Preston’s delayed Youth Zone is going to cost more than planned – and the council could struggle to find someone to run it.Advertisement
Rising costs are to see the total price-tag for the new building, in the Bus Station’s western apron, costing £8.53million.
Lancashire County Council is going to cap its contribution at the existing £5.925million and is going to seek an estimated £2.6million from from whoever is picked to operate the Youth Zone.
A procurement process is due to begin to find someone to take on the building, which is due to see construction begin in October this year. It had initially been due to begin in September last year.
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The procurement process itself was due to begin in February, but has not yet begun.
What’s known as the ‘tender price inflation’ was estimated at 2 per cent, but this increased to 8 per cent.
The Youth Zone is also now due to accommodate the youth offending team – and design changes have been needed to reflect this.
A different type of cladding, a more enhanced variety, is also needed and these changes have cost an extra £567,000.
A report to the county council’s cabinet outlines the risk of capping the council’s financial commitment, and pushing more onto whoever will operate the Youth Zone, meaning there may be no one to run the service.
Council officers write: “The procurement process specifies that the Youth Zone Operator will take on the operational and financial risk associated with delivering the Preston Youth Zone. It is envisaged that they will need to secure private sector contributions from sponsors, arrange contributions from other public sector partners, as well as charging a fee for young people to access the activities to cover costs.
“It should be noted that no registrations of interest from suppliers were made following the publication of the Prior Information Notice. The increased capital requirement and removal of the ‘peppercorn rent’ arrangement will erode the commercial viability of the opportunity and increase the risk that no operator will come forward through this procurement process.”
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Leader of the county council councillor Geoff Driver MBE said: “We recognise that this would be a welcome asset for young people, and we’ve already shown a significant and continuing financial commitment to the provision of a Preston Youth Zone.
“However, in common with all county council budgets, we have to make sure that we’re keeping a close eye on these plans to get the right financial arrangements in place.
“In light of increased costs and changes since the start of this project, we can’t simply commit the county council to more spending on the Youth Zone, it’s important that any operator also takes their share of the risk and responsibility.”
Charity OnSide had been tipped as the frontrunner to operate the Youth Zone, defending designs for the building and being part of the consultation process about the building.
But they will have to apply to run the building in the tender process. Onside already operate in Bolton, Manchester, Carlisle, Blackburn and are due to run Chorley too.
The Youth Zone is due to be discussed at the next county council cabinet meeting on Thursday 12 April.
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