Fake news or wishful thinking?

Council publishes new “Our City” newspaper

No doubt the York Council would be criticised if it failed to keep residents informed about what goes on in the City and how the Council spends taxpayers money. Whether spending £10,000 on putting a magazine through everyone’s letterbox represents a prudent use of resources may divide opinion.

The current edition of “Our City” is tidier and therefore more accessible than previous editions. But it fails an important test.

It isn’t objective.

Telling people that things are going well when patently many street level public services in the City are far from that, transforms an information source into a propaganda channel.

There are major problems with keeping the streets tidy and free of weeds. The refuse collection service is now chronically unreliable. Many roads and paths are potholed. Some are dangerously obstructed by trees and hedges. These issues don’t merit a mention in “Our City”.

The Council does praise the hugely expensive community stadium project without telling people precisely when the stadium will come into use. Apparently the IMAX cinema (a plus for the City) will open in December but there is no explanation for the delays that have dogged the future home of York City FC and the York Knights Rugby team.

But the main concern will be the failure to be frank about the risks involved in some of its projects.

The Council is acting as its own housing developer and hopes to build 600 homes in the City over the next few years. It has recruited a significant number of additional staff to do so. It could have used local companies to undertake the work but chose not to. It is a high risk venture but, at the end of the day, in York any new homes will be occupied one way or another.

The same can’t be said about the £20 million Guildhall redevelopment. There is little evidence to suggest that a “business club” is needed in the City and even less that the York Council would be the best organisation to manage one.

The “Our City” article disingenuously talks of the project generating £848,000 a year in rents. It fails to point out that would involve renting out all the available space and that, even then, the income would be barely sufficient to pay the interest payments on the money that the Council intends to borrow to fund the scheme!

Sadly similar mistakes have been made in the past. £12 million was spent on the Barbican concert hall. The Council chose to manage that facility itself despite a complete lack of experience in the field. It later turned out that the hall manager had failed to apply for an entertainments licence for the building and had operated it unlawfully for several months. The Barbican ran at a loss of £800,000 a year and eventually had to be sold on to the private sector.

Whether anyone will come forward to rescue the Guildhall project remains to be seen.

Empty Monks Cross restaurants could cost taxpayers £1.4 million

The Community Stadium saga has taken a new turn, with the Council admitting that it may not get the full £3.8 million which the developer has promised to pay for land allocated for three restaurants.

The units are unlet and if they remain so on the opening date, then the Council could receive £1.4 million less for its interest.

June 2019 Council report

The Council says that discussions are ongoing with several potential tenants.

A report the Councils Executive confirms that building work on the stadium should be completed in September. The buildings would then be handed over to the operators who will be responsible for obtaining a safety certificate. The Council claims that it still opens the stadium will be operational in October but that seems optimistic to many observers.

In the meantime, the Knights Rugby team continue to play their matches at Bootham Crescent. The Council plans to increase their subsidy to the club from £30,000 to £45,000 to compensate for the delays in moving to Monks Cross.

The stadium project cost £22.6 million during the 2018/19 financial year

Community Stadium opening date announcement needed.

The announcement earlier in the year, that the opening of the City’s new Community Stadium would be delayed until the autumn, surprised few people.

York City Football Club first learned in 2004 that it could face a move away from Bootham Crescent.

The future of the Knights Rugby team subsequently become inextricably intertwined with the stadiums future.

All seemed well in 2010 when a source of funding (S106 planning contributions) for a new stadium was obtained. Planning permission for the Vanguard development was subsequently granted.  

Further delays occurred as the Council agonised about procurement polices and management arrangements.

After many false dawns, the stadium should have been opening this month.

The announcement of another 6 month delay came as a disappointment.

Such information as leaked out about the cause of the delay was neither confirmed nor denied by a Council embroiled in a local election process. The “purdah” period prevented any statements that might have influenced the election result.

It is now over 5 weeks after the election concluded – with another “no overall majority” result. The Green Party, which opposed the stadium development together with some Tories – now shares power with the LibDems who themselves have a long commitment to the stadium.

There is no suggestion that political interference is behind the reason for the delayed announcements.

The Council, Football and Rugby Clubs – together with the builders (Buckingham) and stadium complex managers (Better), have been strangely quiet over the last few weeks.

 The “purdah” period is long over yet no explanation for the delay or, more importantly, a new opening date have been confirmed. The last official statement talked about an October opening date.

More realistically, the clubs may now be hoping that the stadium will be available for the lucrative Christmas /New Year fixture programme.

NB. York City’s National League North fixture list is due to be announced on 3rd July.  The season will kick off on Saturday, August 3rd. The Football Club has already announced its season ticket prices.

Liberal Democrat Councillors launch petition to reduce proposed Community Stadium parking charges

Liberal Democrat Councillors have launched a petition calling on the Council to reverse the proposed increase to parking charges at the York Community Stadium.

The new £10 charge was agreed by Tory Executive member Peter Dew at a meeting which took place 3 weeks ago.

key_campaign_image.jpg

Under current proposals, fans travelling to park at the Park & Ride facilities to reach the Stadium may be charged £10 to park, increasing from the current £5 price.

This will be in addition to some spaces reserved for the sports clubs, continuing Park & Ride services and free parking at the Vangarde Shopping Centre, which will be limited to two hours on all match days.

If approved, local councillors are concerned that fans travelling to the Community Stadium will seek alternative or cheaper parking in nearby Huntington, increasing local traffic in the community and on-street parking on matchdays.

Local Liberal Democrat Councillors for Huntington and New Earswick have voiced their concerns at the proposals and have now launched a petition calling for a reduction to the proposed fare increase.
(more…)

Fans finally wake up to car parking cost plans at new York Community Stadium

We pointed out 2 weeks ago that the proposed £10 parking charge at the new Community Stadium would be amongst the highest in the lower leagues (football and rugby).

Its a real shame that there hasn’t been any consultation with supporter organisations on the issue.

Charges at public car parks near Bootham Crescent are less than half that with many drivers taking the opportunity to park for free on the streets.

The Tory transport supremo seems wedded to the idea.

Lets hope it does’t impact too badly on attendance levels.

York Community Stadium – opening delayed

It will come as no surprise to many that the scheduled opening date for the York Community stadium has been put back.

We warned that the July opening date was highly optimistic.

The Council are staying tight lipped about when they hope that the stadium and associated leisure facilities will eventually open.

The Knights Rugby team are already rescheduling the venues for their fixtures against the Bradford Bulls (20th July) and Featherstone Rovers (18th August).

It seems unlikely that the stadium will be available for the start of the new football season on 3rd/10th August

Given that Spurs are now looking at a full 9 month delay on their new home no doubt the building contractors will be ultra cautious in saying when work will be completed.

At least poor weather can’t be blamed for any delays.

 

Monks Cross parking charge doubled ahead of stadium opening

The Council has announced that the charge for parking at Monks Cross will increase from £5 to £10. The proposal comes shortly before the new Community Stadium and facilities like the IMAX cinema are scheduled to open in the summer.

A parking charge of £10 would be amongst the highest faced by supporters of both football and rugby in the UK. In the lower leagues, charges are usually less than £5. (Higher charges can apply to car parks close to Premier league grounds).

Many local supporters are expected to use the reverse park and ride service to Monks Cross. Fares are £3-20 return to the City centre.

Free parking at the nearby Vanguard (John Lewis, M & S etc)car park is restricted to a maximum of 4 hours. Camera enforcement of the restrictions is in operation. Trip Advisor is rife with complaints about fines of £80 being levied for over stayers.

WiFi for York community stadium…..but at a high cost

Those who attend stadium events on a regular basis will know that getting a reliable phone signal can be difficult. Even 4G is often not always available particularly in steel framed buildings. A free WiFi signal can be a boon for those seeking the half time scores from elsewhere or seeking to email an update home on how well the concert is going.

 Next week the Council is being asked to fund the provision of free WiFi access at the new stadium as well as at Clifford’s Tower and Coppergate.

The cost will be over £308,000, with £250,000 of this down to the Community Stadium network.

WiFi is currently available at local Community Hubs, Children Centres, Explore (Library) Centres and Libraries, Residential Care homes, Mansion House, Park and Ride Terminuses, West offices, Hazel Court, Registry Office and Crematorium.

Some schools also have the service but it is not universal.

There will be some scepticism about the budget priority for this programme. No usage figures for the existing free network are provided in the officer report.

There are other IT related services in the City which are arguably more urgently needed including the extension of the Councils “on line” issue reporting system and the reintroduction of “on line” and “on street” car park space availability information.

The Council even claims that it doesn’t have the technology to do routine things like the provision of a real time list of vacant garages on its web site.

These may all seem rather more urgent than allowing a tourist to browse the web from the top of Clifford’s Tower.

There will also be an ongoing debate about whether the costs of installing this facility should be a charge on users rather than taxpayers more generally?

York Knights Rugby say they will open the new Community Stadium with a fixture on 20th July

The Knights official home opener in the brand new Community Stadium in Huntington is set to take place on 20th July 2019.

They will welcome close rivals Bradford Bulls.

It will be a Saturday evening kick off at 6:00 pm

There is still a lot of work to be done at the stadium and sometimes commissioning takes longer than expected (ask any Spurs fan)

York City will no doubt be hoping to stage a landmark fixture in early July against a “big name” opponent.

National League football fixtures don’t commence until August.

Community Stadium Contracts signed

The York Council has announced today that the design, build, maintain and manage contract for York’s Community Stadium has finally been signed.

The announcement comes after another hitch delayed the contract completion from the promised October deadline.

The news marks a major milestone in the Community Stadium project and means that Greenwich Leisure Ltd will now formally take possession of the Monks Cross site and “diggers will be on site before Christmas”. In preparation for full construction works, site security and compounds will arrive on site within the next few weeks.

Greenwich Leisure Ltd will also take over the operation of Energise Leisure Centre and Yearsley Swimming Pool, as part of the wider new stadium and leisure contract, from 1 December 2017.

This news comes after last month, it was announced that Greenwich Leisure Ltd had appointed Buckingham Group Contracting Ltd as the new building contractor.

Once complete the new Community Stadium Leisure Complex will comprise of an 8,000 all-seat community sports stadium to host professional football and rugby league games. There will also be new leisure facilities incorporating a swimming pool, gym, dance studio, indoor and outdoor climbing facilities and a sports hall with spectator seating.

A commercial development on the stadium site will also feature a cinema complex, including an IMAX screen, five restaurants and up to three retail units. NHS outpatient services will be offered on site from a community hub and there will be a new Explore library and a York Against Cancer retail unit.

The new stadium, leisure facilities and the community hub will all open in 2019 along with the new cinema and commercial units.

The Community Stadium has had a chequed career since the Council, agreed to make land available for the project in 2010. Funding for the stadium was agreed then as part of a section 106 agreement with the developers of the adjacent Vanguard site.

Everything was on schedule for a 2014 opening when planning permission was granted in 2012 but the then Council opted for a much bigger project including the management of other leisure buildings in the city together with a new swimming pool and as substantial amount of commercial space.

That contract was held up by procurement regulations and at one point it seemed that the complex project would collapse.

Cost forecast 2014

The Council has however persisted with the plans but the bill for the scheme is now way above the initial estimates of £14 million (which would have been covered by the section 106 agreement funding)

.The following statement has been issued by the Councils Liberal Democrat Group  (more…)