Agreement reached for funding Headingley stadium redevelopment – no cost to taxpayer

Headingley_redevelopment.jpgLeeds City Council says an agreement has been reached to get the funds required to redevelop Headingley Carnegie stadium.

“This funding which will be provided from a private financial services company, will be at no cost to the council taxpayer,” says a press release published on the council’s website today.

The arrangement will first have to be given the go-ahead by the council’s executive board when it next meets on 19th April.

All remaining funds?

The press release quoted Yorkshire County Cricket Club (YCCC) chief executive Mark Arthur as saying:

“There is still a way to go, however, it is a significant step in securing the future of international cricket at Headingley.

“Yorkshire County Cricket Club will continue to work hard to ensure that all remaining funds are in place to ensure that the redevelopment is completed in time for the Cricket World Cup in 2019.”

Chief exec Gary Hetherington of Leeds Rhinos (who share Carnegie with the YCCC) said: “There is still much to do but recent developments are very encouraging and could provide the funding mechanism to complete the redevelopment work.”

The press release gave few details of the funding agreement. More is promised ahead of the council bosses meeting in April (but don’t hold your breath as most of it will be kept secret for reasons of confidentiality).

YCCC needs the stadium redeveloped if it is to have the chance of retaining international cricket beyond 2019. The estimated cost of the redevelopment is £39m. YCCC is currently over £24m in debt, but recorded a small profit last year.

It’s not clear how much of the £39m needed is covered by the announced deal. Leeds Rhinos are reported to be putting in £22.5m as their share of the redevelopment costs. Which leaves some £17m for the cricket club to find.

All will be revealed. Or not.

 

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Council to publish annual list of Leeds councillors summonsed over non-payment of council tax

councillorstax

Yorkshire Post  23/12/16

Remember the furore just before Christmas when it emerged that Leeds City Council was paying lawyers (with public money) to fight a ruling from the Information Commissioner that it had to disclose the names of four councillors who had been summonsed over non-payment of council tax?

The council subsequently backed down, published the names, said sorry and pledged to learn from the sorry saga.

It looks like it has now learnt a lesson. A report published today on the council’s website said the plan is to publish any such names every year.

“In the interests of openness, it is proposed that the Council publishes annually information about elected members who have been issued with a summons for nonpayment. The information would be published following a process that would also recognise elected members rights under the Data Protection Act,” it said.

Councillors will be able to make representations if they believe they’ve got “compelling personal reasons why (the) information should not be published”.

The name of the councillor and the value of council tax owed will be published even when a summons has subsequently been withdrawn after the council tax account has been brought up to date. The councillor’s details will also be published when the summons is issued in joint name(s) with a member of the public.

The list will be published annually on the council’s website around the same time as councillor’s expenses and interests are updated – in July or August.

The report said councillors were being informed of the new procedures. There was no mention of any reaction to the proposals from our elected representatives.

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Is there anybody there? Knock three times if the head of Leeds markets has left the job

sue carrol

Psychic medium Sue 

“I was very impressed with the accuracy of Sue’s reading, and I encourage everyone to come along!”

Leeds Lord Mayor Cllr Gerry Harper is holding a charity fund-raiser in the Civic Hall in May featuring “psychic medium” Sue Carrol. Gerry, who used to be chairman of the board at Leeds Markets, had a personal reading from Sue recently. And was very impressed, the event’s blurb says.

The spooky thing is that Sue, who, according to the same blurb, has given hundreds of readings since she started “doing this professionally”, bears an uncanny resemblance to another Sue – Sue Burgess, the council officer in charge of Leeds Markets.

sue_bugess

Council officer Sue

Of course it doesn’t matter if “professional medium” Sue and council officer Sue are one and the same person, or that the fundraiser’s eventbrite page makes no mention of Sue the council officer or Harper and Burgess’ long professional relationship: nobody will be being paid for anything and it’s just a bit of fun in a good cause …

Except that a voice came to me in the night saying that Sue Burgess had left her job at the council after years that have seen many ups and downs. There’s been no announcement, so I’m going to try and attend the event, despite the warning that anyone under 18 may find some of the content upsetting.

And if I get one of the limited places on offer I’m going to ask Sue the psychic medium to
connect with the spirit world to see if anyone up there knows what’s happened to Sue the council officer.

SeanceWetAfternoon

Is there anybody there?

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Bradford’s T&A getting more website traffic than Leeds’ YEP. Why?

It shouldn’t go unremarked: for the first time since newspaper executives came up with the bright idea of giving their content away for free, Bradford’s local daily, the Telegraph and Argus, is getting more people visiting its website every day than Leeds’ Yorkshire Evening Post.

With the sale of actual newspapers in terminal decline (see below), finding a way to make money out of online readers is the holy grail for regional publishers. Whether it’s illusory or not, step one is to get loads of readers.

So the figures released last week by the Audit Bureau of Circulation showing an actual FALL in online readership of the YEP will have made for uncomfortable reading down on Whitehall Rd.

papersonline2half2016

Your guess is as good as mine as to why this is happening at the YEP.

tandasurveyIt can’t be those surveys that stop you from reading the full article unless you tell them that you’ve never thought of buying a BMW and why not. They’re a total wind-up, but they’re not particular to the YEP and seem to pop up on every regional paper’s site.

It can’t be the erratic way the pages are laid out and load: you know, that thing when you’re congratulating yourself that you’ve managed to avoid triggering the two ads for the ‘i’ newspaper app that sandwich a single paragraph in the story you’re struggling to get through … and then you end up on the holiday booking page of Southall Travel anyway.

It’s not that. Pretty much every local paper seems to be laid out online for the benefit of the advertiser rather than the reader.

yepadsIt can’t be the fault of the online design gurus back at Johnston Press headquarters either. While they’ve quite clearly never tried to read one of the group’s papers on a mobile, it’s still a puzzler why one of their titles (the Sheffield Star) should have done so much better over the past couple of years than another (the YEP) using the same design template (see the table above).

It can’t be the content, can it? As a city, Leeds delivers reporters’ staples – football, murder and outrage – just as well as Sheffield (better in the case of football, the jury’s out on murder), and all three get full coverage in the YEP. And while it probably hasn’t got the resources to match the Manchester Evening News, the YEP’s political coverage is generally fuller, more feisty and less supine (to the powers that be) than it was a year ago when the current editor took over.

So, what is it that’s holding the YEP back online? Anyone know?

Print partner?

As for the “terminal decline” of print sales mentioned above, they’re pretty much in line with what we projected two and a half years ago: by the time we’re all dancing in the street waving our EU flags to celebrate the opening of Leeds as the European Capital of Culture in 2023, it’s likely that one of the bid’s current “print partners”, the YEP, won’t be a print paper any more.

Here are last week’s print sales figures. Honourable mention for the YEP’s sister paper, the Yorkshire Post, which recorded the lowest fall in paid-for circulation of any regional daily in the UK.

papersales2half16

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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%.

percentvoteparties20112016
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.

ukip2016

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.

turnout201116

 

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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?

Unlikely.

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.

votepercent1115

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.

Hmmmm.

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