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 – 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.”

York Libraries – call for more transparency over future

York Explore Library

Staff working in York’s libraries are understandably concerned about the lack of any announcement about the future of the service.

The libraries are currently run by “Explore Libraries and Archives Mutual Limited” company.

Their contract comes to an end in March 2019.

In June 2018 the Council decided to tender for the continuation of the service.

A report raised several worrying options including the introduction of “volunteer” run branches. Others were concerned that a large leisure management company based outside the City would take over the service.

The contract on offer is believed to be worth £32 million and covers a 15 year period.

Acomb Explore Library

The present management arrangements are essentially a development of the team that led the library organisation when it was run by the Council. They have had a generally successful 5 years with, against the national trend,  user numbers stable and some useful innovations like the reading café in Rowntree Park introduced.

An updated report on the Libraries recent activities was published yesterday (it says that they can now handle visa applications – a role that the Post Office revealed, during consultations about the relocation of the Lendal office to W H Smiths, they were losing)

The Councils Forward Plan which lists all major upcoming decisions runs until 28th April 2019.

It does not include a decision item on the future of the library service.

Plans to create a new library in Haxby and Wigginton move a step closer

Plans to create a new library for Haxby and Wigginton have taken a step further after an agreement has been reached over the lease for Haxby and Wigginton Scout Headquarters – the preferred venue for the new facility.

Haxby Town Council last night (12 November) agreed to lease the land on which the scout headquarters sits to 2nd Haxby and Wigginton Scout Group on a long term basis.

The decision means that the council can now formally consider plans to invest in and refurbish the scout headquarters, providing a high quality library facility for local residents, while updating the current facilities for existing user groups.

The old library was closed in July 2016 on the grounds of public safety and the building has now been demolished.

Future plans for York libraries

 Council to tender for new service provider

Acomb Explore Library

City of York Council’s Executive will be asked to consider proposals for the future development of York’s Libraries and Archives at a meeting later this month (21 June).

If the proposals are agreed, the council will look to appoint an operator for the service for the next 15 years with a contract of £32 million; maintaining the existing level of funding despite pressure on budgets

The existing five-year contract with Explore Libraries and Archives Mutual Limited expires on 31 March 2019.

The move is likely to cause concern that the substantial progress made by the current operator will be jeopardised. Working together the Council and contractor have managed to sustain the existing network of facilities across the whole City – unlike the situation in  most other parts of the country.

The tender documents may raise the prospect of reduced hours or “volunteer only”  manning at some small branches.

Some of the Councils “outsourcing” deals have failed spectacularly.

Yesterday the Warden Call CIC was revealed to have crashed financially and it will now be brought back “in house”.  “Make it York” has had a troubled couple of years while GLL has been criticised for chasing footfall, since it took over the Councils leisure centres, at the expense of a timetable with a broader appeal.

The procurement plans follow a citywide consultation from November 2017 – February 2018, which 2,484 people responded to, giving their views on the council’s vision for the future of the city’s library and archives service.

Key elements of the consultation feedback include:

  • The need to retain key services such as borrowing books, providing a reading and studying space, and providing access to computers
  • The desirability of providing a reading cafe on site
  • The importance of the library as a community hub with opening hours to reflect the needs of local residents
  • Libraries providing state of the art learning spaces
  • Maximising the best use of the buildings through partnership working
  • Respondents broadly supported for the vision of moving away from stand alone library buildings and recognised the need for partnerships to create services co-located with other community amenities.

Key proposals for the future service include:

What’s on in York: Digital Clinic @ Explore York Libraries

A free drop-in for all your computer and internet questions.

Date: Tue 3 Apr
Time: 10.00am – 11.30am
Venue: Rowntree Park Reading Cafe
Cost: Free


Date: Mon 9 Apr & Thu 26 Apr
Time: 9.30am – 11.00am & 4.00pm – 5.00pm
Venue: New Earswick Library
Cost: Free


Date: Fri 13 Apr
Time: 10.00am – 12.00pm
Venue: Mobile Library @ White Rose House
Cost: Free


What’s on in York: Sam’s Safaris


Bishopthorpe : Fri 4 Aug : 11.00am – 12.00pm
Strensall Library : Tue 8 Aug : 11.00 am – 12.00pm
Copmanthorpe Library : Tue 8 Aug : 2.30pm – 3.30pm
Haxby Explore Library : Thu 10 Aug : 10.00am – 11.00am
New Earswick : Thu 10 Aug : 2.00pm – 3.00pm


SamsJoin us for an interactive story time with rare and exotic insects, reptiles, amphibians and animals from around the world.

This session is a brilliant opportunity to get up close to a variety of exotic mammals, insects, reptiles and mollusks. If you love animals you will love this. Look, touch and learn with Sam’s Safaris.

Free but booking essential.

This event is suitable for 5-12 years old.

Booking is in person through any Explore York Library or by telephone at  York Explore Library on (01904) 552828 or  Acomb Explore Library on (01904) 552651

What’s on in York: Ann Cleeves’ Murder Mystery Night tomorrow (Sat)


Bishopthorpe Library :

Sat 4 Feb :

7.30pm – 9.30pm :

£5 (includes a glass of wine)

Murder MysteryThe Friends of Bishopthorpe Library present a Murder Mystery Night. The mystery was written by author Ann Cleeves in the tradition of the Golden Age detective novel. Actors will present the evidence and the audience will be asked to use their little grey cells to decide who is the murderer and why.

If you enjoy Agatha Christie and understand classic crime fiction, you could be perfectly placed to solve the mystery. The person coming closest to the right solution will win a prize!

The ticket price includes a glass of wine and nibbles. We will also hold a raffle.

For more information or to reserve a ticket please call Bishopthorpe Library on (01904) 552678 or

What’s on in York: Big City Read 2016 launched today

Programme launch and event booking from 1st September

Big City Read 2016 LogoEvents from 5 October to 1 December

In July 1917, Siegfried Sassoon wrote an open letter to the Times protesting about the conduct of the war. What happened next is the subject of Pat Barker’s book Regeneration which will be our Big City Read for this year.

York Libraries are giving away 5,000 free copies of Regeneration over October and November and asking readers to immerse themselves in the world of 100 years ago.

click for summary

click for summary

“We have put together a fantastic programme of events, together with our partners in the city, which offers something for everyone.

We are delighted to be welcoming Pat Barker to both launch and conclude the Big City Read at York Explore.

You can download the programme here Big City Read 2016 Events, and find details of Big City Read events in our What’s On listing. Copies of the programme will be available from 6 September at all York Libraries and other outlets in York.

You can collect your free copy of Regeneration from any Explore Library from 6 October while stocks last.

Events can be booked from 1 September either in person at any library in York or by phone, (01904) 552828 or (01904) 552651.

We advise booking in advance for all of our events, if applicable, to make sure of a place.

Read, Enjoy, Discuss, Share”

York Council still in a muddle over local QUANGOs

The York Council’s Executive is to consider its relationship with agent bodies and companies tomorrow.Quango list

The move comes in the wake of criticism of several bodies not least York City Trading where audits revealed that inappropriate payments had been made.  Other problems arose in relations with the York Museums Trust over charging arrangements and Make it York where apparently unilateral decisions angered residents

The organisations concerned depend on Council taxpayers for a lot of their income

One common criticism was a lack of transparency shown by the organisations (they are not subject to Freedom of Information legislation).

Concerns were also expressed that performance indicators – where published – were inappropriate or “soft”.

Campaign against secrecy started 5 years ago

Campaign against secrecy started 5 years ago

The expectation was the new Council would shake up the bodies and inject more democratic accountability.

Instead a disappointing report concentrates only on governance issues. Steps are being taken to separate executive and customer functions but little else. We will still have a bureaucratic muddle with little consistency and no new commitment to openness.

If approved without change, the Council will stand accused of ignoring many of the concerns expressed by taxpayers over the last five of years.

Important decisions affecting the City will continue to be taken “Behind Closed Doors”