it’s “not about car parking”

Letter to Cllr Andy Platt about development sites in Hanley and Stoke

In the local press you said, if you could please reply with your own knowledge and views and not trouble officers with replying on your behalf, if you are unable to answer just say or request the cabinet member replies again on personal level so as not to trouble officers.

Councillor Andy Platt, Labour, said: “Like many people, I would prefer to see this in the city centre, but it is not about car parking, it is about the amount of parking and I can see why this site has been considered.

“This organisation is the largest private sector employer in the city. Having such a large national and international organisation in our city is something we should be hugely proud of. It is a premier league development for our city.”

What has happened to the multi storey car park from original plans and discussed during the recent Genr8 consultation?

Bet365 in their recent planning application said they had the choice of just two office blocks, have all other blocks got investors and if so why no press release on this good news? or have Genr8 scaled back plans for central business district hence lack now of a multi storey and only 4 office blocks 2 of which will house the council?

Bet365 also stated that Stoke Links site was still not yet available to developers, why is this? Surely this prime site would enhance the link between Spode and train station, and create greater interest in spode?

If parking is now an issue in CBD what sort of companies to you expect Genr8 to attract, who will be willing to relie on buses and public car parks to cater for the transport needs of visitors and employees.

Original plan with multi storey

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Genr8 Consultation with multi storey (bottom right)
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Latest Plan showing no multi storey

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BET365 and view on Smithfield

Below you can read the extract from the planning application report into BET365 plans to expand in Etruria. Of interest is that only 2 office blocks remain, now this is either excellent news and means all other units now have interested investors (if so why isn’t the Council singing from rooftops) or means Genr8 have earmarked other units for retail and leisure

Sequential Test – Central Business District

The Central Business District is a key project in delivering targeted regeneration as outlined within policy SP1 of the development plan. The applicant has tested the proposal against the approved parameters set within the CBD development and has found that the site is available and in terms of pure floorspace the offices could physically fit within the available site area. However, it is evident that the detailed parameters already set in relation to layout and pedestrian routes would make the site unsuitable for the developer.

The key reason for this is linked to operational efficiency, for example, the proposed development would either have to be disaggregated over the remaining two development blocks within CBD or delivered within a single six storey building. Neither of these options would meet the requirements of the business, who are acutely aware of their operational needs having experienced operational failures within their existing estate.

Another critical factor, which makes CBD unsuitable for this specific user is the lack of dedicated on-site parking within the development. Whilst the need to promote sustainable forms of transport are fully acknowledged by the applicant, the provision of on-site parking for their 24hr operation is critical to attracting and retaining staff and therefore key to the needs of the business.

Whilst it would not be true to state that parking would not be available within the City Centre, due to the availability of public pay and display car parks, the case put forward by the applicant is unique to their operation. An acceptance of the applicants sequential case should not be seen as an acknowledgement by the Local Planning Authority that the CBD is unsuitable for all forms of office development and it should be fully acknowledged that the proposal does represent a departure from the development plan.

geln howells - cbd_stoke_image3 glen howells cbd_stoke_image2

While the new Plan for Smithfield does appear to have shrunk thiere still appears to be more then 2 office blocks

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Cabinet members ONLY

Details behind £20m cuts to Stoke on Trent City Council Budget will not be going before councillors or out to local residents.

Cllr Crowe cabinet member for finance and procurement said in an email ” The cabinet has been previously on the assumptions behind the £20m funding gap, which includes the pressures. It is not intended that there will be any further, separate report to members or elsewhere on spending pressures.” These spending pressures include the additional £6.9miilion yearly running costs of the new Civic Centre in Hanley.

Ian Norris of Tunstall a member of the March on Stoke campaign group said ” it would appear only cabinet members are permitted a say on spending pressures and priorities for where revenue funding should be spent”

No details have been released on mechanisms to be put in place should Genr8 fail to find investors for the Smithfield development in Hanley, which the council hope will generate £4m in business rates to pay towards the running cost of the new civic.

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Open and Transparent Budget?

In October Stoke on Trent Cabinet agreed to the additional spending of £6.9 million a year to cover the costs of the new Civic Centre in Hanley, but not how it was to be funded.

revenue table

I was hoping that the budget consultation would identified who The City Council planned to cover this extra cost, having read the recent Budget Consultation Booklet I was unable to see any details, of course asking Councillors was futile

Today the District Auditor  contacted me to advised that the additional £6.9 million has been included in budget consultation booklet under “expenditure pressures” on page 9 of the consultation booklet, but the spending pressures are not being consulted upon and are therefore not shown in the “blue book”

budget consultation

What are we being consulted upon if not “expenditure pressures”?

The District Auditor  is now  satisfied that sufficient information has been put into the public domain for the public to understand the costs of the CBD development. and the additional costs , are you?

Is it any clearer how this £27 million gap is to be funded and where the money is to come from? The Council have commented “that any additional revenue burden of this initiative is outweighed by the estimated benefits to the local economy of the Central Business District development (which they estimate as £62m per annum”. So the Council will need to make revenue cuts across our City, but its for the greater good IF new businesses move to CBD.

Genr8 and funding of their schemes

Do Genr8 Have the funds to complete the Smithfield Development? Last week Genr8 applied to Calderdale Council, for a delay in building a link road as part of their development in Sowerby Bridge.

 Genr8 requested the delay until they had received some income from the sale of the new residential units, despite the fact that Genr8 had already been given £6.25 million public money for the scheme.
Where does this leave the Smithfield Development in Hanley? Do Genr8 need to sell the newly announced residential element of Smithfield (formerly the Central Business District) before it can afford to build any offices, is this the real reason behind the name change and that the scheme if moving away from office development.
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Budget Consultation 2014

In Cllr Rosenau Budget Recommendation AR2 page 14, she proposes an increased revenue savings in Asset Rationalisation from the current Budget of £3.2 million, with predicted savings in 2014/15 of £150,000 and 2015/16 of £450,000.

This item seems to exclude the additional costs of of running the new buildings in Hanley as reported in her “City Wide Administrative Property Rationalisation” report to Cabinet  para 2.18 page 11, the new running costs are stated as £9.3 million, so her Asset Rationalisation programme would appear to be costing an additional £6 million per year (her asset report actually states additional £7.9 million), so not sure how this programme can be classed as a saving.
I’ve wrote asking her to  please explain, and show where the additional costs have been included in the Budget Document published for public consultation.

UPDATE

Cllr Rosenau has replied (see below) to show she has identified £450,000 to cover the additional costs of new Civic, only another £6.4 million to find, I have of course wrote back asking again where the above funds will come from.

Dear Mr Norris,

£9.3m is the full costs including finance charges for buildings A&B of £6.8m plus £2.5m operational costs of other retained buildings, excluding historic financing costs. Clearly the latter were already provided for within current budgets albeit with some improvement works to Tunstall/Longton and modest works in Fenton and Burslem the costs are slightly higher than is now.

The Cabinet report assumed that in a full year we could reduce costs/increase income  by £4.9m. We still have  a target to balance this off to the additional costs of £6.8m but expect to achieve this when Spode etc. are sold.

In the meantime– we had only been assuming £200k of the £4.9m could be achieved next year and £1.9m in 2015/16. This is over cautious – if we do close some buildings sooner rather than later this alone will increase our savings. There are also other non-office buildings that we are disposing of too – the full year saving from what has gone to auction this  year to date is over £150k hence, the additional target of £150k from the budget proposal AR2 next year is realistic and the £450k in 2015/16 should be achievable too.

I hope this addresses your query.

Regards Ruth

Agile Working and Asset Sales

The council are now planning to introduce ‘agile’ working across its workforce, reducing required desk space by a third. With current staffing levels of 2500 should mean reduced requirement of 830 staff.

Under a recently FOI request the Council provide a break down of staffing numbers across the City but where unable to split between frontline and back office staff breakdown or the number of desk details.

staff

The number of staff in building to be retained 1542, number of staff in building under review 166 and number of staff in the buildings to be sold 883.

Under agile working even with  the closure and sale of 29 buildings there still exists capacity for the remaining 1700 workforce, so why are Labour Councillors continuing to build not one but Two new at Capital Cost of £59million and with increased revenue running costs of £7.9m per year?

Councillor Alan Dutton and Resources

Today Councillor Alan Dutton Cabinet Member for Transformation and Resources accused me of continually giving false information on Twitter

So I am writing a blog to disclose where I read the “False Information” in the hope that Councillor Alan Dutton can provide links to the correct information.

I would first like to direct Councillor Alan Dutton  to the District Auditors Letter where on  commenting on the Council decision to remain in Stoke and Build a second Civic Centre (page 12) “this decision and the identification of the further building and on-going running costs of the CBD scheme have increased the financial pressure on the Council” this is due to “an increase in the on-going revenue costs of operating its buildings (additional costs in 2015/16 are £7.9m falling to £2.8m by 2018/19 and to £2.2m by 2021/22)”

This is supported by the “CITY WIDE ADMINISTRATIVE PROPERTY RATIONALISATION” report which went to Cabinet on 24 October 2013 and to which Councillor Alan Dutton spoke and added his support,

2.22 The table below shows the additional on-going revenue costs in the early years of approximately £5m reducing to an on-going level of approximately £2.2m per annum over the medium term. If one-off costs are included, this increases the funding requirement in the earlier years, particularly in 2015/16 by circa £2.7m and in 2016/17 by £1.5m.

revenue table

The Districtor Auditor doesn’t blame elected members such as Councillor Alan Dutton for the increasing costs ( an extra £7.6million for Fit out and £4million for Furniture, already) but say that “We are also concerned that the full financial costs of the Central Business District were not identified earlier, and that members were not able to consider them as part of the overall proposal.” I myself would have thought it was indeed the job of elected members to discover the Full Cost of projects before embarking on  grand schemes, the district auditor simplys asks “review its procedures for this type of project to ensure that members are aware of the full costs before deciding to proceed with a scheme(s).”

I hope Councillor Dutton, replies soon to correct me and show that where the above additional £27million is to come from if not from more cuts to services.

Are Councillors aware of Asset sale/mothballing plans?

The Council has not yet entered into any agreements relating to the sale or disposal of any parts of the Stoke Town site as a result of the soft marketing exercise. The Council cannot say if anyone is interested in Genr8’s offer of offices in the proposed CBD

A key component of the asset rationalisation strategy is to meet the requirements of the developing localities delivery model. The overall aim is to create a stronger positive customer offer and experience but this has to be from fewer locations, Continue reading

Big House Burslem

Why is Stoke on Trent refusing to provide owners  of the Big House, Burslem with any information regarding the insurance claim lodged by the Council back in March 2012?
Six requests for a copy of the health and safety report, a copy of the damp report and a copy of the structural engineer’s report relating to the damage caused by Stoke City Council have so far been made to the City Council, so far no information has been received from the Council.
For more information the the Big House there is a Facebook page  please visit, like and ask the Council supports the Big house
Today I received a copy of the Seventh request being made by the owner I’ll update this article if any information from the council is finally forth coming.