Construction of stalled Leeds hotel could resume in August

hilton2Construction of a major hotel in Leeds city centre that’s been stalled for 16 months could resume as early as August.

Building at the site – on Portland Crescent near the leeds arena – ground to a halt in March last year after the original contractor and its development arm went bust, leaving the Co-op Bank and a local public-private partnership as the major creditors.

The £32m scheme – destined to be run as a Hilton franchise – was part funded by £4.8m of public money, in the shape of a loan from the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership (LEP).

A Leeds City Council report published today says that the Co-op Bank has decided to sell its debt and is in talks with a prospective purchaser, who has already met council planning officers.

“If the prospective purchaser proceeds to buy the bank’s debt, it is hoped that work will recommence in August and that the construction of the hotel will be completed by November 2017,” the report says.

If the sale goes through, will the LEP get its loan back? It’s not clear from the report. What it does say is: “… it is clear that the current value of the site will not provide sufficient funds to repay both the Co-op’s debt and the Council/LEP debt”.

The report – the financial details of which are being kept secret – is going to be discussed at a meeting of the city’s main planning panel next Thursday (7th July).

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Who’s up, who’s down? Leeds local elections 2016 in numbers

percentvotebyparty16Some facts and figures from yesterday’s vote in the Leeds City Council elections (in which none of the 33 seats up for grabs changed hands).

Labour’s percentage vote in the city was up 3% compared to 2015, but still 4% adrift of the vote it achieved under Miliband in 2011, when we were at the same point in the election cycle.

The Tories’ vote share fell 4% compared to last year, though they still polled better than they did in 2012 and 2013.

After a torrid time last year, the LibDems are back up to where they were in 2014 – at 10% of the total votes, ahead again of the Greens, whose vote share dropped 2%.

UKIP is pretty much going nowhere. While it improved its vote share where you’d expect, it’s stuck on 13% overall and doesn’t look any nearer to making a breakthrough and getting its first Leeds councillor. Its momentum in Middleton Park – where it had its best chance – stalled and fell back below the 30% it recorded last year.


Nothing remarkable in the turnout either. Despite (or is that because of) the good weather, fewer voters turned out in just about every ward compared to 2011, the last time we were at this stage of the general election cycle.



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Leeds local elections – welcome to the new multi-party system (and “new politics”)

What a difference six years make.

Here’s who was standing where in the local elections in Leeds in 2010:

candidates 2010

And here’s who’s standing for the 33 seats up for grabs on 5th May:

candidates 2016

Much prettier, no?

That’s because in Leeds, as elsewhere, the multi-party system looks like it’s firmly taken hold for the moment. For the first time ever, we’ve got five parties contesting every seat in the council elections. (We nearly had it last year, but UKIP ducked out of contesting … erm … Chapel Allerton)

What’s changed since 2010? Well, the BNP has disappeared (it’s only fielding seven candidates in the whole of England), and UKIP has filled the vacuum.

The Greens too have consolidated their presence – it’s the third year in a row now that they’ve fielded candidates in every ward.

First past the post

All in all, it’s a long way from 20 years ago, when two thirds of the wards were a straight fight between the usual suspects – Labour, the Tories and the LibDems.

Will having these new parties contesting so many seats make a difference in terms of the composition of the council?


With first-past-the-post, UKIP was unable, even at the height of its local popularity in 2014, to translate a 17% vote share into a single councillor.


That’s not to say there won’t be any seats changing hands. The LibDems – the smallest of the five main parties in terms of vote share in the city last year – will have their fingers crossed for the three seats they’re defending in Horsforth, Otley and Weetwood.

If UKIP are going to bag their first councillor, it could well be in Middleton Park, where their candidate polled 30% in 2015 and is facing Labour, Tory, Green and LibDem candidates who don’t live in the ward. Could a pre-referendum Brexit protest vote for UKIP swing it on a low turnout?

I’m going to have a tenner on a long shot – the Greens taking City & Hunslet, even though the incumbent Labour Party candidate will take some shifting.

She first got elected to the council back in May 1972, the day before Leeds won the cup, when a pint of Tetleys cost 13p, the Pipes & Drums of The Royal Scots Dragoon Guards were at number one in the charts, and the only far left party to stand in the Leeds local elections, the Communist Party, managed 1,051 votes between its 14 candidates.

New left politics

TUSCApropos of which, what about the Labour Party candidates in this, the first local election since Jeremy Corbyn got elected as leader. Are they any different, any more radical than under Miliband or Blair?

Correct me if I’m wrong, but they look pretty much like the same old same old.

And what about the talk that was going on a while back about radical left fringe groups throwing in their electoral lot with the ‘new politics’ of the Labour Party.

Doesn’t look like it’s happened in Leeds: the Alliance for Green Socialism (AGS) and the Trotskyist Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) are still standing against the Labour Party.

(What happened to Left Unity by the way – the party, not the concept?)

Which brings us to Momentum, the organisation that’s aiming to strengthen Labour through a “mass movement for real transformative change”.

Of the 350 people who follow the Leeds Momentum Facebook page (I know they’re not “members”, but hey), two are standing for the Labour Party, and two are standing against Labour Party candidates for TUSC.


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Sad milestone – sales of Yorkshire Evening Post drop below 20,000 for first time

ladybird-1No great surprises for Yorkshire’s daily papers in the figures released today by the Audit Bureau of Circulation: the steady slide in sales continued during the second half of 2015.

It’s a sort of sad milestone for Johnston Press (an expected one, though) as two of its city papers – the Yorkshire Evening Post and the Sheffield Star – both dropped below average daily sales of 20,000 for the first time.

The Yorkshire Evening Post is now shifting nearly 15,000 fewer papers a day than it was five years ago, as you can see below.


Some disappointment too, I’d guess, at the latest web traffic figures for the YEP’s sister paper, the Yorkshire Post.  A year-on-year increase of just 7% is pretty small beer for Yorkshire’s “national” paper.

Never mind, the paper got a revamped site – “a new website for a modern Yorkshire ” – just last December. Maybe that’ll do the trick. (Check the video on the link. Go on.)

Here are the online stats for the county’s dailies.


To put the local figures in some perspective, here’s the growth in traffic for some of England’s other leading city dailies.

It’s not just that our two Leeds papers languish at the bottom of the list in terms of growth, but the total number of people going to their sites each day is way lower than in Manchester, Birmingham, Liverpool and Manchester.








How do you explain this relatively poor performance? Well, notwithstanding the latest growth at the Sheffield Star, owners Johnston Press have been left some way behind by rivals Trinity Mirror in the development of mass online traffic (all four big hitters in the list above belong to Trinity Mirror).

How have they done it? As we’re constantly being told, having a strong presence on social media – Facebook in particular – helps.

So, here’s how those city papers listed above do on Facebook and Twitter. You’ll see that our two Leeds papers are fairly strong on Twitter, but much less so on Facebook.

It’s not the only answer, of course, but a weak Facebook presence can’t help.  I’m sure the online boffins and social media gurus at Johnston Press are looking into it.









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Council set to give thumbs down to broadcasting Leeds planning meetings on the web

webcasts2Meetings of Leeds City Council’s top decision-making body are set to be broadcast live over the internet starting at the latest in April this year.

Members of a senior committee are expected to give the go-ahead to the new webcasts of the council’s Executive Board when they meet next Tuesday (9th February).

But council officers are recommending that meetings of the council’s top planning body – the City Plans Panel – don’t get broadcast over the web after councillors and planning officers expressed concerns.

Concerns? Really?

Here’s what they amount to, according to a report that’s going to the meeting:









How come councils in Manchester, Birmingham, Cheshire, Kirklees, Wrexham , Denbighshire, Epping Forest … the list goes on … manage to have their planning committee meetings webcast without any problem? And by the same company that handles webcasting for Leeds,

Leeds is different. Apparently.

Don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

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Bad news, good news, data and the Leeds housing crisis

spash2I’m a big fan of the Yorkshire Evening Post, but I’m struggling with its front page “exclusive” news story this morning.

Yes, yes, there’s a housing crisis in Leeds. And yes, “it’s time to end it”.

And yes, as the paper says, “Thousands of properties remain empty”.

And yes, there are 25,000 people on the council’s waiting list …

And … and … and …

What I’m struggling with is the data presented by the paper this morning. It looks impressive …


… but what on earth does it mean?

The first thing you’d want data of this kind to tell you is: how are we doing?

As in:

Is there more or less council housing in Leeds than three, five or ten years ago?

Are there more or fewer people on the waiting list? How much longer are they waiting to get a house, compared with three, five or ten years ago?

How have we been getting on with tackling the blight of empty homes?

We know things are bad, but are they getting better or worse?

It doesn’t say. It’s a pretty snapshot. There’s no historic data (unless they’ve saved it for the paper’s print edition).

And yet there is historic data around. Take the number of people on the waiting list.

A quick Google search will find you a YEP article from November 2011 putting the number at 28,000. Today the paper puts it at “around 25,000”. That’s still a huge amount of pressure on the system, but on the face of it it’s less pressure than four years ago. No?

How has that happened? Is it a trend? What does it mean for the “housing crisis” in Leeds? Shouldn’t we know?

(let’s brush over the fact that the paper’s online headline says “waiting lists soar”, without offering any supporting evidence)

garnets-ready-for-the-bulldozer-16-9-2011Empty properties

Take the issue of empty properties. The paper today concentrates its front-page story on the fact that there are 5,552 homes in the city that have lain empty for over six months. Bad news.

Except, if you look at the historic data, it turns out to be quite good news.

Six years ago the number stood at over 9,000, and it’s been falling steadily every year since then (figures below from Leeds Data Mill).

How has that happened? What does it indicate for the future? And isn’t that apparent success an important part of the story?


In the YEP’s defence, its story today is a “bad news” peg on which to hang the promotion of its latest “Voice of Leeds summit” on Thursday, when “representatives from across the public, private and third sectors will gather at the YEP’s office” to discuss the city’s housing crisis.

The trouble is: with our local papers under crazy pressure to keep their heads above water, who do we turn to get the full picture from the available data?

As far as I can see, we don’t.

We’ll just have to hope that when the experts assemble on Thursday they’ll have at their disposal all the historic data they need to understand what is happening with housing in the city, and not just a nicely designed snapshot.

And that one of the participants will try and make sense of it, write it up and share it with us.

That way we won’t be just stuck with a story that says: Leeds housing crisis exclusive: 5,500 homes empty as waiting lists soar

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