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.”

Council contracts and the Library service

Lots of new entries on the public contracts register for the city of York Council (https://procontract.due-north.com/ContractsRegister/Index)  but nothing for local Libraries other than repairs.

Register of York Council contracts 19th Feb 2019

The Council has, however, issued a media release saying that a new 15 year, £32 million value, contract has been awarded to the existing Library Service provider . That would be good news but still leaves a lot of unanswered questions.

Not least will be the reliance to be placed on “volunteers” helping to provide the service.

It appears that only two tenders were received to run the service. The other is believed to have been from GLL who currently run the Councils sports facilities.

The Council’s media release says,

The new contract, which will commence on the 1st April 2019, will ensure that the city’s existing libraries can remain open over the next 15 years, in line with the agreed vision.

The announcement follows a procurement process to decide which organisation would be best placed to deliver the city’s vision for its 14 libraries and world renowned archives service.

At a previous meeting, the Council’s Executive agreed to provide an additional £300,000 to support the new £32 million library services contract.  The additional funding follows feedback from both bidders involved in the procurement process, and will ensure that all the city’s existing libraries can remain open over the next 15 years of the contract. Full Council will be asked to agree the additional funding at a meeting later this month (28 February).

Plans for the future of the library and archive service in York were shaped by the results of a citywide consultation in 2017/18.

Key proposals for the future service include:

  • York Explore Library to continue as the flagship service centre, including the archives and local history centre
  • Explore Gateways offered at a variety of venues, preferably with cafe facilities, and co-located with other community activities where possible, with local communities invited to be involved in their operation.
  • Virtual libraries providing a 24/7 online service, involving e books and e magazines, with virtual spaces for people to share ideas.
  • Providing reading cafes, encouraging the joy of reading especially for those who may feel uncomfortable in a more traditional library.

Acomb Explore Library set to get £2 million boost

Acomb Explore Library

Papers released by the Council this week suggest that a major upgrade to the Acomb Explore Library will be completed by 2022. £4 million has been set aside for works at the Acomb and Clifton Libraries in the Councils budget.

The news will be welcomed in Acomb. It is 10 years since land was acquired to the rear of the library which was intended to accommodate an extension. The hope was then that the building would become a “one stop shop” for public services. It would have partly replaced the neighbourhood “Acomb Office”  which Labour closed in 2013. There was hope that policing and health activities might relocate to the site.

The Council says, that the priority is “for investment in Acomb, to build on the great success of that Explore Centre, and in Clifton to transform the quality of service in that area. Individual business cases will be brought forward during 19/20 demonstrating how the investment will contribute to delivering service transformation and driving the generation of additional income streams”

The announcement comes amid rising tensions over the future of the libraries contract. The Council invited tenders last year for continuation of the service – which is currently provided via a social enterprise organisation.

There has been no official confirmation that the existing provider has been allocated the new contract which is due to start on 1st April 2019.

The Council also last year agreed a planning application which will see houses built on the adjacent bowling green site. Objectors at the time stressed the need for a holistic solution to the redevelopment of all the vacant plots in the area.