So now the £34.28 million York Libraries contract has been let

A Council official has used his delegated powers to let one of the City’s largest ever leisure contracts. The supplier is confirmed as the current Library management company. The decision was delegated on the basis that the tender received was within the agreed budget. In reality it wasn’t and the Council subsequently had to hike its contribution during its recent budget meeting.

No details of the terms of the contract or the expected outputs have been published. The decision was taken at a “behind closed doors” meeting on 1st March. The Council had however already announced that the contract had been let on 19th February!The old contract was due to terminate on 31st March 2019.

While we hold the York Explore team in high regard – a recent independent report gave them a good review in comparison with libraries in other City’s https://t.co/9R3KnthqUF – we are less than convinced about the transparency of the process used by the Council

The degtails released so far by the Council are reproduced below.

“On 21 June 2018 the Council’s Executive agreed key aspects of the service specification for a new contract for library and archive services. It was agreed that the term of the contract would be 15 years with an option for a 5 year extension.

Authority was delegated to the Director of Children, Education and Communities authority to:

? Develop and implement the procurement framework in line with the terms of the Executive report, and

? Award the contract at the end of the process provided that the price is within budget

Two bids were received. These were rigorously assessed. The financial assessment was undertaken by a team of officers from Corporate Finance. The quality assessment was undertaken by a team of officers with expertise in the relevant areas, supported by two external experts, former heads of libraries and archive services respectively.

The assessment of the bids was on the basis of 60% quality and 40% price.
Neither bid as submitted was deemed to be compliant since neither was assessed as being deliverable within the Council’s affordability limit.
The Competitive Procedure with Negotiation (CPN) under regulation 29 of the Public Contract Regulations 2015 was then used within a second bidding round. This procedure was selected as the best option for CYC to assess the minimum additional resources required to secure the contract in line with our specification and within the original timetable.

Both bidders agreed to take part in the CPN on the basis that an uplift in the affordability limit may subsequently be agreed by the Council. A revised affordability limit was set for round 2, in agreement with the Director of Resources, at £2.432m per annum for years 1 to 4, reducing to £2.232m for years 5-15, a total budget of £34.28m over the 15 years of the contract.

The procedure allowed CYC officers to meet both bidders twice before a second tendering phase commenced in order to provide feedback to each bidder on why their bid had been rejected so that they could subsequently make changes to their bids to make them compliant for round two.
The second tender stage was conducted between 14 and 28 January 2019 and both bidders submitted bids.

The highest scoring bid in terms of quality was that submitted by Explore Libraries and Archives Mutual Ltd. This was also the lowest priced bid.
Budget Council on 28 February allocated additional resources commensurate with the increased affordability limit set out above.

The tendered price is now, therefore, within budget and the contract can be awarded to Explore Libraries and Archives Mutual Ltd.”

Yorspace” development set to get planning permission

…but concerns remain about parking, security, affordability and funding

Council officials are recommending that 19 homes, to be built by the “Yorspace” cooperative on part of the Lowfield site, should be given planning permission.

Yorspace plans

A report to a meeting taking place on 20th March reveals that objections to the plan were received from local residents and the Save Lowfields Playing Field Action Group  who were concerned about the height of the buildings, security, inadequate car parking, boundary fences and the lack of affordable housing in the proposal.  Some residents have questioned the actions of the Council in selling the plot of land, which is located near little Tudor Road, for 1/3 of its market value.

The latter objection has been reinforced since it was revealed that there will be no “affordable” units provided on the site. Rents will be at commercial levels. The rent on a one bedroomed flat will be around £520 pcm rising to over £880 pcm for a 4 bedroomed house. These are comparable to the rents charged by private landlords in the area.

It will be for the Councils auditors to say whether the sale is a legitimate one but, given the numbers on the local housing waiting list, it is difficult to see why the Council did not either develop the land itself (as it is doing elsewhere on Lowfields) or ask a Housing Association to take the project  on.

In either case rents would have been around half the commercial level.

One issue that has not been resolved is the proposal to restrict the number of off-street parking spaces to 12. This is less than one per property. Many 4 bedroomed homes now have 2 or 3 vehicle owners living in the property. The concern is that “overspill” car parking will put further pressure on spaces in Tudor Road, Kingsthorpe and the rest of the new Lowfields development.

The developers hope the availability of good bus services in the area will reduce car usage. However, the number 4 service only travels one way down Tudor Road.

Any parent will know the pressure that teenagers, upon reaching driving age, can exert as they seek to get their first personal transport. So the cooperatives “issue resolution processes” are likely to be fully tested if they seek to restrict car ownership at their properties.

The planning committee meeting is taking place on Wednesday 20th March at 5:00pm at West Offices. Residents may make representations by registering to speak at the meeting &/or by Email to Christopher.elliott@york.gov.uk

Volunteers give over 3450 hours to help children and young people in York

Volunteers in York gave over 3450 hours of their time last year to help support young people and their families in the city.

The evaluation from City of York Council looked at volunteers across key areas in children’s services including Mentors; Appropriate Adults (supporting young people in police custody); Community Panel Members (working with the Youth Offending Team); Independent Visitors (supporting young people in foster care; and Early Years support volunteers.

The 200 volunteers range in age from 18 to 77, with some – particularly students -volunteering for relatively short periods of time, and others volunteering with the same service for years.

For general information on volunteering in York visit www.york.gov.uk/volunteering or for opportunities with children and young people email Alison.cammiss@york.gov.uk

York awarded £300k to improve links between Scarborough Bridge,York railway station and city centre

York has been awarded £300k to make further improvements to cycle and walkways between Scarborough Bridge, York railway station and the city centre.

Today’s announcement follows a successful bid by the West Yorkshire Combined Authority and City of York Council through the Government’s Transforming Cities Fund.

These improvements will include:

  • An enhanced crossing of Bootham linking into the cycle route through to the district hospital.
  • Improving the riverside cycle route on the Esplanade side of the river.
  • Replacing the steps from St Mary’s to Marygate Lane with a ramp.

The funding will support the £4m upgrade of Scarborough Bridge, which is nearing completion. Works are being carried out by Network Rail to replace the footbridge attached to Scarborough (rail) Bridge on behalf of the council.

The new bridge will greatly improve this crossing and connect cycle/walkways directly to York Railway Station as well as providing access for wheelchair users. This additional funding will be used to improve further links between the bridge and the city centre, the hospital and York Central.

For more information about cycling or walking in York visit: www.itravelyork.info/ 

More progress with Foxwood Project clean up campaign

Corlett Court paths have now been edged
as have those in Morrell Court. Some of the landscaping stones are due to be removed this month
& Spurr Court
We’ve reported the leaning tree on Herman Walk. We are concerned that the high winds could bring it down.
The winds have also caused litter to accumulated under some hedges. Reported by us today
as have potholes on the carriageway at the Foxwood shops on Beagle Ridge Drive

Council heading for confrontation over games area demolition plan

Muddle over future of Lincoln Court

According to papers released today, York Council planners are prepared to enlist the support of the Secretary of State in their bid to demolish the all-weather games area (MUGA) near Lincoln Court. Council officials claim that the children’s play facility must go as part of their plans to build an additional 15 “extra care” flats on the adjacent site.

Sport England, the resident’s association, local Councillors and residents have all objected to the plan. They feel an alternative games area should be provided before the existing facility is lost.  They have pointed to the Thanet Road Sports area as a possible alternative location.

Council officials have had over a year to sort out an alternative but are understood to have only recently contacted the Acorn Rugby Club who lease most of the alternative site.

Sport England effectively has a veto on the removal of facilities. If the Council wanted to demolish the existing MUGA without their agreement the they would need the approval of the Secretary of State to do so. It seems that they are prepared to risk such a confrontation.

Hopes that an Executive meeting to be held on 18th March would broker an agreement on the dispute over play provision are now fading

The move is the latest in a series of decisions which have gradually seen sports facilities and open spaces eroded in the Westfield area. Last year planning permission was given to build on the Lowfields playing field. A local bowling green faced the same fate while the Hob Moor school playing field is being reduced in size. 5 years ago the Council agreed to build on the Our Lady’s playing fields.

Figures produced by the Council, in support of its Local Plan proposals, reveal that there is a deficiency in all forms of open space and sports provision in the Westfield ward. The ward now also has the highest levels of child obesity in the City

The planning meeting is taking place on Wednesday 20th March at 5:00pm. The background papers for the meeting can be viewed by clicking here Residents may make representations by registering to speak at the meeting or by Email to Christopher.elliott@york.gov.uk

The issues are before the committee again because an earlier planng permission incorrectly identified the new “apartments” as being for residents requiring “extra care”.  The latest application adds to the confusion as the report also refers to the new units as being for “extra care”. In reality 15 extra care units would not be economically viable because of staffing requirements.

The scheme has also been criticised for reducing the amount of garden space available for residents and for providing inadequate off street parking space for visitors.

Council set to trim some grassed amenity areas

In response to a Freedom of Information request, the York Council has issued a list of grassed areas that it hopes to “edge” this year.

The areas are all in the ownership of the housing and leisure departments. The list can be downloaded from here,

The request came after the Foxwood Residents Association appointed contractors to tidy up amenity area paths in their area. “The Foxwood Project” involves work on grassed areas like the Thanet Road Sports area. It is now well advanced, although recent rain has hindered progress.

Grassed verges reman a concern both in Foxwood and in other parts of west York. These haven’t been included in a formal programme of work for several years following maintenance funding cuts. The result is that several verges have now extended over adjacent public footpaths causing obstructions. Residents in the Ridgeway area recently petitioned for their paths to be “edged”.

Disappearing footpaths

The Council says that it is drawing up a programme of verge work and that it hopes to include Foxwood Lane and Bellhouse Way in the programme.

It is understood that the Council has used “community payback” schemes to make limited progress on the backlog of work.

In our view contractors need to be brought in to tackle the worst of the problem verges.

They’re a particular hazard for older pedestrians where adjacent hedges are also overgrown.

More parking spaces to be provided on Tudor Road

The Council has relented in the face of pressure from local residents and has agreed to provide an additional 3 off street parking spaces on Tudor Road.

Location of proposed additional verge parking spaces on Tudor Road

The original plans only showed two spaces being provided in the rear garden of a block of flats. Now this is being increased by three. They will be constructed on the verges about halfway down the road.

The plan goes some way to compensating for the three spaces which will be lost when the access road for the Lowfield development is constructed.

Even two extra spaces will not be enough to satisfy the pent up demand which is already apparent in the area with verges and forecourts being pressed into service as impromptu parking areas.

The parking problem is likely to get worse when the new development is occupied. The “Yorspace” section of the development site has been criticised as it will only provide 12 parking spaces for 19 new homes. This may force some occupiers to park on Tudor Road

Separately the Council has now revealed that the “Yorspace” homes will not be categorised as “affordable”.  This calls into question why the land for the development was sold by the Council at a heavily discounted rate. The discount means that taxpayers will effectively be subsidising the occupiers of the properties although in some cases they may be relativity wealthy individuals.

 

 

Business Rates reduction scheme gets nod

Council reveals who pays the most and least in rates

Tesco has largest rates bill in York

The Government scheme to reduce business rates by 33% for medium sized retailers has been approved. New bills are expected to be sent out shortly.

The decision comes as the Council lifts the veil on business rates (NNDR) in York. A report to a meeting next week says that 2000 local businesses are entirely exempt from paying rates. (Businesses with a rateable value of less than £12,000 are exempt from paying rates).

The bottom 50% of businesses pay an average of less than £1000 per annum.

The biggest bill is paid by Tesco which alone has a bill in York of over £3 million.

7 of the top 10 charges are for superstores, including those at Vangarde.

The top 3 non-retail rates bills are for Nestle (£1.4m), Defra (£930k) and CYC’s West Offices (£730k).

Hotels are large contributors, The Grand having a net charge of £680k, The Principal paying £547k and the StayCity Aparthotel on Paragon Street contributing £343k.

Within the city centre, the highest charges are paid by Marks and Spencer for their Parliament Street store (£527k), Primark (£366k) and Boots (£355k).

The highest rateable value of £7m is for the University of York, although the University is a charity and receives 80% relief on its liability.

Coney Street and Parliament Street still have the highest rateable values. Click here to see a list of the values in each City Centre street.

The York Council is increasingly dependant on business rate income to fund public services.

The report reveals that, although rates are payable on empty properties (after 3 months), the BHS store on Coney Street has been exempted from the charge by the Valuation Office. There are other exemptions mainly for charities and amateur sports clubs.

Business rate levels are set by central government. Income is shared between the local authority and central government.

28% of the York Council’s budget is now funded from business rates .

The Council is expected to submit an expression of interest in the new “Future High Street Fund” at a meeting being held on 22nd March.

NB. The Council refused recently to publish a complete list of long term business rate debtors.