York Council Denies Stadium Delay is Down to Search for Contractors
4:44pm 19th June 2013
The process for building York's new stadium is being criticised for being late and overbudget.
Yesterday it was confirmed that the proposed 6,000 seat ground at Monks Cross, which was originally due to be ready for the 2014/15 season, would now not be ready until 2016 at the earliest. When completed the stadium will be the new home of York City FC and York City Knights.
The latest developments, which follow earlier revelations that the project is £450,000 over budget, have led the city's Liberal Democrats to call for the cross-party ‘Community Stadium Advisory Group’ to be re-established which was responsible for monitoring the delivery of the project before it was disbanded by the Labour Cabinet in 2011.
Yesterday's delay was blamed on the need to re-house a colony of great crested newts; however when the colony was first discovered the Council said it would not delay the project which led to claims that the wider procurement issues were behind the delay, which has been strongly denied by the council.
Cllr Nigel Ayre, previously the Liberal Democrat representative on the Community Stadium Advisory Group, commented:
“This project is too important to become the victim of party politics. The cross-party group should be re-established immediately to ensure that the Council quickly identifies and gets on top of the current issues. The Liberal Democrat Group established the Advisory Group to ensure transparency and oversight of a project which is spending significant public money, Labour were wrong to abolish it and this decision should now be reversed.
“We know the project is over-budget and now delayed by at least 12 months. The reasons for the delay given by the Council do not quite ring-true as there appear to be deeper issues with procurement timetables and budgets. The cross-party group should meet to scrutinize developments and all relevant papers should immediately be made public, including an up-to-date business plan to ensure taxpayers’ money is being spent wisely and project costs are under control.
“At the moment, the silence from the Labour Cabinet Member in charge is deafening. Labour inherited a wonderful opportunity with the Community Stadium, but we have seen with this project and the modernization of York’s Elderly People’s Homes that the Council currently lacks the capacity to deliver big projects on time and on budget. Urgent action is needed to get a hold of the situation.”
Cabinet Member for Leisure, Culture and Tourism, Coun. Sonja Crisp has responded by saying:
“There is no issue where the procurement process is concerned, which is being undertaken as originally proposed and is now well underway. This process has been subject to a delay because it could not start until developers were on site to commence work on the retail development and section 106 monies had been paid to the council. This was of course delayed due to the existence of greater crested newts on site, which have been successfully re-sited.
“The Community Stadium Advisory Group existed under a hung council and prior to agreement of a planning application, so once Labour took control of the council and the application was agreed this was no longer required. Any involvement from Coun. Ayre would likely delay the delivery of a Community Stadium rather than hasten it, so we will continue under the present arrangements which we will be happily judged on”.
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