chapel Allerton and in the end I think they bought a former fire station for about half a million pounds. My idea was if you could get 100 people, each investing £5,000, you could buy that building, not bother with lots of planning applications and you could then use it as a base to plant trees or do vegetable growing projects, or open a business.
“I’d like to see local people being more empowered, rather than just relying on the council to do everything.”
‘Time for city to celebrate its success’
Sarah Dunwell is founder of Create, a social enterprise which mentors people who have been homeless, marginalised or otherwise victimised regain confidence and find employment elsewhere.
She said: “I don’t make new year resolutions because I am a firm believer in changing things about yourself on a daily basis, I do not think that setting one day aside a year in order to change something is necessary – if you want to change, you can do that at any time.
“In terms of what I would like to see for the city, if I could have a wish which came true, then it would be for us to capitalise on the opportunities which are coming up for Leeds in 2013 – things like the shopping centre, the arena and the extension to the White Rose Centre, which will be great for south Leeds.
“I think it’s an ideal opportunity for us to shrink the gap between the people who have a lot and those who don’t have much and we have to be careful to make suer that happens. Things like the arena will be great tools in realising that.
“I’d like to see the city come together to celebrate all that will happen in 2013 and it would be nice to think that all of these things will create jobs for some of the people we help.”
‘Our thoughts should be with the service personnel’
David Coulthard is manager of Cross Gates Shopping Centre and a former soldier who helped take back the Falkland Islands.
He said: “I think most new year resolutions are made about five to midnight and broken about half past.
“Seriously, I think if I were to make a resolution or have a wish then it would be to wish for peace in the new year and for service personnel to be with their families.
“There are a lot of people who, for one reason or another, are away from their families at this time, they need not be military service personnel, they could work on oil rigs or something else, the point is I think it’s only right we think about them while we are all having fun and over-indulging.
“There will be a lot of families who have gone through Christmas and the new year, having opened their presents but still staring at an empty space – there will still be one unopened present under the tree.
“I have been there myself, when I was serving in South Belfast. The only thing which is different for you is you have a different meal at dinner time.
“In some cases, service personnel may not return home until February, March or April, depending on the length of their tour.
“The other thing I would wish for is for it to stop raining.
“I think we’d all like to have a festive season and a new year without all these severe weather warnings and people not having to worry about their Christmas trees being washed out of the front door.”
‘I wish I could get rid of this Government’
Barrie Pepper is a beer writer who has written a number of books on real ale and the history of ale houses.
The Leeds 79-year-old had a number of good suggestions in terms of new year resolutions.
He said: “I can’t say I’ve ever done new year resolutions myself but if I was given some wishes then I think the first thing I would do is buy a new sound system for St Aiden’s, where I and my wife, Carolynne, are regulars. She is a lay minister and I am communications officer.
“I say I’d buy them a new sound system because the one they’ve got is terrible.
“The other thing I’d do is get rid of this Government.
“I joined the Labour Party in 1949 and I am still a member today.
“I went to Blackpool Grammar School and for a short time I attended Wath Grammar, which was the same school William Hague went to, although by the time he went there they’d changed to a comprehensive.
“I’d like to see Yorkshire win the championship again and in general I think when you get to my age, you can’t ask for any more than good conversation, good ale and a good pub.
“We have five children and 10 grandchildren, so we’re quite busy.