Almost comatose leadership has allowed the York Council to
slip into a £20.2 million project which will see the Guildhall and neighbouring
development site converted into a business club and restaurant.
Neglect of the Listed building since 2012 means that some of
the money will be needed to underpin parts of the old building while an new roof
will also be necessary.
On even the most optimistic of income estimates, York Council
taxpayers will be left with an annual bill of £574,000. Most of this is interest
charges on additional borrowings of £16 million.
There have been numerous occasions over the last 8 years where decisive leadership interventions could have reduced the risk to taxpayers. (click)
So now we move on to managing the contract and subsequently letting the newly created space.
The Council has committed itself to a £20 million cost envelope and an opening date in “spring 2021”.
The Councils record on major capital projects has not been good in recent years. The £42 million Community Stadium costs escalated from an original plan to invest £16 million and, 3 years after its target completion date, it is still not open.
Taxpayers will be monitoring progress on the Guildhall project with anxiety. Even after completion the authority will be faced with the task of renting out the new office space for £595,000 per annum. Failure to do so would mean an increased subsidy from taxpayers.
Ironically the Council may then find that it is in competition with itself as some of he office space being built at the Community Stadium site has still not found an occupier.
The planning department have confirmed that the new – and now operational – Buongiorno cafe and restaurant on Acomb Wood Drive has the necessary planning permission. The was confusion in November when a “change of use” planning application was withdrawn.
It turns out that the Council advised the owner that a “change of use” planning permission was not necessary as the existing take away permission also covered the use of the premises as a cafe.
“Change of use” would only be required if there were proposed alterations to the shop front, display of advertisements, or the installation of any external flues.