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COMPETITION HOTS UP AS THOUSANDS VOTE FOR THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEE OF THE YEAR

The Local Government Channel and LGA revealed the finalists of the first ever Employee of the Year Award for local government workers just two weeks ago and, in true X-Factor style, the public have voted in their thousands for the person they believe to be the public sector hero of 2006.

The latest up-to-the-minute poll places Garry Atkins, Senior Community Development Officer for Harrogate Borough Council in first position, narrowly overtaking Lynne Debazzi, Jobs, Education and Training (JET) Business Coordinator for Liverpool City Council, despite her early storm into the lead last week. Geoff Green, Special Service Librarian from Devon County Council has beaten off stiff competition from Julie Blagden, Neighbourhood Manager for Salford City Council to claim third position. Hot on their heels are Lyndon Elsey, Assistant Registrar of Cemeteries and Crematorium for the City and County of Swansea in fifth place, followed by Sue Butler, Environmental Health Technical Officer for Gosport Borough Council.

With the numbers so close and the votes continuing to roll in thick and fast there is everything to play for, so remember to show your support by voting for your favourite local government employee online at The Local Government Channel website – www.thelocalgovernmentchannel.com – or simply text LGA followed by the first name of the finalist to 88600*. In full support of the Employee of the Year Award, ex-bin man turned X-Factor star Andy Abraham has kindly agreed to give away fifty copies of his recently released album – ‘The Impossible Dream’. Voters will automatically be entered into a prize draw to win a copy.

Can’t decide who to vote for? Visitors to the website will now be able to view a short film about each of the six finalists and their work and, this week, The Local Government Channel – Sky 181 – will begin broadcasting highlights from the films from 6.30pm Monday to Friday and at midday on Sunday. Thereafter, a different finalist film will be shown each week right up until the LGA’s Annual Conference in Bournemouth (4th –7th July 2006), where the winner will be announced on the final day of the event and presented with a cheque for £500.

In addition, the Community Channel – www.communitychannel.org – will screen the films on Sky 539/Telewest 233/Freeview 87 (6-9am) and NTL 14 and 511 until the final day of the conference.

-Ends-

Notes for Editors:

The race for the Employee of the Year Award (figures taken at midday on 15th May 2006)

First place - Garry Atkins, Senior Community Development Officer, Harrogate Borough Council

Second place - Lynne Debbazi, Jobs, Education and Training (JET) Business Coordinator, Liverpool City Council

Third place - Geoff Green, Special Service Librarian, Devon County Council

Fourth place - Julie Blagden, Neighbourhood Manager, Salford City Council

Fifth place - Lyndon Elsey, Assistant Registrar of Cemeteries and Crematorium, City and County of Swansea

Sixth place - Sue Butler, Environmental Health Technical Officer, Gosport Borough Council

The finalists

• Geoff Green, Special Service Librarian, Devon County Council
For over 36 years, Geoff has been delivering library services to people who have difficulty getting to or using their local library. Geoff arranges for collections to be placed at residential homes, sheltered housing and other establishments and, with the help of the WRVS, the delivery of books to people who are housebound due to age and/or disability. Geoff also won a British Telecom grant of £25,000 which enabled Devon County Council to pilot ways in which people with learning disabilities could be helped to use library services.

>>> To vote text: LGA GEOFF to 88600*

• Sue Butler, Environmental Health Technical Officer, Gosport Borough Council
Sue’s exceptional ability to relate to people of all ages has proved invaluable in ensuring the success of initiatives such as Walking to Health for senior citizens, the Beach Safety Workshop and Junior Citizen Project, delivering life skills training for children. Most recently, Sue became aware of a local woman who had been date-raped and very quickly organised and ran a campaign, with the support of local pubs and clubs, to raise awareness and prevent further attacks by giving away free “spikeys”.

>>> To vote text: LGA SUE to 88600*

• Garry Atkins, Senior Community Development Officer, Harrogate Borough Council
Winner of the Regional Crime Beat Competition 2005, Garry has been congratulated by the police for his crime reducing work with young people. Working tirelessly and showing a remarkable level of dedication and commitment, Garry leads the Fairfax Fishing Club in his free time – meeting at 5.30am on a Saturday morning – to help build relationships with disadvantaged young people. Sensitive to the needs of the wider community, on Christmas day, Garry cooks lunch for elderly people who might otherwise spend the day on their own.

>>> To vote text: LGA GARRY to 88600*

• Lynne Debbazi, Jobs, Education and Training (JET) Business Coordinator, Liverpool City Council
Lynne improves the lives of local people in some of the most deprived areas of Liverpool. She recently secured jobs for 100 local unemployed people at a new Tesco store, many of whom had never worked before and/or have disabilities, as well as increasing Sony’s recruitment of local people by 400%. Often going above the call of duty, Lynne gave up a day’s holiday to help a profoundly deaf client with a job application form. Lynne is a single mother of two and is currently battling leukaemia.

>>> To vote text: LGA LYNNE to 88600*

• Julie Blagden, Neighbourhood Manager, Salford City Council
With the aim of improving the lives of local people, breaking down barriers and promoting social inclusion, Julie successfully mediated between three separate Yemeni groups to create one organisation to speak for all. She then helped to secure over £100,000 to deliver services such as English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) and computer classes. In the process, Julie learnt about Yemeni culture and Islam, and even helped to serve food at Eid celebrations. Often working evenings and weekends, Julie’s commitment to her the role is unwavering.

>>> To vote text: LGA JULIE to 88600*

• Lyndon Elsey, Assistant Registrar of Cemeteries and Crematorium, City and County of Swansea
Often praised for going the extra mile, Lyndon recently helped a woman to trace her grandfather’s grave using municipal records, council archives, library and death certification, despite knowing only that he died in the 1940s/50s in Swansea. In his own time, he tended to the grave, took photographs and sent them on, and even met up with the woman in person to escort her to her grandfather’s final resting place. Lyndon’s patience, understanding and empathy have earned him 34 letters and messages of gratitude from clients.

>>> To vote text: LGA LYNDON to 88600*

*Texts cost 25p plus standard network charges

The Local Government Channel broadcast schedule

Week Commencing:---------Film---------
15th May 2006---Highlights of all six films
22nd May 2006---Geoff Green, Special Service Librarian, Devon County Council
29th May 2006---Sue Butler, Environmental Health Technical Officer, Gosport Borough Council
5th June 2006---Garry Atkins, Senior Community Development Officer, Harrogate Borough Council
12th June 2006---Lynne Debbazi, Jobs, Education and Training (JET) Business Coordinator, Liverpool City Council
19th June 2006---Julie Blagden, Neighbourhood Manager, Salford City Council
26th June 2006---Lyndon Elsey, Assistant Registrar of Cemeteries and Crematorium, City and County of Swansea
3rd July 2006---Recap of all six films

About The Local Government Channel

Aimed at the local government community, The Local Government Channel broadcasts weekly programmes, combining news, views and interviews with the movers and shakers in local government. Programmes can be viewed daily on Sky Channel 181 at 6.30pm Monday to Friday and at midday on Sunday. Viewers can also catch the programmes any time day or night through a new dedicated web portal –

www.thelocalgovernmentchannel.com

About hbl media

Launched and run by senior BBC journalists, hbl media is the leading television production company in the local government sector. Having launched LGAtv, SOLACEtv, CIPFAtv and many others, it is widely respected for having brought the power of television to bear on the issues facing the public sector. With offices in London and the USA, hbl media is currently bringing this expertise to bear on a global scale.

About the Local Government Association

The Local Government Association (LGA), formed on 1 April 1997, promotes the interests of English and Welsh local authorities – a total of just under 500 authorities. These represent over 50 million people and spend around £74 billion a year on local services.

For further information please contact:

Vicky Hayden
hbl media
Tel:020 7612 1830
Email: vicky@hblmedia.com