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NEWS ROUNDUP: ‘Civic Credits’ plan and Sheffield’s Bionic Boy



A plan to offer “civic credits” for using Leeds’s public parks, is among some of the ideas set to be discussed by Leeds city councillors next week.

It forms part of the council’s “smart cities” project, aimed at collecting large amounts of data, which it says would be used to improve services in the city.

A document, set to go before the council’s Infrastructure Scrutiny Board, also lists extra sensors around the city centre to monitor pedestrian and traffic levels; as well as an app to help road signals to give priority to cyclists.

The report, authored by Leeds City Council officers, said new technologies should be used to encourage healthier lifestyles to reduce the strain on health and social care services.

It stated: “Smart Leeds has a role to play in the ‘left shift’ towards increased self-care and prevention that can lead to earlier intervention that costs less and results in better outcomes for patients and citizens.

“Apps are playing an  increasingly important role, with more and more citizens downloading apps that can support them to reach targets and manage their conditions.

“Over the last year evidence has shown that many people are doing significantly less daily movement and as lockdown starts to ease we want to support people to access their local areas and communities and gain confidence to get back outdoors and move more.”

A system, set to be trialled in the city during the spring, is known as the Civic Dollars Rewards app, and will offer “civic credits” to visit local parks.

When someone who is signed up to the app visits Middleton Park, Roundhay Park, Temple Newsam or Kirkstall Abbey, they will receive a “credit”, or “civic dollar”, which can then be gifted to a charity, who can then redeem them for goods and services being donated by a participating company.

The document continues: “If the trial (expected to go live in the spring) is successful, funding options to support it longer term will be identified, and the number of users, participating charities and companies will be scaled up.”

Another area of focus for smart cities is traffic and pedestrian management in the city centre.

The document claims that more than 100 sensors made by London-based Vivacity Labs are being deployed around the city centre at “key junctions and crossings”.

The sensors, it says, will use “machine learning” to classify objects such as the number of pedestrians and vehicles waiting at crossings, and feed data into a centralised Leeds City Council system that will be able to optimise traffic signal timings.

It added: “This approach to optimisation is a significant step forward and will enable the signals to become much more responsive to walking and cycling demands. Additional benefits will include data on city centre footfall that will be available for use by other services such as city centre management.”

The council wants to eventually develop a “smart cycling” app to help cyclists gain “increased priority” through traffic signals, as well as being able to report problems around the network, such as fallen trees and broken glass.

The document claimed “phase three” of the smart cities project would create a new “purpose-built innovation space” on an area of currently disused land around 2023.

It concluded: “Data is an increasingly important feature of how the council delivers services. New technology allows us to better understand what is happening in our homes, communities and the wider city.

“Understanding where we need to deliver services and having the ability to be proactive can lead to reduced costs and improved outcomes. It’s important however that as an organisation we have the right tools, skills and capabilities and that we have the right governance in place to ensure we manage and process data in the right way.”

The smart city plans had previously been discussed by councillors at a meeting in February 2020.

A report from council officers had suggested the computer system used to control new LED street lights could also help the authority introduce new devices to help monitor issues such as gullies, road temperature and damp in council houses.

It led then-deputy leader of Leeds City Council James Lewis to insist that the measures did not constitute “spying”, comparing them instead to smoke detection systems.

Members of the council’s infrastructure scrutiny board will meet on Wednesday, April 7 to discuss the latest plans.

A schoolboy who was born with one arm is looking forward to “doing things other kids can do” after his teacher made him a special prosthetic limb for just £30.

Lewis McCaslin, 12, was given the “life-changing” appendage by Daniel Grant, a design technology teacher at Bradfield School in Sheffield, South Yorks.

The youngster had been born without a left forearm after complications at birth and was given a prosthetic arm by the NHS when he was five.

But Lewis, who has ADHD and Tourette's, did not find the arm comfortable as it was too heavy and was fixed in position, which restricted what he could do with it.

Mr Grant was impressed by Lewis’s enthusiasm and made him a new, lighter “bionic” arm using a 3D printer in the school’s DT department.

The arm has been designed to look like Iron Man, one of his favourite film characters, and attaches at his left elbow.

When Lewis raises his arm, the fist closes allowing him to grip things.

Lewis said: “I am so excited to be able to ride my bike in the summer and be like everybody else.”

His mum Nicki, 35, said: “He loves it. This has given him a real boost, it is definitely life-changing.

“He used to love riding his bike, but he had to lean over the handlebars with his stump.

“He hasn’t been allowed to ride it for a while because he had a bad accident due to how he had to lean over.

“Now he’ll be able to hold onto the handlebars using his new arm. He needs special adaptations to his bike first, but he can’t wait to get back on it.

“He can do little things that other kids can do, that we can all do but probably take for granted.

“When he cuts anything at school, for example, he has to hold it under his stump and use the scissors really close to his body, which can be dangerous, so it will make things safer too.”

Sheffield Wednesday fan Lewis has tried to live a normal life despite missing his left forearm and has adapted to it over the years.

But Nicki said Lewis is now looking forward to playing ball with his brothers Joshua, 15, Connor, 11 and Jamie, 10.

She added: “They’ve always been close and his brothers have always been protective of him, but now he can catch a ball with them.

“He’s still learning how to use it, but it’s just amazing. He’ll be able to feel like everybody else and it will help him do everything that other kids are able to do.”

Mr Grant researched the prosthetic and measured Lewis’ right arm then sent the measurements off to an engineer at a charity called Team UnLimbited.

They took the measurements and sent back the files for making the arm with a 3D printer, which Mr Grant then printed out and built at the school.

While it took Mr Grant a long time to make the arm, it only cost about £30 in parts.

Nicki added: “Just before Christmas, I got a phone call from the school to say that was what he wanted to do for him.

“I am just so grateful. There are not many people that go out of their way to give people a chance and they have given Lewis the chance to do things he has never been able to do before.

“I can’t thank him enough, he is so good with Lewis, so patient and helpful. It really will change his life.”

Mr Grant said: “I wanted to do this because I thought it could be a really positive part of what had been a pretty rubbish year.

"I thought this was an incredible opportunity to use the equipment we have here in school. It feels great to have been able to bless Lewis with this arm.

“It uses a reasonably complex mechanism that relies on the elbow joint and small amount of forearm on Lewis' left side.

"When Lewis raises his arm the fist closes, and Lewis is pretty capable at manoeuvring it so he can pick things up.”

Adrian May, headteacher at Bradfield, said: "It’s an amazing piece of work. It can bend and it can grip. The prosthetic he had was fixed and didn’t do anything.

"Lewis completely deserves it. He’s a lovely boy.

“It’s amazing what some of the teachers here can do.” (By Ashley Pemberton | SWNS)

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