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Departee’d but not forgotten

Following a £185,000  loss on the Grand Departy  last year, the Council is now offering apprenticeships in "event management"

Grand Departee

How the York Council managed to lose £187,000 on the infamous “Grand Departee” concert staged in July 2014.

An independent audit has revealed the true level of the confusion and poor decision taking which surrounded the Grand Departee concert held at Monks Cross in July 2014

Although tAudit quote 1acked onto the TdF cycle race, the concert was in effect a stand-alone event.

The auditor’s report says that there was little documentary evidence to help their enquiry and many of the officers and members involved had subsequently left the Authority.

Most of the blame for the shambles is placed at the door of the last – Labour dominated –  “Cabinet”.

“It is concerning that officers were expected to undertake inherently risky commercial activity without a formal member decision”.

Although it has been estimated that the TdF injected £8.3 million into the local economy, little of this directly benefited taxpayers who picked up a total bill for £1.8 million.Audit quote 2

We pointed out at the time that the event was heading for a financial disaster

 It remains unclear why the Council failed to cut its losseson the event when it became clear that ticket sales were derisory.

So have the lessons been learnt?

TAudit quote 3he principle of open decision making with properly costed and monitored plans is probably the most important.

Perhaps the nearest current project with similar variables is the plan to establish a “Community Stadium” in the City. This also has grown like topsie with an initial zero taxpayer’s subsidy (other than the stadium site land) having grown to £8 million.

The inclusion of an additional swimming pool, which will in effect be in competition with the Yearsley pool, suggests that not all lessons have yet been embedded in Council thinking

Questions raised about “Rose Theatre” reconstruction timetable

Reconstructed Rose Theatre planned for Castle car park

It seems that the announcement on Saturday – through the pages of the Yorkshire Post – took many people by surprise. Tourist organisations, the local authority, businesses and other media outlets were left playing “catch up” as they scrambled to give their take, on the event, to a receptive audience.

It seems that the leaked information came from the prospective producers of the plays and may have been prompted by concerns that the temporary use of the Castle car park was due to be mentioned – unspecifically – in the York Councils Forward Plan which was published on Monday.

The plan says that the project will be discussed at the Councils Executive meeting taking place on 31st August. The background papers for that meeting will be published in a couple of weeks’ time.

Sources at the Council claim that there is still much work to be done to come up with an effective alternative parking/transport plan to make up for the loss of capacity and income from the Castle car park – York’s busiest.

Barley Hall off Stonegate

There is limited spare capacity on most days of the year at the adjacent Coppergate centre multi storey (287 spaces) and St Georges Field (150 spaces) but nothing like sufficient to make up for a loss of 360 spaces at Castle. The Council has recently closed the Castle Mills car park leaving private sector options like Garden Place, Tanner Row and George Street anticipating a big hike in income.

But it is the timing of the announcement that leads to concerns.

Arguably any debate about a project of this size should have been concluded months ago.

 An “Elizabethan” themed summer tourist season could provide a major boost for period visitor attractions, like the Barley Hall and the Merchant Adventurers Hall, while also helping to maintain high customer numbers at hotels and restaurants.

During its Shakespearian season, the Rose project hopes to attract circa 50,000 paying customers.

To put that in context, it is nearly three times more than attended last year’s Mystery Plays at the Minister.

Marketing of the event needs to start soon.

Merchant Adventurers Hall – a stones throw from the proposed Rose Theatre location

Major hotels and visitor attractions in York are already drafting their programmes and brochures for 2018. It would be a shame if this important event wasn’t given the prominence that it deserves.

One of the reasons why the Mystery Plays didn’t attract the hoped for level of attendance was lack of early publicity in key Far East and American markets. Decisions on 2018 long haul holiday destinations will be taken by many potential visitors over the next few weeks.

So, if there is frustration at the pace of progress on the Rose Theatre project, we can understand it. The York Council and Visit York have a relatively short time to maximise the economic value that a quality “Elizabethan” summer experience could bring to the City.

As we saw with the TdF “Grand Departee concert fiasco, long term planning is all important.

Hopefully the lessons have been learned.

Poppleton Bar Park and Ride site still not completed

The York Council has missed yet another deadline for the “final” completion of the Park and Ride site at Poppleton.

Poppleton park and ride car park 28th June 2014

The Park and Ride service was opened prematurely by the Council 3 weeks ago although essential signage, traffic signals, parking bays, landscaping  and improvements to the A1237/A59 junction had not been completed.

Not surprisingly, despite the novelty of being able to ride on the City’s first electric buses, user numbers have been very low.

Most bus services are running empty.

By Saturday evening carriageway surfacing had been completed near the roundabout but lane restrictions remain in place as work to access footpaths and the cycle path has yet to be finished.

The Park and Ride site itself resembles the set of Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

It will present a poor backdrop for the TV pictures of the Tour de France riders who are scheduled to pass the site next Sunday morning.

TV coverage is scheduled to be beamed world wide and was one of the main reasons given by the Council for its £1.6 million investment in the event.

The Council has failed to provide any explanation for the latest delays nor for its decision to open the Park and Ride facility before work was completed.

The failure is the latest in a sting of misadventures which saw that Council forced to abandon plans to turn Monk Stray into a camping site and which has seen very low ticket sales for their highly expensive Grand Departee concert being held at Huntington Stadium on Friday.

They have, however, now added the popular local band HUGE to the concert programme no doubt ensuring that the Council’s propaganda machine will be able to refer to a huge attendance at the event!

Poppleton park and ride road works 28th June 2014