Sign of the times – Merrion Centre Shopmobility to be handed over to “external provider” to save costs

Twenty years after it was founded, the council-run Shopmobility service at the Merrion Centre in Leeds is being handed over to an external provider.

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.

“Staffing issues” 

“Staffing issues affecting the proposed changes have been dealt with by ASC and have been set out and agreed in separate reports,” the report said, but gave no more detail.

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.

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One Response to Sign of the times – Merrion Centre Shopmobility to be handed over to “external provider” to save costs

  1. Paddle Daddle says:

    Interesting. My mum is a wheelchair user and she has been a ‘customer’ of Shopmobility for years. She told me that last year a large proportion of the staff who worked there jumped ship when th Council made an offer they couldn’t refuse.

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