- North Yorkshire Council have spent £2m with Consultancy WSP
- The majority of spend has been on design costs
- This followed a Freedom of Information request by the Local Democracy Reporting Service
North Yorkshire Council has said that the spend was needed due to a lacking in skills within the council.
The spend raises further questions over the democratic process that that has been used. It is not clear why there was such spend before the project was formally signed-off. Additionally there was not a meaningful vote by local councillors, or by full council, the decisions to proceed was made by the North Yorkshire Council Executive.
An action from the approval of the project (at the end of May by North Yorkshire Council) was to now produce a full business case and submit it to the West Yorkshire Combined Authority. That statement seems to contradict North Yorkshire Council’s corporate director of environment, Karl Battersby, reasoning that part of this budget spend had been spent to already produce a business case.
The spend has come under criticism from the Liberal Democratic, Prospective Parliamentary Candidate, Tom Gordon.
Tom Gordon said:
For such a significant portion of the budget to be spent on consultants, without any tangible progress to show for it, is deeply troubling.
This raises serious questions about whether the public are receiving value for money from North Yorkshire Council for this scheme.
Given that such a significant portion of the budget has already been spent, it raises questions about whether this scheme can actually still be delivered properly.
The Government have yet to get a grip on the current eye-watering levels of inflation, it seems ludicrous to progress with a plan when a revised cost for the project has not been produced. This further brings into question the viability of this scheme in its current form. To just cut back the scheme is short changing residents.
As residents we have the right to be informed about what is happening in our town and to know how our money is being spent. Local residents have told me they feel in the dark about the current and projected costs of the project. Only to be told that aspects of the project can be removed or scaled back to deliver the scheme in budget. This lack of honesty about what is actually deliverable and the lack of meaningful engagement undermines public trust and confidence in the Station Gateway project.
There is a very real concern that we have a project that almost certainly cannot be delivered. A project that will have to be scaled back or revised. A project which will not deliver what people wanted and any perceived benefits will be diluted.
This will only increase cynicism about the conduct of North Yorkshire Council. This comes at a time when many residents and businesses have joined forces to demand transparency and involvement in the Station Gateway project. They feel they have been frozen out.
The Councillors on the local Area Committee only gave conditional support to the scheme on the basis that North Yorkshire Council prioritised actual and meaningful community engagement, something that seems to have failed to materialise.
I want Harrogate Town Centre to thrive and be a place accessible to all. This substantial pot of money could have been used to deliver innovative options for active travel making Harrogate more accessible to all.
It is disappointing that North Yorkshire Council does not have a clear plan for an integrated transport network for Harrogate District. One that links the existing routes and that meets the needs of pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists.
It appears the Station Gateway has been presented as a take it or leave it option.
Harrogate Town needs investment. Our roads are crumbling and our active travel routes are fragmented. Our Conservative MP has failed to make the case for investment by way of the Towns Fund or Levelling Up Fund from central Government. When we finally do see investment, a lack of vision and planning by Conservative colleagues at North Yorkshire Council sees opportunity and investment squandered.
We deserve so much better than this.
North Yorkshire Council’s corporate director of environment, Karl Battersby, said:
Consultants have only been used where there is not sufficient in-house resource or very specific expertise within the council. This is a common occurrence with consultants used for almost, if not all, Transforming Cities Fund projects across the country.
The cost includes survey work as well as individual disciplines – landscaping, highways, traffic modelling, signals, drainage, lighting – consultation support, planning and Traffic Regulation Orders, and project management, including business case development, risk reviews, programming and attendance at meetings.
The design cost has increased where additional works have been identified, such as revisions to landscaping or additional consultation engagement.