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Community stadium consultants cost £420k
THE BILL for consultants and legal firms working on York’s community stadium project has topped £420,000 in three years.
External firms were paid £146,377 of public money as the project to build a 6,000-seat home for York City FC and York City Knights at Monks Cross took shape, according to figures obtained by The Press from City of York Council ’s annual accounts.
It followed the £132,322 sanctioned by the authority for outside consultancy and legal guidance in 2009/10 and the £145,000 spent the following year.
The council said the complexity of the project, which it is hoped will see the new ground ready for the start of the 2014/15 football and rugby league seasons, meant outside help was needed and it had ensured “value for money”.
Proposals for the stadium and a neighbouring retail development including John Lewis, Marks & Spencer and Next stores, were approved in May, despite opponents claiming the shopping scheme would force city-centre businesses to close.
Among the firms enlisted by the council in 2011/12 were construction consultants Gardiner & Theobald, who were paid £32,508, Leeds law firm Walker Morris (£26,902) and stadium consultancy company Five Lines (£26,638).
Conservative group leader Coun Ian Gillies , a long-standing critic of the amount of public spending on the project, said: “Despite all the promises to reduce consultancy payments, the administration continues to borrow money and increase the spend on consultants.
“Council officers need to be accountable for actions, and to have the necessary expertise to take decisions and be responsible and accountable for those decisions, not to default to outside consultation.”
Neil Taylor, the council’s interim director of city and environmental services, said: “There are times when it is necessary to utilise external expertise, when we do not have the expertise internally or to ensure that the delivery of our services continues during unexpected short-term peaks in demand, and this is always subject to the proper procurement processes.”
He said the project was “one of the largest and most complex” in the council’s history, and the “specialist” nature of much of the work meant it could only be carried out externally. He said: “All funds allocated to this project so far have been approved by full council.”