The “very popular and well patronised” service – which rents out scooters and other mobility aids to shoppers – is now going to be staffed and run by an unnamed “partner” of the council from a new venue at the shopping centre, a report from Leeds City Council says.
The decision came after the council’s Adult Social Care (ASC) department found that budget constraints meant it would “struggle to run the service in the future unless savings could be made”.
The service was put out to tender at the beginning of last year, but for reasons not explained in the report the procurement process failed. So a direct approach was made to the “external partner” named in a confidential appendix to the report.
“The partner has provisionally agreed to run and staff the Shopmobility service and cover some of the property outgoings in return for the Council covering the rent and business rates costs on the units,” the report said.
Should the deal not come to fruition, the council will look for another partner to run the service.
“This proposal results in substantial budget savings to the Council through cost sharing compared to running the service in isolation (in house),” it added.
No details of the savings were given.
As part of the five-year deal, Shopmobility is going to be moving into new premises at the centre – the units it currently occupies are going to be redeveloped by Merrion Centre owners Town Centre Securities (TSC) ahead of next year’s opening of the Leeds Arena.
But the service may end up looking for a new home again pretty soon.
TSC has advised the council that it may want to take back two of the three new units it is renting out for the service in 18 months time, but has “provided assurances that a suitable alternative unit will be provided”. Should such assurances fail to deliver, the council might have to break the lease.
The new service provider will increase the stock of mobility equipment for hire and will either use or scrap the existing fleet of scooters and wheelchairs.