Best City Ambition


The Best City Ambition is our overall vision for the future of Leeds.

At its heart is our mission to tackle poverty and inequality and improve quality of life for everyone who calls Leeds home.

We will achieve our mission by focusing on improving outcomes across the 3 Pillars of the Best City Ambition

  1. Health and wellbeing
  2. Inclusive growth
  3. Zero carbon

Our 3 Pillars are at the centre of the Best City Ambition. They capture the things that will make the biggest difference to improving people’s lives in Leeds – and many of the big challenges we face and the best opportunities we have relate to all 3.

The Best City Ambition aims to help partner organisations and local communities in every part of Leeds to understand and support the valuable contribution everyone can offer – no matter how big or small – to making Leeds the best city in the UK.

Our Team Leeds approach

Everyone in Leeds coming together to play their part is how we will achieve our ambitions. We want to build Team Leeds – made up of the people who live or work here, and those who champion the city nationally and internationally.

Team Leeds is about supporting one another to make Leeds the best it can be. It is about sharing ideas and learning, working in genuine partnership, being ambitious about our collective social and environmental impact, and organisations sharing their resources and assets as we work towards common goals.

We will continue to adopt the following ways of working to drive a Team Leeds approach:

  1. Building mutual respect and understanding through co-production and co-design.
  2. Shifting power to citizens through vibrant and sustainable community social infrastructure, and tackling systemic inequalities.
  3. Being evidence-led, ambitious and optimistic for the future of Leeds – fostering innovation, creativity and a learning culture in a digital world.
  4. Recognising the impact of society and our economy on the health of people in Leeds at different stages of their lives.
  5. Everyone playing their part – businesses and public institutions recognising their responsibilities and investing in social entrepreneurship.
  6. Investing in prevention and using asset-based approaches to build community capacity, focusing on what people can do, not what they can’t.

The 3 pillars of our Best City Ambition

Health and wellbeing

In 2030 Leeds will be a healthy and caring city for everyone: where those who are most likely to experience poverty improve their mental and physical health the fastest, people are living healthy lives for longer, and are supported to thrive from early years to later life.

To realise this ambition, Team Leeds will focus on:

  • investing to ensure better and more equal access to essential services in health and learning, developed with and accessible for every community across Leeds
  • ensuring children in all areas of the city have the best start in life and enjoy a healthy, happy and friendly childhood
  • delivering a safe and welcoming city for people of all ages and from all communities in which residents feel more secure and have good friends
  • enabling every community in the city to have safe connected spaces, streets and paths to access a local park or green space, providing somewhere to be active and to play, helping to improve mental and physical health across all ages
  • working with housing providers, landlords, tenants and communities to improve poor quality housing, so everyone can have a home which supports good health, wellbeing and educational outcomes

Inclusive growth

In 2030 Leeds will have an economy that works for everyone, where we work to tackle poverty and ensure that the benefits of economic growth are distributed fairly across the city, creating opportunities for all.

To realise this ambition, Team Leeds will focus on:

  • ensuring young people and those changing career in later life have the skills and job opportunities which enable them to realise their potential and thrive
  • our businesses and social enterprises being innovative, creative, ambitious and connected to the local community they are in, with access to the skills they need to boost productivity and succeed
  • understanding that place matters, and positive identity, culture, heritage and pride in our communities are vital assets in a sustainable future for the city and its local centres
  • growing cross-city research capacity and making Leeds a test bed for innovation and new technologies, including in healthcare and the delivery of a just transition to net zero
  • Leeds being an outward looking global city with our people and businesses operating on the world stage, mindful of our impact on the planet and addressing the biggest societal challenges of our time, and where we welcome inward investors that share our values

Zero carbon

In 2030 Leeds will have made rapid progress towards carbon neutrality, reducing our impact on the planet and doing so in a fair way which improves standards of living in all the city’s communities.

To realise this ambition, Team Leeds will focus on:

  • delivering a low-carbon and affordable transport network which encourages people to be physically active and reduces reliance on the private car, helping people get around the city easily and safely
  • promoting a fair and sustainable food system in which more produce is grown locally, and everyone can enjoy a healthy diet
  • addressing the challenges of housing quality and affordability, tackling fuel poverty and creating vibrant places where residents have close access to services and amenities
  • joining with local communities, landowners and partners to protect nature and enhance habitats for wildlife
  • investing in our public spaces, green and blue infrastructure to enable faster transition to a green economy while improving quality of life for residents

Team Leeds breakthrough priorities

In Leeds, bringing new groups of people together to combine their skills and experiences in a different way has helped us to tackle some of the biggest challenges we face. People are drawn from across different services, organisations and communities and together agree a clear end goal they are aiming for. We have called this our ‘breakthrough’ approach – the way in which by working together we make a change or improvement which we have not been able to achieve before.

In 2022 we will establish five new breakthrough priorities, responding to the challenges and goals set out in the Best City Ambition. Each will be driven by a diverse group of people drawn from all parts of Leeds.

  1. Better homes for health and wellbeing
  2. Exploring ways in which the city’s housing providers can act to reduce pressure on the health system and reduce delays in hospital discharges.

  3. Promoting mental health in the community
  4. Providing training to help people who run local community spaces feel confident asking about their customers' mental health and being able to refer them for support if needed.

  5. Inclusive green jobs
  6. Collaborating as anchor institutions to take a whole-city approach to better harness our collective capital investments, not least those aimed at pursuing our shared net zero carbon targets.

  7. Learning outcomes for social mobility
  8. With a focus on early years, working to ensure every child in Leeds has a good start in life.

  9. Responding to the cost of living crisis
  10. Working together across sectors to harness the capacity and capability in the city, its communities and those with lived experience to develop a city solution to welfare provision and addressing the cost of living crisis – with a specific focus on food, fuel, housing and digital inclusion.

The big challenges facing Leeds

Like every large city in the UK, Leeds is always responding to a range of complex challenges and the Best City Ambition sets out how we will do that.

Here we summarise what some of those big challenges are, informed by conversations with citizens and partners as well as from recent research and analysis through the Leeds Joint Strategic Assessment.

The challenges are a key starting point for the development of the Best City Ambition. We have developed a life-course approach to the challenges, meaning we consider the biggest issues at each stage of a person’s life from early years to older age, whilst also ensuring we cover the 3 Pillars of the ambition.

Starting well

  • Close educational attainment gaps between most and least advantaged young people, against the legacy of COVID-19 disruption and the population profile of children and young people becoming more diverse and focused in communities most likely to experience poverty.
  • Ensure coherent post-16 education and skills provision for the ‘bulge’ cohorts now beginning to go through secondary school.

Living well – Health and wellbeing

  • Break the link between poverty and inequality, and poor health and wellbeing outcomes, exacerbated by the pandemic - from prevention and enabling of more healthy and active living, to tackling wider determinants such as employment, education, housing and the environment, and improving access to health and care.
  • Respond to the mental health crisis which deepened during the pandemic, particularly affecting young adults and women; shielding older adults; adults with pre-existing mental health conditions, and Black, Asian and ethnic minority adults.

Living well – Thriving communities

  • Ensure the sustainability and self-reliance of communities through asset and strength-based approaches and meaningful community engagement, that builds community capacity and resilience, promotes good friendships and inspires citizens to find their own solutions and change the things they believe need changing in their community.
  • Address challenges of housing quality and affordability against the trends of rising housing costs and the concentration of older poor quality housing in low income communities, combined with the significant expansion of the private rented sector in inner city areas.

Living well – Climate change

  • Make significant progress towards our ambitious net zero carbon target focusing on: improving energy efficiency, promoting healthy and sustainable diets, and prioritising active travel with walking and cycling as an easy and first choice.
  • Ensure a public transport system that is safe, active, accessible, clean and energy-efficient to help people get around the city.

Working well – Inclusive growth

  • Equip people and businesses with skills and life-long learning which enable them to realise their potential and renew their skills-needs as the world of work continues to change and our workforce ages.
  • Ensure economic growth and opportunity is widely distributed across all communities and areas of the city, against a backdrop of accelerated changes in working practices and potential changes to the economic geography of the city post-pandemic.

Ageing well

  • Design accessible neighbourhoods with quality services nearby to enable our aging population to thrive while it is becoming more diverse, with a changing socio-economic profile, house-ownership less dominant, people working longer over a more varied career pattern, and with carers themselves become older.
  • Close the stark gaps in healthy life expectancy and premature mortality between different areas of the city against the backdrop of a more diverse ageing population, recognising the role a healthy and active lifestyle can play in keeping people well for longer.

Achieving our ambition: Strategies, partners and evidence

The Best City Ambition aims to help partner organisations and local communities in every part of Leeds to understand the contribution they can make to achieving our shared goals – working together as Team Leeds.

To support everyone’s efforts and ensure that together we can deliver real progress for people in Leeds, we now need to:

  • refresh key strategies and plans on an ongoing basis so they fully reflect and progress the Best City Ambition
  • draw on the evaluation of ABCD and working in communities reviews to work with citizens, the third sector, community committees, local care partnerships, and other key stakeholders to ensure the ambition is meaningful at a local level and rooted in Leeds communities, guiding prioritisation and investment
  • continue to develop a broader, more consistent evidence-base to both inform interventions and monitor their impact

Leeds already benefits from strong networks and partnerships, some which have a city-wide remit while others are more focused on specific geographical communities or groups of people. These partnerships will have a key part to play, so together we will ensure their role in supporting the Best City Ambition is clear, and that different partnership groups are connecting as needed.

The breadth and diversity of our city partnerships is a big strength – one that enables more people from a wider range of backgrounds to contribute. Continuing to find ways to work with citizens from different backgrounds in new and innovative ways is crucial to our ambition, especially ensuring the voices of people with lived experience of our big challenges are heard.

We will review existing city strategies in response to the Best City Ambition guided by the 3 Pillars and aim, over time, to reduce the overall number of strategies so we can better join up our actions and focus effort on what will make the biggest difference to people’s lives.

An important part of this will involve updating how we measure the outcomes of the work Team Leeds does, as we strengthen our understanding of Leeds and the way our communities are changing. Our new tool, the Leeds Social Progress Index, will provide new capability to track the impact of our interventions and highlight the social and environmental wellbeing of our citizens and communities.

The data and analysis underpinning these assessments of progress will be made public on the Leeds Observatory whenever possible so is available to anyone who can benefit from its use.

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