South Leeds – final round at council-run golf course set for end of October

middletonA council-run golf course in south Leeds which has been running at a loss of over £100,000 a year looks set to close at the end of next month.

Council bosses are going to discuss the fate of the Middleton Park course at a meeting next week, and the recommendation from officers is that the course be closed for play from 31st October and the 42 hectare site be turned into parkland.

The Middleton Park course and the Gotts Park course in Armley were earmarked for closure in budget cuts drafted in December 2012, but were later reprieved for a year to see if a way of keeping them going could be found.

Since then the council has carried out public consultations over the future of the two courses, which, it says, ran at a total loss of at least £214,000 in 2013/14.

The future of the Armley course is less certain for the moment, according to a report going to the meeting of the council executive.

The Gotts Park club have submitted plans to take over the running of the course after setting up a new community interest company. If the plans don’t prove viable, the course could be turned into a country park that would be free and open to the public, the report says.

Savings of £170,000 a year

The council says dropping its responsibility for the courses would save it £170,000 a year from 2015-16 onwards. Savings made before then would be reinvested in the new parkland and used as match funding to secure grants.

Two separate consultations were carried out with the public, one at the courses themselves, another with the general public as represented by the council’s “Citizen’s Panel”.

“Consultation undertaken at the point of play at each course demonstrated around 95% opposed to the proposal to close each course,” the report says.

“However, when broader public opinion was tested through the citizen’s panel, 87% were in favour of establishing semi-natural parkland, including around 73% of those who stated that they play golf,” it adds.

 

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Sales down again, web traffic up: how long have Yorkshire’s daily papers got?

Ladybird 1Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: sales of all of Yorkshire’s daily newspapers continued to fall in the first half of this year while web traffic was way up.

It’s such a familiar story that you can copy and paste it every six months when the Audit Bureau of Circulation (ABC) releases its latest figures, just amending the size of the fall in print and the “boost” in online.

So here are the latest amendments:

Against a backdrop of a 13.5% year-on-year fall across the UK for regional dailies, the three papers hardest hit in Yorkshire were the Doncaster Star (down 28.8% to just 1,026 sold daily) the Yorkshire Evening Post (down 17.2% to 23,959) and the Sheffield Star (down 17.2% to 23,238).

papers1sthalf2014

Since the second half of 2008 (the earliest detailed figures I can find without coughing up for a subscription to ABC) the ‘Sheffield Star’ and the ‘Evening Post’ have lost
HALF of their daily sales
, with Bradford’s Telegraph and Argus not far behind.

Ladybird 5Everyone has known for ages that something will have to give some time soonish – unless papers can find a way of making enough money out of giving their news and other content away for free online.

But when? How long have they got to find the magic money tree?

I thought I’d project the latest figures into the future. If print sales continue to fall at their current rate (2011-14), how many papers will be being sold in three, six, nine years time?

projection

(projection based on % sales fall 2011-14 for each paper)

Ladybird 7

Which means, I reckon, that I’ll most likely still be cutting and pasting this story in 2017, but probably not in 2020, and definitely not in 2023.

For completists, below are the papers’ online stats for the first half of 2014.

It’s all good news, now to generate some cash …

online1sthalf2014

paperspics

 

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Footfall booming in Leeds city centre after Trinity launch? Hang on, …

Street4Footfall stats. For policy makers with a faith in economic recovery through SHOPPING, their “partner” developers and the PR machines of both, they’re the gift that keeps on giving.

So it’s good that we now get to examine the stats for ourselves, courtesy of the council, which now posts the raw data on its Leeds Data Mill website.

Except that once you look, nothing seems as clear as the PR people would have us believe.

Take Leeds city centre. Been doing well of late, hasn’t it?

annual2010-13Erm. Sort of.

The data shows that total footfall (recorded at the eight council cameras across the city centre) fell from 2010-12, but that the decline stopped in 2013 – the year the new Trinity shopping mall opened – when we got a 0.27% rise over the figure for 2012.

A rise it is (just), a boom it ain’t.

And the figure for 2013 is still 5.8m down on that for 2010, a sign (if we needed one) that the recession is still with us and many of us still feel the pinch.

Centre of shopping gravity shifted

What about Trinity in particular? Isn’t it the perceived wisdom that it’s been having a really positive effect on the number of people visiting the city centre?

That was certainly the hope.

No better gauge of its effect than the data for the year before the mall opened, and the year after.

And the result? It doesn’t seem to have made much of a difference to the city overall.

trinityoverall

The overall numbers are flat.

What’s been happening is that there’s been a shift in the parts of the city centre people have been visiting.

camerasupdownOn the right are the eight cameras. The black circles are the cameras where footfall was up in the year after Trinity was launched, compared to the year before.

The red circles are the cameras where footfall fell over the same period.

So, a massive boost of 3.3million at the bit of Briggate where Trinity’s entrance is …

… but an equally massive drop recorded by the two cameras on Commercial St and the one on the northern side of Albion St.

Dortmund Square has been holding its own and Macdonald’s on the top of Briggate did well in 2013 too.

The evidence chimes with anecdotal reports voiced by disgruntled retailers on BBC Radio Leeds a couple of weeks ago, who were complaining that the city’s centre of shopping
gravity had shifted and left them out on a limb.

Down in the first six months of 2014

1st6months2014So what’s happening now that Trinity is no longer a novelty?

If you look at the first six months of this year (click on the panel on the right), total footfall recorded by the cameras is a million down on the same period for 2013.

Even the Briggate camera by Trinity is down, probably not surprising given the 2013 figures included the initial fever with which people visited the new mall.

The trouble is none of this is a science

How so?

Here’s an example.

alternativeroute

Camera-free visit to Leeds

What happens if I’m on a day out on the train to Leeds and I …

… come out of the station, head along Boar Lane to the Corn Exchange

… pop in to Kirkgate  Market

… head along King Edward St (maybe to Harvey Nicks for a cuppa),

… cross Briggate, wander along Albion Place

… up Albion St to the Headrow (past the city’s only bookshop),

…. along the Headrow to the Art Gallery

… and back to City Square via the Lapdance Quarter?

I wouldn’t be seen by a single camera.

Hmmm. Maybe time for a rethink on where they’re placed.

Sony_Footfall

Camera as used by Experian FootFall, the “market-leading pedestrian counting services provider”

Are there other footfall cameras in the city centre that might help give a more accurate picture?

They’ve got some at Kirkgate Market (but the council doesn’t publish the data), Trinity has got its own, as does the St John’s shopping centre. They’ve probably got some at the Merrion Centre too. But the private ones don’t share the results.

(I’ve sorted the data into spreadsheet with month-by-month, camera-by-camera tables from mid-2009 to the latest figures up to the end of June 2014. If you want a copy to play with, give me a shout)

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Board at Leeds investment agency depleted as key figures depart

Gone - Leeds Met VC Price

Gone – Leeds Met VC Price

Two key figures have left the board of Leeds and Partners, the city’s investment and tourism agency.

There’s been no public announcement, but it turns out that the council-funded company’s vice-chairman Roger Marsh left at the end of last year, while Leeds Met University’s vice-chancellor Susan Price departed in early July.

No reasons for the departures are given in the official documents lodged with Companies House.

Gone - LEP chief Marsh

Gone – LEP chief Marsh

Marsh, a former senior partner at Price Waterhouse Cooper, is currently chair of the Leeds City Region’s Local Enterprise Partnership, the public-private body that awarded (without contest) a £2.25m inward investment contract last autumn to Leeds and Partners … of which he was then vice-chair.

Professor Price attended her last board meeting at the beginning of July. Her position as director was terminated on the 8th of the month.

Two days later Private Eye published THAT story about the temporary bankruptcy of Leeds and Partners chief exec Lurene Joseph.

The two have not been replaced yet. Ms Price still appears as a board member on the company’s website.

Return for council stake?

Gone - assistant chief exec Rogers

Gone – council assistant chief exec Rogers

Where does all this leave the way Leeds and Partners is governed?

Call me an innocent in business affairs, but if I had a major stake in a company and was providing the bulk of its income, I’d expect to have a meaningful presence on the company’s board.

Not the case here.

Despite the fact that the council holds a 49% stake in Leeds and Partners and provides it with at least £1m a year (£2m in 2012-13 according to this report), there has been only one council representative – Executive Member for Development and the Economy Councillor Richard Lewis – on the board for the past year.

It wasn’t always that way.

Long gone - Cllr Carter

Long gone – Cllr Carter

Back in 2012 when Leeds and Partners arose Phoenix-like from the ashes of Marketing Leeds, its new board had two other council representatives: leader of the opposition Tories, Cllr Andrew Carter, and the council’s Assistant Chief Executive, James Rogers.

Cllr Carter is long gone. He lasted just eight months. Mr Rogers departed quietly in July last year.

No reasons for their departures were given.

Is the council happy with the current make-up of the board? We’ll never know. It doesn’t comment on Leeds and Partners affairs as, it says, it’s none of their business.

“All funding is governed by appropriate checks and balances with all grants monitored and audited,” they say.

That’s alright then.

 

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New Leeds local TV to launch in October

madetv2It’s official. Leeds is getting its new local TV station in October.

There was a bit of confusion on social media a few days ago about when Made in Leeds TV would finally start its broadcasts, but chief exec of parent company Made Television Jamie Conway said on Twitter this afternoon that …

madetvThe station was advertising for staff last month, including a news editor, video journalists, camera operators, production assistants, craft editors and producers.

Broadcasting on Freeview and Sky, the station’s schedule includes an evening magazine show, two half-hour live news bulletins every night, “core in-house programmes” on cookery, sports, property etc, plus new programmes made by local production companies.

There’ll be news and info updates and local “shorts” on the hour throughout the daytime schedule of repeat broadcasts and “acquired content”.

To help them do it all they’ve got a fair few “partners”, including Leeds Met University, Leeds United fanzine The Square Ball, discussion group The Leeds Salon, the Leeds Civic Trust and the Trinity Leeds shopping mall.

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How many hours is your library going to have cut? Here are the details

humanities-libraryIf you haven’t heard already, there’s a consultation just got underway on proposed cuts to the opening hours of libraries in Leeds.

All 36 libraries run by Leeds City Council are affected.

Under the proposals, 17% of the total hours will be cut in an effort to make staff savings agreed when the council set its budget in February.

The savings were initially set at £100,000.

Some libraries will be hit harder than others: Gildersome, for example, will lose nearly half (48%) of its opening hours, while Moor Allerton will lose just 3%.

You can have your say here.

consultationHere’s how the consultation works: you aren’t asked whether you agree with the cuts, just how you’d like them to be implemented.

You’re given two options, Option A offering different opening days and times to Option B. Either way you’re losing the same number of opening hours in nearly every instance.

There’s a space for you to make suggestions or comments.

I couldn’t find a list of how the cuts will affect each library, so here’s one I’ve put together.

(Methley library doesn’t appear in the consultation documents. Either a clerical error or it may be for the chop)

hourslost

 

What’s the rationale for how the cuts have been targeted? Well, they’ve carried out a library by library analysis to identify when the quietest hours are.

“We believe that not opening during the quietest times will provide significant savings whilst minimising the impact on customers – approximately 97.7% of book borrowers and computer users have used their own library or another library at times which would not be affected by this review,” they say.

As often happens with decisions like this, the data collected in the review hasn’t been made public.

We can save our libraries Phil Bradley

Campaign in west Leeds

One of the things they’ll have borne in mind too, one imagines, is how many people have been using each library since the 2011 reorganisation in the city, which saw 13 libraries axed.

So, there’s another list below showing how each library performed in the first two years since the reorganisation (taken from Leeds Data Mill). They’ll have figures for 2013-14 at their disposal, but they haven’t been published yet.

A couple of observations: a library like Yeadon that lost 18% of its visitors in 2012-13 is having 7% of its hours cut, while Dewsbury Rd, which saw a 9% increase in visitors in the same period is facing a 27% cut in its hours.

You have to ask yourself what future there can be for a library like Scholes, which had only 93 visitors a week in 2012-13, and is now facing a 47% cut in its opening hours (down from 15 to 8 per week).

There’s a campaign to fight the cuts already under way in west Leeds, backed by local MP Rachel Reeves.

I haven’t heard of anything similar happening elsewhere. Let me know if you hear if there is, please.

Here’s the list. The figures in red represent a fall in visitors (“pw” means per week).

cutsvisits

 

 

 

 

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Leeds – council on collision course with unions over new terms and conditions?

Leeds-City-CouncilLeeds City Council is at loggerheads with unions over new terms and conditions that it wants to introduce this year as part of its continuing cost-cutting measures.

Included in the new package – which the council says will save it around £9m – are cuts to mileage allowances for council staff – cuts that were turned down controversially by the council as recently as February this year.

According to a council report, talks with the unions on reducing costs by changing terms and conditions began a year ago, but there’s no sign of an agreement yet.

The package currently on the table includes an end to “pay protection” for council staff (saving £1m a year), new rules on redundancy (£3.8m over 3 years), and new flexible working patterns that would cut overtime costs and spending on agency staff (£2.5m savings).

A further £1.5m a year is proposed to be saved on staff transport: £675k by bringing allowances down from the current rate of 65p to the standard 45p a mile set by HMRC; £750k by curbing allowances for “essential” car users; and £139k by getting rid of all free and subsidised city centre parking permits for staff and charging them the market rate.

Agreement with unions “may not be reached” 

“The TUs’ position gives an indication that a collective agreement on the proposals may not be reached, which is reinforced by the fact that they are not currently willing to enter into negotiations regarding changes to terms and conditions as an alternative to compulsory redundancies, the report says.

“The TUs joint position is that they do not have a mandate from their members to
enter into any negotiation about any detrimental changes to terms and conditions
of employment,” it adds.

Further talks are planned for Thursday this week (24th July). The package is going to a meeting of senior councillors on a key committee next week (29th July) for their approval.

They’re being asked to agree that the new terms and conditions be put into effect for new staff as soon as practicable after 1st August, and for existing staff offered new contracts following internal changes from 1st September 2014.

Industrial action?

Council leader Keith Wakefield

Council leader Keith Wakefield

There was a bit of a public row in February this year when a proposal to slash mileage rates for council staff – and invest the savings into safer cycling routes across the city – was thrown out by the Labour majority.

Speaking at the time, council leader Keith Wakefield said changes to the rates were already being discussed with staff and unions. “It is right that we allow those discussions to conclude before taking any decisions,” he said.

Which is presumably where we are now.

In so far as the whole package is concerned, there may be trouble ahead. As the report notes:

“In the context of the mandate the TUs already have from their members to fight any detrimental changes to terms and conditions the TUs may ballot for some form of industrial action and contingency plans need to be considered to ensure service continuity.”

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