Community Stadium cost to taxpayers – £1.6 million a year.

A response to a Freedom of Information request has made the ongoing costs of running the Community Stadium clearer.

The cost of the project has escalated over the years. The scheme, in 2011, was intended to be self funding. The stadium construction would have been paid for by the developer of the neighbouring retail centre. A £16 million budget was set aside as part of a section 106 agreement.

However, it became clear in February 2021 that the Council would in addition have to borrow £16.5 million to fund the completion of the project.

The Council has made what is known as a “minimum revenue provision” (MRP) in its revenue budget of around 7% to cover interest and principal repayments on the borrowing.

This represents an annual liability of around £1.2 million.

To this must be added the running costs.

So the cost to Council taxpayers will be around £1.6 million in total this year. Most of the costs will be ongoing. By way of comparison, the contract for running all York’s libraries is £2.4 million a year.

The FOI response makes it clear that the budget does not make any provision for compensatory payments to GLL to make up for lost income during the lockdown. In other parts of the country COVID grants and loans to leisure contractors have been controversial. click

Of course, GLL do have liabilities. The Yearsley swimming pool, as a stand alone facility, has always been subsidised. The pool continues to provide a unique facility for fitness swimmers and must be sustained.

But elsewhere in the City the organisation has been criticised for losing contact with the needs of local communities. High admission charges at Energise – which lies in the middle of one of the poorest York neighbourhoods – remain an barrier for some potential users.

The Council seems to have left itself with insufficient opportunities to attract additional income from the stadium complex to help offset its investment and borrowing costs.

The project should be subject to an independent review.

York families benefit from Easter holiday activity programme

Families across the city will have access to a holiday activity programme this Easter.

Image result for children playing gifs

The programme is being funded through the government’s Holiday Activities and Food programme (HAF), which provides healthy food and activities to targeted children.

The Easter sessions, which will be held at a number of schools in York, will be used as pilots, with plans to roll the scheme out to more children during the summer holidays.

Cllr Keith Orrell, City of York Council’s Executive member for Children, Young People and Education, said: “School holidays can be a difficult time for some families, particularly with increased food and childcare costs.

“The Easter break marks the first time York has received HAF funding and I hope that this will be the start of a much bigger programme of targeted, enriching activities and healthy food for children and young people, building on the fantastic work that is already taking place across the city.”

Children and young people who are eligible to take part in the programme will be contacted directly by their school.

Weather likely to add to repairs backlog

Looks like we are in for another period of icy weather. It will make repairs to leisure and other paths even more important.

Many off road paths are now very muddy, reducing the choices available for those seeking their daily exercise.

Some sports facilities are also looking neglected and will be needed when lockdown ends.

There will be a a lot of work to do this summer.

Exercise during lockdown

Although group walks are banned during lockdown, there are a lot of options which can be followed on an individual basis in west York. Some are more taxing than others.

Move the Masses produces a map covering three routes in the Acomb area including one that crosses Bachelor Hill (see below).

Click to enlarge

The same group also advertise routes which include Acomb Green (click) and Fishponds Wood (click)

Elsewhere the Westfield Ward Councillors have claimed on their Facebook page that the tree trunk, which currently blocks the Foxwood Lane access to Acomb Moor, will be moved “as soon as the ground dries out”.

Maybe so. But if this happens then we hope that walkers will restrict their movements to the perimeter of the field until the crop has been harvested.

One consequence of more people walking in the area is that the footpath infrastructure is deteriorating more quickly. There is a need for stiles to be repaired and for hardcore to be putdown at locations which are flooding.

Hardcore needed on some muddy sections of local footpaths

The Council has known about these pressures for some time and needs to reprioritise its leisure budgets to properly support healthy living routines.

Slow progress on replacement games area for Westfield

A Freedom of Information response has revealed that little progress has been made on providing a replacement multi user games area in Westfield despite a Council executive decision taken in February 2019.  

The expectation had been that the replacement, for the now closed facility on Kingsway West, would be in use by now. Discussions were to have been held with the Acorn Rugby Club who currently lease the alternative site which is in the Thanet Road sports area.

However, it seems that meaningful correspondence only started in July 2020 some 18 months after the Council’s Executive had made their promise. Some meetings then took place in August, but no progress report has been prepared for consideration by the Councils executive

Quite why the initiative had not been followed up sooner is unclear.

 It had been thought that the most likely site would be under the existing floodlights to the side of the clubhouse. This would have minimised costs and might have been useful addition to the rugby clubs training options.

It seems that that officials, however, favour a location next the car park, while a local Councillor is keen to incorporate a n outdoor gym in the plans.

No consultation has taken place with the Foxwood Residents Association on the plans. There was a lukewarm response to plans for an outdoor gym a few years ago although objections then centred on proposals to locate the facility on Chesney’s Field.

Exiting MUGA became a building compound

Residents are quite clear that some informal free access must be available to the new games area. The price of access to pitches at the Energise centre are prohibitive for many local young people so a system needs to be worked out which meets the needs of both local users and the rugby club. The rugby club has a good reputation for encouraging young sports people so there should be no conflict of interests.

It is understood that serval potential users have expressed a wish to rent the facility so this should provide a basic income to cover maintenance and replacement costs.

The new facility could cost around £200,000.

The Westfield ward is statistically the poorest area in the City and has the largest proportion of obese children. The project would go some way to addressing the inequalities which have been worsened in the area in recent years as a result of the development of open spaces and sports pitches.

Ascot Way building work closer to completion

It looks like work on the new Children’s Disabled centre and the renovation and extension of Lincoln Court sheltered housing could be completed by the October target date. The internal road system has been surfaced over the last few days. This is usually a sign that work is well advanced.

At a minimum it should mean that there will be less mud on local roads

Internal roads now surfaced at Disabled Centre

Neighbours will be looking forward to getting the new bus lay-by into operation following 12 months of disruption.

However there is still a lot to do. The public noticeboard was damaged by contractors needs to be replaced. What is left of the noticeboard is currently attached to a perimeter fence.

…and the long saga of providing a replacement games area for local children still seems to be stalled.

MUGA – now a builders compound

On the 18th March 2019 the Council’s Executive agreed to provide a replacement for the Kingsway West “Multi User Games Area” (MUGA) which has been closed as part of the project to extend Lincoln Court.

The minute of the meeting read;
“a ii) To note that in approving Option 1 a commitment is made for alternative recreational facilities following community consultation including Sport England within Westfield Ward in mitigation for the loss of the Multi Use Games Area. The alternative facilities provided are to be agreed by Executive and will be subject to a further report and budget approval.”

Nothing more has been heard about the plan. Residents hoped that an all weather area might be provided on Thanet Road but nothing seems to have come of this as yet.

Now a Freedom of Information request has been submitted in an attempt to find out what progress has been made.

Footnote

The Council has today announced the name of the new centre

Innonvative new facility for children with disabilities buzzes with a new name

 An innovative facility for children with disabilities in York has got a new name, thanks to the young people who will use it.

‘The Beehive’, as the Centre of Excellence for disabled children will now be known, will provide short overnight breaks for children with complex disabilities in the city. Young people and their families will be able to receive specialist support from a wide range of professionals, including clinical psychologists, all in one building for the first time.

The ‘bee theme’ will flow throughout the new facility, including bee-friendly names for the bedroom areas and honeycomb-like hexagons incorporated into the decorative features. Children and young people using the facility will also be given a fluffy bee toy to take home with them as a visual reminder of their ‘home away from home’.

It’s hoped that this attention to detail will help the children settle into the new building more easily, something which is particularly important for young people with learning disabilities or autism.

Thought to be one of the first facilities of its kind in the country, the innovative building is a partnership between City of York Council and NHS England.

The new centre is due to open this year and includes:

  • spacious bedrooms with state of the art hoist and bathing facilities for children who have complex health needs and wheelchair users
  • a larger, open-spaced area and bedrooms for children with learning disabilities or autism
  • quieter self-contained areas that can be used for children who may struggle in a more open, busier environment and where their parents can accompany them so that their needs can be fully assessed
  • an activity area, sensory room and quiet rooms
  • a large outdoor play space with a variety of equipment suitable for children of all abilities

York Council to buy 150 acres of agricultural land for new forest.

Refuses to reveal location but cost will be £1.65 million!

The Forest GIFs - Get the best GIF on GIPHY

In one of the most bizarre proposals to come before the York Council, officials are recommending buying agricultural land “within the York boundary” which will subsequently be planted with trees. It says only that it is located in the Green Belt.

The forest scheme is intended to offset a proportion of the CO2 emissions generated within the City.

The Council says it can’t reveal the location of the new forest “for commercial reasons”.

While many residents will support the objective of the initiative, the lack of background information on the scheme is extraordinary.

There is no indication of the grade of the agricultural land in question. At a time when greater food self sufficiency is a high priority for the country, relative priorities must surely be fully evaluated before productive land is lost?

The report also says that the new forest – which might be designated as a “stray” – will provide new accessible paths and trails for York residents.

Officials point to the health benefits of greater exercise.

They are right, of course, as we have seen during lock-down. But the Council’s position lacks credibility as it has failed to maintain existing paths and trails, some of which are now inaccessible because of neglect.

The absence of any maintenance and management strategy for any new wood is one of the major omissions from the report.

The Council also quotes (rightly) the need to encourage pollinators (bees and other insects) but again fails to evaluate the effect that planting more woodland would have against providing – for example – wildflower meadows on the land.

In total the Council expects to spend £3 million on establishing new woodland and strays around the City.

It will need to do a lot more work, if taxpayers are to be convinced that this is an effective, and thoroughly thought through, reaction to the global conservation challenge.

NB. In the Westfield area, local Councillors promised 12 months ago to promote the adoption of “stray” status for Acomb Moor. There has been no recent update on the progress that they have made.

Acomb and some other York libraries to reopen on 6th July

The library managers say that things will look a little different for a while.  From some of our libraries you will be able to:

Libraries These libraries are open from 7 July Tuesday to Saturday for pre-booked visits.

Cafes

Explore’s brand new café in Hungate opens for the first time on 7 July and our cafes at Rowntree Park and Homestead Park open 6 July for drinks and snacks to take away and enjoy outside.

Safety

All venues will have safety measures in place to protect customers and staff.

Age-friendly York surveys older people’s leisure time

Age-friendly York has launched a new consultation on how older people spend their leisure time in the city and how they’d actually like to spend it.

Your Leisure Time consultation is at www.york.gov.uk/AgeFriendlyYork  and asks for views on activities and how to find them, volunteering and loneliness. Past surveys have highlighted social isolation is an issue which we’re addressing by providing opportunities to socialise like chatty bench and a chatty café. The survey asks about these initiatives and a shared restaurant table scheme. The questionnaire takes about 10 minutes to complete.

Earlier Age-Friendly surveys held last year were on Your Journey in August and Your Destination in October. Over 200 people took part and provided high-quality information and comments. Among the outcomes, includes a survey of benches in the city, their location, condition and plotting them on a map.

Following an earlier survey in 2017 when 23% of respondents said they experienced loneliness, we and partners developed www.LiveWellYork.co.uk which now lists some 640 activities, events or volunteering opportunities.

Councillor Carol Runciman, Executive Member for Adult Social Care and Health said: “Being an age-friendly city is a welcome step towards making the city an even better place for older residents.

“Better understanding their preferences or concerns means we can work with partners to address them. We can then build on initiatives like the falls prevention service, or our older people’s accommodation programme to support people to live as independently and as well as possible in later life.

“We know social isolation can be an issue, and this survey will help us understand the barriers people face to socialising, so we can create the right solutions. In the same way, we know accessing community transport at peak times can be difficult, so Age Friendly York is working with the Community Transport Group to find solutions.”

The surveys are open to any older York residents, anyone who works with or cares for older people or those who are planning ahead for older age. Printed copies and large print versions of the consultation are available on request to AgeFriendlyYork@york.gov.uk. Please email this address is you’re interested in getting involved in Age Friendly York.

Other consultations planned by Age Friendly York are on Your Access to Information; Your Home and Your Services.