Speech by Denise Craghill to Council on the Community Stadium

Denise Craghill

We have very serious concerns about the current proposal for the Community Stadium. We have always supported the idea of a Community Stadium for York. We opposed siting it in an unsustainable location and paying for it by undermining the Local Plan and the city centre. However, those decisions have been made, the retail park built and sports fans have waited a long time for the construction to begin. We would have been willing to add our support to a sound plan to provide the city with a new sports stadium.
But there are some pretty alarming statements in the paper approved by Executive. The whole thing reads like the triumph of hope – or perhaps desperation – over the evidence.
The actual capital cost has risen from the original £19.6 million to £44.2million today.
The £44.2 million is an increase in costs of over £7 million since the previously approved position in September 2014. This will include £5.4 million in additional prudential borrowing which will add a further £400,000 to the Council’s annual revenue budget – money that will have to be taken from other service areas at a time when millions of pounds of additional cuts have to be identified.
The reasons for the additional capital cost include ‘as a result of the progression of the scheme’s design up to a much more detailed level’ – didn’t we know that the scheme would need detailed design? What on earth was the initial costing based on – was it a guess? How much confidence can we have in the current costings on this basis?
We’re told that the year on year running costs (the revenue) have decreased. This would be very commendable until we look at the level of risks involved in the revenue budgets. The report states that the many different income streams ‘cannot be guaranteed over the period of the contract’.
Confidence in the Commercial Development is limited to the extent that the Investment Fund that will be running it has required the Council to take a 15 year lease back on a portion of the commercial space in order to give them the confidence to sign up. The Council currently has no tenant for that space. Equally officers state that the Council will take most of the financial risk over rent and occupancy levels by the community partners with whom we currently have only in principle agreements including a 5 year break clause. A further ‘community unit’ on the second floor is still unlet.
There is an argument that whilst there are huge question marks over the project as it stands, it is too late to pull out without incurring even greater costs and delaying the stadium by even longer- so we are stuck with the risks and have to cross our fingers and absorb the extra costs into our dwindling council budgets. We know the three other parties are committed to attempting to deliver on this come what may and we hope very much that the project will be successful – but we believe it’s important to highlight our major reservations about it and will be abstaining/voting against it as it stands…..

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